The biggest problem with arcade brawlers on the iOS platform has always been the tendency for developers to shoe-horn virtual versions of traditional “stick and button” controls onto a touch screen. More often than not, this generally results in a less than satisfying gaming experience with controls that are difficult to use and which end up blocking 60% or more of the screen.
With their latest title, Combo Crew, the Game Bakers have reimagined the mobile brawler experience by implementing a brilliant touch and swipe-based control scheme that feels much more natural and fluid and pulls you into the action, rather than just covering it up in a tactile-less fumble of fingers.
Before I dive into the controls…a little more about the game itself.
Combo Crew is classic arcade brawler like Streets of Rage or Double Dragon, except that individual levels are contained within a single location, there is no sense of horizontal progression. Though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the scenery does change after x number of levels. You (and your three companions) have been brought to the evil Mr. Boss’s tower so that he can watch his evil minions “break the greatest fighters ever”. You must fight your way through wave after wave of enemies to the top of the tower and ultimately beat Mr. Boss.
Two of the game’s heroes are available right from the start, with two more unlockable through normal game play. You have a core set of moves that are performed using swipes and taps. Simply swipe over an enemy with one finger to perform a basic attack, or swipe-hold-and-release for a more powerful attack. Tapping on an enemy counters. Combos are executed by swiping up, down, left or right with two fingers and you can select which particular combo from your character’s arsenal you want to assign to each gesture.
Each character has its own unique set of unlockable combos. These combos differ in damage, warm up time and longevity. As you play you’ll start to develop favorite combos and learn which combos can be strung together to deal the most damage against particular types of enemies. Since you cannot stop a combo once it has been triggered, learning how to string these together most efficiently is crucial when trying to avoid leaving yourself vulnerable to rear attacks while mid-combo. This allows plenty of room for (as little or as much) strategy (as you’d like). While some players will be more thoughtful when choosing their Combos, others can just select the ones they think look the most bad-ass.
The goal is to survive the level and get the highest score possible. This is done by chain combos to together to build up the largest Combo Streak you can. I gotta tell you it feels pretty awesome to see that multiplier climb up over 200x! If you get hit, your combo streak resets, so always watch your back and counter pouncing enemies ASAP! Successful combos build up your Super Meter, which once full, can be triggered to unleash a bullet-time-style slow motion swipe-fest massacre on your enemies, which can earn you a massive amount of additional points.
From the crisp graphics to the retro soundtrack, the classic arcade cartridge shaped trophies, iCloud syncing, global leaderboards and tag team a buddy for help asynchronous play…so much care and polish has gone into this game by a development team who obviously have a good deal of love and appreciation for this gaming genre.
Combo Crew feels like classic brawler, but one that has been carefully crafted for its intended platform to avoid the pitfalls of virtual controls. Its fluid gesture-based control scheme is both immersive and intuitive, resulting is a mobile brawler experience that despite a lack of tactile buttons to mash is somehow equally as satisfying as one of the arcade classics that inspired it. The native feel of the game easily makes it one of the most fun experiences of its kind on the iOS platform and a title that is not to be missed.