Traditionally arcade games were almost always played with a joystick and variety of buttons. Over the years home consoles have evolved these into handheld game controllers as the input method of choice. One of the latest challenges for game developers has been to find innovative ways of moving games to touch screens.
Many games have gone for on-screen buttons and thumbsticks to replicate the controller experience. French indie developers, The Game Bakers (Squids), are attempting something different with their new touch-based fighting game, Combo Crew. We’ve been spending some time with the game to see if their experiment has paid off.
Combo Crew is a brawler in the spirit of old arcade fighting games such as Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. Graphically the game goes for a cute cartoon aesthetic which works brilliantly. Players can choose to play as one of four fighters who are trapped in an industrial tower by the maniacal Mr. Boss. When you first purchase the game only two fighters – Gina and Parker – are available to you. However you can unlock the other two – Dolph and Sammo – through play or via microtransactions.
The game has two ways of play – King of the Tower and Combo Crew mode. King of the Tower is the story mode where you must fight your way up each floor of the tower. The tower has seven different areas each with five rounds to fight your way through. Each round has a set of predefined scores to beat in order to obtain bronze, silver, gold or perfect medals. A bronze medal unlocks the next round and a gold medal also awards a gamepad which is the in-game microtransaction currency.
Each round consists of several waves of baddies to fight and some also feature boss fights. Normal attacks are carried out by swiping a finger through an enemy. There’s no need to move your character into position either as they automatically move to where you want to attack. Swiping through an enemy and holding charges up an attack for more damage and can also break an enemy’s guard.
Powerful combo moves can be executed by swiping in one of four directions with two fingers. The more you play the game the more combo moves you can unlock for each character. Watching them in action is fantastic thanks to the wonderful animation. Despite such a simple control system everything you would expect from a brawler is here including knockdowns, ground attacks, 360’s, guardbreakers, launches and juggles. It’s great fun to juggle an enemy and attack them mid-air.
When an enemy attack is incoming a red exclamation mark appears and you have a split second to tap the screen to counter. This takes some practice to get right and can be frustrating at first. The important thing is to understand that you can only counter if you’re not mid-attack.
The longer you keep a combo alive the more points you score and you also fill your special meter. Getting hit wipes out your special meter but filling it completely allows you to queue up a devastating number of attacks to all the on-screen enemies. If you manage to keep a combo going for the whole round then you will earn a perfect combo medal and more score. Going for bigger scores to get the different medals and to compete with friends on the leaderboards will keep you coming back for more.
Combo Crew mode is an endless mode where you keep fighting as long as you can for the highest score. A unique feature here is the addition of asynchronous play similar to what you may have seen in games such as Draw Something or Song Pop. When you run out of life you can call upon the help of a friend to come and fight on your behalf to rescue you. You don’t even need to be online at the same time which allows you to come back to the game later on. This is also great as the game can be quite tiring after a long session.
If you get stuck on a particular level or want some help going for a bigger score you can use the in-game shop to purchase a variety of Perks and Boosters. Perks can do things like grant you more life permanently or an extra Booster slot. Boosters are temporary items you can use to give you help such as more life or starting a round with a full super meter.
We’ve been having an absolute blast with Combo Crew and think The Game Bakers may have just set a new standard for mobile brawlers. The gameplay is fast and fluid which is essential for this type of game. We highly recommend Combo Crew to all fighting fans looking for a portable fix of their favourite genre.