In a world where a fist to the face is a perfectly viable solution, one man has everything. This man is Mr. Boss, and the boss just wants one last thing: to beat the three greatest fighters on the planet. Gina, a student from the ancient school of hair-jutsu; Dolph, the greatest action movie star that ever lived; and Parker, a name that tops the high scores of all the arcades this side of the continent. The Boss invited them for dinner at his Boss Tower, but it was a trap. The three fighters are now playing a game of death, where the only way out is to climb each level up! This game is… Combo Crew (out now, $1.99)!
I did not create the above introduction to The Game Bakers’ recently released iOS action game, that is the actual opening a player is greeted with upon booting up Combo Crew for the very first time. I want to assure all of you right now that the game which follows does indeed live up to the lofty amounts of ass-kicking promised in its opening spiel, and – furthermore – delivers all of this via a well executed control scheme. Anyone looking for some very one sided beat’em up action should definitely continue reading this review, as well as anyone interested in an excellent app with easy pick up and play action.
As previously stated, the player’s primary objective in Combo Crew is to climb up through floor after floor of the Boss Tower while dealing with a nearly endless stream of foes to smack around. This is done by swiping a single finger through whichever of the many opponents present that you wish to target next, with repeated swipes through the same opponent causing your selected hero to dish out additional strikes. If you swipe through someone without releasing you will trigger a charge attack that – once fully powered up – will knock an enemy clear across the room, taking down their guard in the process (if they even had it up to begin with).
While slowly dishing out punishment on your foes is all well and dandy, to truly devastate the opposition you will need to unleash one of your hero’s four currently equipped combos. This is done by swiping with two fingers simultaneously across the screen in one of the four cardinal directions, causing the combo currently associated with that direction to be uncorked upon the ass of your current target. Note: you can not select a target with the double finger swipe no matter where you draw your fingers across the screen, doing this will cause nothing to happen if you haven’t already engaged someone in battle using the method described in the previous paragraph.
While you may only be able to equip four different combos at a time, there is an entire metric ton of combos available – once you’ve first unlocked them – to mix and match in pursuit of the ultimate fighting style (or at least the one that best fits your current whims). Thankfully the combo selection screen will not only list the name of each combo, but also a visual playback of it – complete with damage and notable effects breakdown – thereby fully enabling players to strategically select their arsenal without having to do massive amounts of experimentation. The various combos available for each character includes a wide variety of completely original moves, as well as a plethora of references to other famous fighting series (Gina, for example, has moves that directly reference both Street Fighter and Fist of the North Star).
Of course, The Boss’ various henchmen aren’t simply going to stand around mindlessly gawking while your selected hero dishes out stylish combo justice upon all foolish enough to oppose them. An exclamation mark will appear over the head of any who think they see an opening in your defenses, which is your warning that they’re about to rush up and attack you from the behind. If you quickly single tap the screen then the red exclamation mark will change to yellow, which means your hero will block the enemy before they can finish their planned attack (but only if you aren’t in the middle of an action when the opponent finally reaches you).
If you can chain together a long enough combo – without letting anyone hit you along the way – then eventually a blue fist icon will appear in the upper left hand corner, tapping this activates your character’s hyper mode. When the hyper mode is activated all the enemies will stop moving for a brief period time, during which you can wildly draw your finger about the screen to select whichever targets you want. When the paused moment ends your hero will begin glowing as they fly all over the place hitting everyone that you swiped, in the precise order you ran over them, all for massive damage.
While not dying is obviously a captured hero’s first concern, it’s actually how stylishly they can defeat their opposition that will be the primary concern of the gamer controlling them. At end of every stage in the story mode a medal will be awarded based on how many points you managed to earn, with a controller – which is used to purchase new combo moves, as well as unlock additional characters – awarded whenever a coveted Gold medal is achieved for that level. Furthermore – rewards aside – there are few things quite so satisfying as how you will personally feel whenever you run through an entire stage/round without ever getting hit a single time, producing a perfect combo.
Speaking of these currency controllers that can be earned through masterful gameplay, one might assume that the developer of Combo Crew – as per standard iOS business practices – would also be willing to IAP sell these to people not skilled enough to get sublime scores. You would – however – be quite mistaken if you were to think such a thing, as Combo Crew is a game where the only money anyone will ever be asked to pay is the initial up front asking price. This complete lack of IAP greed – while greatly appreciated – does especially seem odd when you furthermore consider that the title also has a plethora of single use power ups available for sale, normally a hallmark of IAP driven Freemium releases.
The other way a player can earn the aforementioned currency controllers is by completing the challenge tasks assigned while running through the game’s non-story based endless mode. In lieu of trying to pressure players to buy their way through draconian challenges, a despicable trick commonly seen in Freemium titles with similar gameplay setups, Combo Crew instead lets you recruit the help of a friend to save your bacon when the going starts to get tough. When you send out a call for help to one of the people on your friend list they will be challenged to play through the wave you got stuck on, and – if they successfully complete it – then your rescued hero will be advanced to the next wave with the points your friend earned converted into replenished health.
While I can appreciate The Game Bakers’ interest in encouraging players to recommend Combo Crew to all their friends, as the developers aren’t pressuring anyone to give them IAP money, the way the connection system in the game works is a bit of a problem. Where as most games released on the iOS have chosen to use the rather functional GameCenter feature for trading information between friends, Combo Crew instead uses a custom server that can only connect people through their Facebook accounts. This can be quite annoying for people who either don’t wish to use Facebook – or at very least don’t want progress updates from the game they’re currently playing to be spammed to all of their friends – especially when many of the later missions will require rather long runs to be complete, a feat made far easier when you can recruit buddies to bail you out.
Anyways, matters of Combo Crew’s awkward friend connection system aside, I would now like to take a moment to close this review by discussing the game’s audio and visual presentation. The veritable smorgasbord of varied attack combos found within are all very smoothly animated, which is largely thankable to the fact that Combo Crew’s heroes and enemies are all rendered entirely using cell-shaded 3D rather than static sprites. While the music and attack sound effects themself might not be much to write home about, the game more than makes up for that with the aforementioned hilariously brilliant movie trailer parody style intro.
iFanzine Verdict: Combo Crew is an excellent beat’em up for the iOS platform that manages to provide hours of endless fisticuff action, while also being far more accessible to players of all skill ranges than last year’s critically received Brandnew Boy (our review). The game successfully combines a near endless array of delightful combo attacks to chose from, many which are references to famous fighting properties; a simple, yet highly effective, control scheme that works flawlessly without ever hitting any kinds of snags; a complete and total lack of any kind of IAP greed harassing the player, even if the game is otherwise built with a very Freemium-esque purchase system; and one of the most hilariously awesome game introduction movies I have ever seen, even if it does seem to be the only such cut scene in the entire product. The only real downside here – in what might have otherwise been a perfect game – is the awkward implementation of the ‘call for help’ system that makes it rather inconvenient to use, which can be a real problem for anyone seeking to unlock all of the game’s various combo attacks.