Doesn’t it seem a shame for Apple, Samsung, and all those other manufacturers who’ve spent millions of dollars developing ultra-high resolution LCD screens, when you see a game like Combo Queen? Big chunky pixels just look so much better than flowing curves, but it seems like such a waste of their hardware. Or is that just me?
Perhaps it’s something that only us aging retro-philes appreciate to such an extent that we wish for low res displays once again, but it’s impossible not to fall immediately in love with the rich visual style oozing from Combo Queen. It makes the entire game a delight, which is a little surprising, since the gameplay is actually a bit of a chore.
At its heart this is probably aiming to be a hack ‘n’ slash. And in some respects that’s exactly what it is. But saying hack ‘n’ slash suggests some furious button mashing and a flurry of exchanged blows when you come face to face with an enemy, and that’s not really the way Combo Queen works.
The eponymous Queen sprints across the gorgeous, pixelated landscape until an enemy of some manner blocks her way. This is when the fight commences, as you’ve rightly assumed, although the mechanics of battle probably aren’t what you were expecting. They work much like quick time events in console titles, only with a single button rather than having to correctly hit one of four, or eight or more on a joypad.
A square reticle zones in on the enemy you’re fighting, and you must tap the right-hand side of the screen at the precise moment it shrinks to target him. Miss, and you might get another go, but eventually it’s going to be his turn. Defense works the same way, only this time a plus sign flies in from the right side of the screen for you to tap as it reaches your character.
The more successful hits you can chain together, the more effective your attack and the less time your opponent will have to fight back. But the reticles speed up and slow down very rapidly, and with almost no margin for error, so you’ve done extremely well if even three blows land in a row.
There’s also an element of the infinite runner here in Combo Queen, as you’ve no control over movement (not that you need it) and she just keeps sprinting from fight to fight. Furthermore, take a couple of hits and you’re dead, and it’s right back to the beginning in a new game. You do collect up XP and other items if you can keep moving long enough, which allows you to level up your character and build on her abilities, but the core combat mechanics remain the same: very unforgiving.
If Combo Queen didn’t have its dazzling good looks, it’d be a hard game to recommend. And while graphics, a game do not make, in this case they’re it’s saving grace and ensure that anyone who downloads it will appreciate the value that Combo Queen does have buried deep inside. With better balancing of its fighting mechanics, this would be a superb arcade-based distraction, but right now its frustration levels are a little too high to make it un-put-down-able.