This is Portabliss, a column about downloadable games that can be played on the go.
The impressive part is that it does all of that with just two fingers.
Offering players a stable of fighters named after action stars (Gina, Sammo, Dolph, Parker), Combo Crew condenses traditional beat-em-up gameplay into touch screen swipes. The sum total of everything you need to know takes about a minute to learn. Swipe an enemy with one finger to attack it. Swipe and hold to power up a charged hit that can break an enemy's guard. Swipe with two fingers to the left, right, top or bottom to perform a combo on your currently targeted enemy. If you see an enemy getting ready to strike (indicated by a red exclamation point), tap the screen to counter.
And that's it. The challenge comes from avoiding enemy attacks and making sure that your combo never ever ends. As in many current action games, your combo count ticks higher with every blow you land. In Combo Crew, a higher count means a larger score multiplier, and it also means you're filling up your super meter. Once full, tapping your super attack allows you to madly swipe as many enemies as you can for a second or two, after which you get to watch your character pound all those enemies in a drawn out super combo.
If you can manage not to get hit, it's possible to fill the super meter repeatedly, eventually building up to double, triple and even quad super combos. It might go higher than that, but I've never had the guts to find out. As you might expect, a single hit from an enemy will drop your combo count to zero and completely drain your super meter. Not only does that ruin the incredible super combo you had planned to finish the round, but it also kills your multiplier and score potential. If you're good enough and you pay attention, however, you can go for an entire level without losing your combo once (which earns a hefty score bonus).
Clearing levels earns you coins, which can be used to purchase permanent fighter perks and single-use boosters. Earning a gold medal on a level earns a pendant, which can be used to unlock new fighters and new combos. Each character can have four combos equipped at any time, one for each direction you can swipe with two fingers.
There are two modes: King of the Tower and Combo Crew. King of the Tower has you clear individual stages with any character you want, while King of the Tower is a survival mode of sorts. Picking a single character, you clear as many floors of the tower as you can with a single health bar. You can take a certain number of boosters along to help your odds. These offer a range of different bonuses, from refilling your health bar to granting you extra attack power for a single round.
King of the Tower also has a unique twist in that you can invite your friends to "rescue" you between floors. This lets your friend play your current game. If they manage to beat the next floor for you, your character will be healed. It's a neat idea, though unfortunately you'll have to add friends directly via email or Facebook. I can't speak for the Android version, but there's no way to invite Game Center friends on iOS.
Even so, pulling off a competent brawler for touch screen platforms is quite an accomplishment, and there's certainly enough content to unlock (all without in-app purchases, I might add). If you're looking for a new portable action obsession, Combo Crew is an easy recommendation.
This review is based on an iOS download of Combo Crew, provided by The Game Bakers. It's available now on Google Play and iTunes.