What We Think
Combo Crew is the latest mobile game from The Game Bakers, creators of the SQUIDS series. (Read our full review of SQUIDS Wild West). This tribute to beat-em-ups such as Double Dragon and Final Fight modernizes the experience of yore by bringing a surprising amount of fast paced action to touchscreen interfaces.
Push It To the Limit (Limiiiit!)
Three of the city’s greatest fighters get an invitation to dine with Mr. Boss at his headquarters. They arrive at the tower, only to discover that the social aspects of the evening were a ruse! The Boss bars the doors, and unleashes waves of faithful minions and loyal lab experiments on the heroes. He is bound to defeat them all, and declare his street-wise supremacy!
There are four playable characters in total, though only two are available initially. Parker is a speedy fighter, and has learned all his fighting moves playing arcade games. Gina mixes speed and power as a master of hairjutsu. Dolph and Sammo (a SQUID!) round out the roster, and can be unlocked by the required amount of controller tokens (more on these to follow).
Risin’ Up To The Challenge Of Our Rival
Each Stage of The Boss’ tower is divided into 5 rounds of combat, with Mr. Boss himself making an appearance in every fifth round. Passing a level requires defeating all enemies before they can deplete the player’s health bar.
Attack foes by swiping in one direction on the screen. This will unleash an attack on the nearest enemy. Swipe two fingers across the screen to release a combo attack. These consist of a string of moves that are already linked together, thus thumping on the selected enemy multiple times.
Show Ryu and Ken What Exactly?
The most efficient way to take out all foes is to maintain an unbroken combo. These are created by stringing together moves and blocks without taking a hit. Generally, a hit or pre-made combo will be followed up by an attack by an enemy who will be indicated with a floating attack icon. To block this attack, tap the screen anywhere once. Follow up this successful block by unloading another power combo. This builds up the score multiplier, and also fills the super combo meter located beneath the health bar.
When the Super Combo icon appears, tap it to engage the ability. Now, as fast as humanly possible swipe your finger across all onscreen enemies repeatedly until the bar runs down. The player will whip across the screen in a fury, hurling punches and kicks at all enemies along the path drawn during the countdown. It’s possible to net several dozen hits during this burst, so save the icon until there are numerous targets onscreen. You can also stack Super Combos; if successful, you can extend the hyper onslaught for a longer time, but be warned: losing a 4X Super to a stray enemy strike also results in 4 times the heartbreak.
Nothin’s Ever Gonna Bring You Down
Ultimately, the game plays like a fast-paced game of rock, paper, scissors. You must attack, block and guard break when necessary, and repeat until every last foe has been flattened out. While this may sound repetitive, in practice it’s a great deal of fun. There are also bonus points to earn for clearing a stage without breaking your combo.
Each stage has three set scores to surpass, with a bronze, silver and gold medal reward. Unlocking the gold in each stage will also net a controller token. These can be spent on the two unlockable characters, and on a ton of additional combo moves for each character. If a set of moves ever starts to feel stale, swap them out between stages; one combo move can be assigned to each of the main four directions. Stringing them together one after the other makes for a rapid, fluid succession of hits, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.
Players will encounter a decent variety of foes to combat, and they all come packing a solid blend of attack styles. Later levels will reveal more nefarious foes, all of which bring a heightened sense of difficulty, and much harder hits.
Never Surrender! Never Say Die
Unlike King of the Tower (story) mode, Combo Crew mode presents the player with a list of challenges to complete. Some of these will involve completing specific attacks, and will accumulate over time, while others will require players to amass a certain amount of coins (obtained by defeating foes) before a round ends. Meeting any of these conditions will result in the reward of a controller token. When the player begins a new round, the completed goal will be replaced by a new challenge.
Players can also team up with friends across platforms for a form of pseudo-multiplayer in Crew mode. Should a player die before reaching his goals, any of the players on his friend list can attempt to surpass his score. Successfully completing this task will afford the original player another attempt at his list of challenges.
Final Round: FIGHT!
Combo Crew packs some gorgeous cartoon visuals, and sports even more impressive animations. The amount of detail that has gone into creating the dozens of combat animations is remarkable. The soundtrack fits the bill, delivering a decidely retro side-scrolling beat-em-up feel, though there isn’t a great deal of variance overall.
Having Mr. Boss participate at the end of each level felt like a missed opportunity as well. Perhaps sporting some novel mini bosses would have further fleshed out the end-of-stage combat experience?
It should be noted that the initial version we received, a week prior to the official launch, did tend to bog down our Samsung Galaxy S3 (which overheated and locked up, and even the Galaxy S4, which started dropping framerates and was not adequately responsive to our lightning-fast screen swipes.) The Galaxy Note II, on the other hand, and on which this review is based seemed to fare better with churning out the rapid chains of hits.
These minor editorial skirmishes aside, Combo Crew is among the best of the touch-screen fighters I’ve played. King mode will give you a story to complete, and Crew mode adds a hero-sized dollop of replay value. For the going price of $2 USD, I say: Get your crew together, and bring the fight to the bad guys!