Despite some iffy controls, Combo Crew still lets you beat ’em up and brawl like there’s no tomorrow.
Combo Crew is something of a love letter to the beat ’em ups and brawlers of the late 80’s and early 90’s, as the influence of games such as Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is clearly apparent. That said, Combo Crew doesn’t simply copy the formula, but rather uses it as a starting point to make something unique and arguably better suited for the iPhone.
The aforementioned titles by and large consisted of moving your choice character through different environments to beat up anything and anyone that happened to cross your path. Instead, Combo Crew‘s fights take place in one room over several waves and numerous rounds, allowing you to progress by clearing floor after floor of foes.
That said, movement isn’t much of a priority in Combo Crew, at least in the traditional sense. Unlike those classic brawlers, you don’t move your character around the screen to engage in digital fisticuffs; rather, you’ll control your character through a series of taps and swipes on the touchscreen which has them engage with the nearest immediate threat. One single-fingered swipe hits an enemy, while two begins a combo; holding after a swipe allows you to charge a more powerful hit that can not only break through enemies’ blocking techniques, but send them flying to the other side of the screen, and taking out any others in their path along with them. And a tap when an exclamation mark appears above an enemy’s head allows you to counter.
At least, that’s how the controls work in theory. And a good portion of the time, they do work. Unfortunately, the game can be a bit finicky in how it reads certain commands, such as combos – the illustration seems to indicate that having two fingers together is the way to do it, but this seldom worked for us. Instead, spreading two fingers almost claw-like to swipe the screen seemed more effective, albeit imperfect.
Worse would be the counterattacks. One touch, anywhere on the screen, while an enemy has an exclamation mark over their head is supposed to have you switch focus and thwart their attack. However, this didn’t seem to work as often as it should, only to further rub salt in the wound through vocal taunts from the game itself. This is only worsened during more frantic fights, when you might have trouble seeing the icon among all the enemies (occasionally even obscured by one’s own hand), or it just goes too quickly to catch in time.
That aside, there is still fun to be had here, and there’s quite a bit of customization, too. At the start, you can choose from two different characters, though the story tells of three, and the select screen ultimately shows four (two of which are unlockable), so there’s kind of a confusing amount of variety there. As you progress, you can open up new moves for each character (locked or not), with which you can customize your combos.
The characters have their charms, with a female fighter who uses “Hair Fu,” while one of the males is an expert arcade game player. Foes include weird walking helmets and guys who look like they walked off the set of Adam West’s Batman, waving giant foam fingers. The game clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously, and reflects a fun atmosphere as a result.
The game also features a “Combo Crew Mode,” which seems to be an endless fighter mode with something of a twist. If you have friends playing the game, you can call on them to come and bail you out if you fall in battle, allowing you to regain health and continue on from where you left off.
Overall, Combo Crew is a fun game with plenty of replay value. The biggest hindrance is the occasional problem with the controls, which still manage to work for the most part. If you’re a fan of beat ’em ups and brawlers, Combo Crew is worth a try.