Thursday, May 30, 2013

Combo Crew [The Game Bakers] - $1.99

One of my favorite iOS games over the last couple years has been one that not many review sites gave much credit. Mainly because of the included IAP, even though it did nothing to harm the actual gameplay and was completely un-intrusive throughout, The Game Bakers action oriented turn-based RPG, Squids and Squids Wild West are two completely stand out titles on the platform and while they didn’t do too well in sales, it’s hard to deny that they set a new standard for many iOS gamers as to what a great RPG on the touch screen should be. 
Since the release of Squids and Squids WW, The Game Bakers have been working on something else completely suited for the touch screen, and while those words usually constitute half-assed gameplay and gimmicky controls there are some rare occasions where ‘from the ground up for the touch screen’ has pushed genres forward, keeping them fresh and incredibly entertaining on a gaming device that’s starting to be taken a little more seriously as a ‘real’ gaming platform as time progresses. Before I go off on a tangent, the name of the game? Combo Crew. A swipe based brawler that’s easy for this reviewer to call ‘one of the best on the platform’.

Combo Crew is a tower based brawler in which you’ll start at the bottom, and have to fight your way to the top in order to take down Mr. Boss. As you progress through the tower, you’ll unlock skills, allowing you to switch out moves to your liking and style of play. The controls are very easy to get use to and actually, are quite a bit more comfortable and natural feeling than any virtual controls I’ve experienced in a brawler. First off, a quick swipe on an enemy will have your character attack them. This also sets them up as your primary target. If you want to change targets, you can either swipe or tap the enemy whom you’d like to focus your attacks on instead of the one that’s currently selected. 
There are some enemies that will block almost every attack you make, this is where your charged attack comes into play. To do this all you need to do is swipe the enemy, but keep your finger down on the screen, letting go after you’ve ‘charged’ your attack, and you’ll knock the enemy, and any enemies who happen to get caught in the crossfire, all the way across the screen. 

The special combo attacks are where it gets kind of tricky in regard to how you want to play, how quickly you want your character to attack, the range of attacks you want them to have and so on. Using two fingers to swipe anywhere on the screen, you can swipe left, right, up or down, giving you the option of pulling off 4 different combo moves. As you complete segments of the tower, you’ll be able to purchase and equip different combos with varying length and strikes, allowing you to pick a combo that starts off with a sweep kick for those pesky blocking characters, ends with an uppercut so that you can get that extra mid-air strike in, or combos with a longer/shorter string of attacks depending on how quickly you want to be able to get our of the action, or how quickly you want to build up your multiplier. 

Counter-attacking is also a big part of Combo Crew. While you’re attacking the enemy, there’s almost always going to be multiple enemies on-screen who are not seeing the business end of your fist or foot, and they will decide to come after you. These characters are always shown with a fairly large exclamation point over their heads. In order to counter their attacks, you’ll need to tap anywhere on the screen when the exclamation point is visible. This queues up a counter move that you’ll pull off as soon as you’re done finishing whatever attacking action you’re in the middle of. Here’s where short combo moves come in handy, as some of the longer combos will leave you open to attack for a longer period of time since you can’t stop a combo once you start it. Miss out on the chance to counter, and you’ll loose your multiplier as well as your super combo meter.

Yes, there is a super combo meter. While you’re off kicking some serious butt, a gauge will charge in the upper left corner right beneath your health bar. Once this is filled up, an icon with a fist on it will appear under the bar. You can either choose to tap it straight away, or wait and see if you can pull off some more moves to charge up the bar for a second or third time, strengthening your combo attacks. Once you do tap the fist icon, the background will go black, and everything will stop. This is where you’re given a chance to totally ruin the day of anyone unlucky enough to get caught on the screen. Once the background disappears, you can place your finger on the screen, and quickly swipe through all of the characters multiple times. After a couple of seconds, your super combo meter will start to drain and you’ll go on a complete rampage until it’s drained, quickly following the path of the line you drew with your finger, giving you the chance to rack up a massive multiplier. 

There are two gameplay modes; King Of The Tower, where you’ll have the chance to fight through 7 levels of the tower, each with 5 stages to try and perfect by snagging the 3 medals: Complete the stage without getting hit, beat the gold medal score and get the top local score. There is also a sort of Endless Mode called Combo Crew Mode. Here, you’ll be able to fight through stages of enemies that become increasingly difficult. In each stage there are multiple waves that you’ll need to fight off, and once you loose all of your health, it’s Game Over. However, you’re also able to get ‘rescued’ by Facebook friends and other gamers through e-mail addresses. This gives you the chance to get saved by another player to keep on fighting in a co-op mode and better your high-score. While I’m not too sure many gamers will like the idea of people working their way up the leaderboards because they have more friends with the game than them, there are a couple of forum threads, and players on The Game Baker’s Facebook page that are handing out their e-mail addresses, so finding someone to help you out isn’t really something that’s hard to do, and since you’re also able to earn currency by completing objectives and beating stages, there’s still a massive amount of drive to play the Combo Crew Mode if you’re going at it solo. 

Starting off the game, you’re given two characters with some pretty different fighting styles. There are also 2 unlockable characters which you can purchase for 20 game pieces each. Game pieces are earned by completing objectives in both gameplay modes. No worries about having to dump another couple of dollars into the game, as it’s completely IAP free, putting everyone at the same playing field from the get go. Each of the characters has 20 available combo moves, giving the game a total of 80 distinct combo moves to try and unlock. On top of this, there’s also boosters that are consumable items that you can purchase in the shop, like a burger that completely refills your health, fries that double your life gauge and completely fill it up, a green chili that fills your super combo gauge and more. There are also permanent upgrades/perks that you can buy as well which will increase your life gauge, add booster slots, increase your damage and more. Needless to say, there’s a lot to unlock in the game. 

Graphically, Combo Crew is just as polished as The Game Bakers previous Squids titles. The animations are top notch and the gameplay is incredibly smooth. However, it is kind of lacking in the environment department. There are different looks for each level of the tower, but they don’t do much to make it feel different. If you’re not really paying attention, it can almost feel like you’re playing in one room over and over again throughout most of the game. As long as I am bringing up one of the very few negative things I can say about Combo Crew, I might as well get this out of the way as well; there is no co-op mode through GameCenter. I know that some gamers will be kind of upset by this, but it’s not a deal breaker at all, though I do hope to see it added somehow in the future.
Outside of that, Combo Crew is priced at a measly $1.99. Since the game does not have one little shred of IAP to be found inside of it, and is Universal and is, without a doubt, one of the best beat-em-up/brawler titles available on the iOS, it’s a game that’s pretty much impossible for us not to recommend. If you’re a fan of the genre, Combo Crew is a must get. And with The Game Bakers working on incorporating even more into the game with updates and taking player feedback very seriously, the future for the game looks incredibly bright. You won’t want to miss out on this one. 


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