Games of the Week: Maximus, Master Thief, Contra: Evolution HD, Layton Brothers: Mystery Room, Hero of Many

It was a pretty slow week for news on the games front. There was a report that Microsoft was bringing Age of Empires and Xbox games to iOS. However, that turned out to be a translation error, and only Age of Empires would be coming to iOS. Another big game is coming to iOS, as it was announced indie darling “Limbo” was heading to iOS later this week. You can bet we will have a review for you next Monday.

For our games this week, we have another all iOS showcase. We have a tribute to arcade classics. An underrated genre, steal comes to IOS. A NES classic gets an HD upgrade. A beloved DS series gets a spin off on iOS. Finally, we have an arty adventure for you on the iPad.


Maxiumus – iOS(Universal)

In the great days of arcade gaming there were side scrolling fantasy games like Golden Axe or Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara. These have become mostly a lost art, but games like Castle Crashers have shown there is still interest in the genre. Maximus is another love letter to the genre from the makers of Toon Shooter. The game has stylized graphics and mimics the storyline of Golden Axe pretty closely. It even has the little dwarves you kick for health refills. You choose one of four characters, each which has their own weapon and magic attacks. You only have a basic attack at level 1, but the more you enemies you kill, you unlock the heavy attack, the magic attack, and an area attack you get by hitting both attack buttons. Each stage culminates in an old fashioned boss battle. The boss characters are all rather uniquely designed. You only get three continues, but you can start from the latest level you started, but only with the same character. The continue limit is because you can buy 10 continues from an IAP. You can boost your character’s stats using in game currency, which can also be supplemented with IAP. That said, for a free game, Maximus has a pretty innocuous approach to revenue.

What’s Good: This is an awesome emulation of arcade classics. They managed to get the feel of those old games, with a unique art style that feels modern. The bosses are particularly well designed.

What Sucks: Relies on IAP for revenue, would rather just pay them four or five bucks once then a dollar every time I want some more continues.

Buy it?: It’s free on the App Store, grab it if you’re looking for some arcade inspired fun.


Master Thief – iOS(Universal)

Stealth is a genre that hasn’t gotten a lot of love on iOS. Games like Assassin’s Creed were brought to the platform with the core sneaking mechanic missing altogether. Master Thief is a pure stealth game, you can’t even kill the guards if you want to. You get a series of rooms with a set number of loot pieces that are scattered throughout. You then have to sneak by each of the guards, their gaze shown by the beams of flashlights, and get to the exit of the level after collecting the loot. Your only button outside of the directional is a dash, that you have to use sparingly, as it takes time to recharge the skill. The rooms and guard patterns become more complex as you advance, but the game becomes a bit tricky pretty early. The graphics are an isometric 3D, and although the design is pretty plain, the game still looks nice.

What’s Good: Good stealth game that focuses on strategy rather than giving you an out with the guards. Levels have nice design and smooth difficulty curve.

What Sucks: There isn’t a lot of forgiveness for failure, and since you have to start the level over when you’re discovered, it can get pretty frustrating.

Buy it?: If you’re looking for an action game that still requires smarts, Master Thief is $0.99 on the App Store.


Contra: Evolution HD – iPad

The Konami code is likely still muscle memory for gamers of a certain vintage. Contra was likely the first place that most people learned the code and its life giving magic. Playing Contra on the iPad, that code might come in handy so you don’t have to get nagged about using in game currency to pay for another continue. If this was a free game, rather than $2.99, it wouldn’t be so obnoxious. You do gain the in game currency as you play, but it’s annoying that even paid games are starting to be filled with come ons for IAP. Then there’s that fact that the iPad version of the game is identical, but costs an additional two dollars. Konami may not be the giant it once was, but it seems like this is little more than a money grab hiding behind nostalgia. The game itself isn’t terrible, the updated graphics are well done, but still channel the classic game correctly. The boss fights are really where you see the new graphics shine though, they have some nice details to them. In addition to the classic arcade mode, you can play through the levels you’ve beaten on harder difficulty to get additional in game currency. As you play you can unlock some additional characters. The controls to the game are a little touchy, especially diagonal shooting. Also turn off the auto fire that’s enabled by default, as it interferes with jumping.

What’s Good: Nice update to a classic, the graphics look really nice.

What Sucks: IAP come ons, control issues. iPad version needlessly more expensive.

Buy it?: If you are really looking to experience the classic, pick this up on the App Store for $2.99. Otherwise, pass.


Layton Brothers: Mystery Room – iOS(Universal)

The Professor Layton games were pure gold on the DS. They had weird quirky plots that had you solving a ton of puzzles. It would be great if that series had made its way to IOS, but alas we are left with his son in the new game Layton Brothers: Mystery Room. While this is a fun game, it has more in common with the Phoenix Wright games than Professor Layton. Instead of puzzles you investigate crime scenes to deduce facts about the case and interrogate suspects. Alfendi Layton is the son of the puzzle solving Professor Layton, and the story is narrated by his new assistant Constable Lucy Baker. The first two cases give you a tutorial run through the process, and the third gives you a run at solving a case without training wheels. Though even once the training wheels are removed, you could technically solve most of the cases through trial and error. To unlock any cases beyond the third you will have to buy extra cases via IAP. (Thankfully, that’s it.) You get a tutorial and sample level for free. Cases three through six are $2.99 and seven through nine are $1.99.

What’s Good: Deduction and investigative system create puzzles that don’t require just randomly tapping around. The game is well written and the characters are well designed.

What Sucks: No penalty for failure, cases could be easily solved by guessing until you’re right. People may be mislead that this is a puzzle game like the DS Professor Layton games.

Buy it?: Fans of the DS Layton title should still check this out, just be warned about the genre swap. Fans of Phoenix Wright and other crime adventure games should grab the free download from the App Store.


Hero of Many – (iPad)

There are cases where less is more. Hero of Many uses simple shadows and background colors to create a vivid world that wouldn’t quite work with photo realistic graphics. You take control of a white orb floating underwater, it appears that you’re the only survivor when the black squids and swimmers wiped out the rest of your tribe. As you travel you collect other survivors and power ups that allow you to survive attacks. In addition to just searching out the survivors, you’ll occasionally need to solve puzzles to unlock all the power ups and gather survivors. You’ll need to move rocks in a certain way to ensure that it doesn’t crush you or your school of swimmers. Other places you’ll need to run from attackers, and use rocks to close off a path behind you. The game does drag a bit in places, and it isn’t clear how you’re supposed to advance. The whole wordless storytelling is a nice touch, but occasionally it would be nice to get some cues as to the next step.

What’s Good: Very nicely designed game, relaxing and engaging game play should be easy for players of all skill levels to pick up and play.

What Sucks: Not all levels have very clear direction and flow, obstacles can have obtuse solutions with no clues for the player.

Buy it?: If you like well designed games, and aren’t dependent on stories, grab Hero of Many for $2.99 on the App Store.

Mac geek? Gamer? Why not both? Mike is a writer from Wisconsin who enjoys wasting immense amounts of time on the Internet. You can follow him on Twitter.