Fighting games have a problem on iOS devices: those darn virtual buttons. These games get a lot of their fun from the kinetic experience of slamming the controls around, and tapping a screen just doesn’t cut it. Fortunately, the developers of Combo Crew have a solution that is almost as satisfying as the arcade fighting experience.
Combo Crew’s plot is ripped right out of the Big Book of Beat’em Up Plots. An evil boss– creatively named Mr. Boss– has brought four butt-kicking heroes to his tower so he can watch them fight. They oblige him by beating up hundreds of his minions. A good time is had by all.
The environments are lush, there are crazy-looking bad guys to hit, and each fighter has a distinctive style. So far, so good. But the controls are where this game shines.
Your basic attack move is a one-fingered swipe on your target. A two-fingered swipe triggers a combo attack. You have four combo attacks available, chosen by swiping up, down, left, or right. You can also spoil an opponent’s attack by tapping to counter. There are no movement controls, because you automatically move to whomever you’re attacking.
This control scheme is both physically rewarding and accessible to casual players. There are only six gestures to master, and you can get by with the basic swipe, the counter, and a couple of favorite combos. That frees up your brain to focus on whom to hit and when to hit them.
As you hit those enemies, you’re also waving your arm around all over the place, because moving your shoulder and upper arm is the most natural way to make a swiping motion. Swiping in Combo Crew quickly becomes a frantic, energy-burning way to play– an experience that is a lot like playing with a joystick and buttons in an arcade.
Hardcore brawler fans may sniff at the simplicity of the controls, but there’s a lot of strategy even without having eight different ways to fire off a move. The levels are target-rich environments, so you’ll bounce around the screen fighting six to eight enemies at a time. Your mobility helps you avoid enemy blows, and you can push the bad guys around so they’re all bunched together for your biggest attacks.
Each character also has dozens of combos to unlock. You get new combos by completing campaign stages, or by doing special missions like hitting five enemies at once in the endless combat mode. The further you get into the game, the more options you have when picking out your four combos for the next fight. You can spend hours searching for the perfect mix of fighting moves.
There’s an incentive to find that perfect mix, too. Combo Crew is fundamentally a high score game. You get points for hitting enemies, with a combo multiplier for consecutive hits. To unlock the next level of the game, you need to beat all the enemies in a level and score a certain number of points. This is a game where you can rack up combo multipliers in the hundreds, and sometimes you have to if you want to win.
There’s also a nifty leaderboard feature that lets you invite friends and compare high scores for each level. It’s not as much fun as going head-to-head in a battle would be, but it’s got a personal quality that most Game Center-based high score systems lack.
The multiplayer features are a sideshow, though. Combo Crew’s combination of action heroes, hairjutsu, and great controls make it a blast to play even if you’re playing alone.