Game Reviews

Combo Crew

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| Combo Crew
Combo Crew
| Combo Crew

Too often, iOS developers work against the hardware, trying to cram buttons and joysticks onto a touchscreen in order to replicate the feel of playing games on a console.

It's almost like an admission of defeat before you even get to play the game.

But that's something The Game Bakers has never been guilty of. In Squids and Squids Wild West, it managed to create a turn-based action RPG that played on the tactile strengths of the devices it was built for, rather than forcing control methods in place where they didn't belong.

And the same can be said of Combo Crew. This is a beat-'em-up for the touchscreen age, as complex as the side-scrollers of old but with an input system that frees your fingers to exact some bloody and brutal revenge.

Swipe for your life

The game is set in a cartoony, dystopian future, and lets you play as one of four different members of the eponymous crew. Two of them are available from the start of the game, but you'll need to unlock the others as you play.

Each character is controlled in the same way. Swipe across an enemy with a single finger and you'll rush over and deliver a blow. Swipe over him with two fingers and you'll unleash a combo chain.

Exclamation marks appear over a bad guy's head when he's about to attack, and tapping anywhere on the screen will perform a counter. You can charge single-finger swipes by holding them down to unleash block-breaking attacks.

Each character has a huge list of different combos that you can unlock, but you only have four slots to put them in, representing double-swipes up, down, left, and right. Some combos launch your foe into the air, letting you uppercut him from underneath, while others blast the enemy back, giving you some space.

Tap out

There are a couple of modes to play through, but they all follow a similar pattern. You're dropped into an arena and need to knock out a set number of goons before you can move on. There are challenges to complete and scores to beat to keep things interesting.

There's also asynchronous multiplayer. If you get stuck on a level you can send out a cry for help. If one of your friends manages to beat the level, you get to move on. It's a clever system and adds to the feeling that you're part of a scrappy resistance movement.

To begin with, the flow of the combat is a little hard to grasp, and it's not helped by the game's occasional misinterpreting of your swipes. But, like all good beat-'em-ups, when you grasp the rhythm of the fights things start to make sense.

Combo chains are the order of the day, but getting hit cancels them out. You need to balance offence and defence, managing your powerful special moves as you do. It's easy to get your head kicked in in later levels if you're not paying attention, but the resulting Game Over screen feels like a lesson rather than a scolding.

Slide to slay

Combo Crew tries something different, and while it's not perfect it's an incredible amount of fun. It doesn't take long to work its way under your skin, and you'll soon find yourself tweaking your combo setups and figuring out which of the characters best suits the way you fight.

There are a few niggles with the controls and repetition, but Combo Crew battles through them all with a cocky swagger and a self-assurance that's often found on the App Store but rarely justified.

The Game Bakers has proven once again that when it comes to working with touchscreen hardware it's a couple of moves ahead of the pack.

Combo Crew

A frantic beat-'em-up that fuses a retro sensibility with modern touchscreen controls, Combo Crew is an often brilliant, always entertaining way to punch some goons in the face
Harry Slater
Harry Slater
Harry used to be really good at Snake on the Nokia 5110. Apparently though, digital snake wrangling isn't a proper job, so now he writes words about games instead.