No d-pad. No buttons to mash. No virtual controls whatsoever. Frantic finger-swipes are the order of the day in Combo Crew, an homage to the ancient arcade beat-em-ups of our forefathers.
Those ancient games of yore gave us a goal — generally rescuing a kidnapped family member or significant other — and set us on a mission that spanned several side-scrolling stages. Our task was to mash buttons until everything on the screen was dead in order to move on to the next screen and mash buttons until everything was dead.
The Game Bakers' Combo Crew keeps it simple. There is no kidnapping, just an invitation from a bad guy to join him for dinner atop a tower filled with floor-after-floor of enemies. There is no side-scrolling — each stage takes place on a single screen.
And there is no button-mashing. Attacking an enemy is a swipe. Performing a charge attack is a swipe-and-hold. Countering enemy attacks is a well-timed tap, and combo attacks — and there are a ton of unlockable combo attacks across the game's four characters — are a simple matter of swiping with two fingers.
Combo Crew is a very pretty game with a lot of character. It's also insanely repetitive, something we've grown to accept in our beat-em-ups. The single room stages exacerbate the repetitiousness, but the ease of battling using the game's swipe controls counteracts it, giving the whole affair a "just one more level" compulsion.
Or at least that's the case in the floor-climbing King of the Tower game mode. The game's other mode — Combo Crew Mode — sees the player fighting an endless tower of baddies to see how far they can get. The trick is players can recruit their friends to take over should their life get low. The friend will play through the level the player is stick on, with the player gaining their friends points as increased health. It's sort of a social survival mode, though the only means of adding friends seems to be through email, which is just awkward.
Swiping is the new button-mashing, and it's a fine way to take out the trash in a tower filled with ne'er-do-wells. Combo Crew could very well be the definitive beat-em-up of the mobile age of gaming.