The Game Bakers paints its tribute to scrolling beat ‘em ups on a canvas inspired by 1972 Bruce Lee classic Game Of Death: one building, one big bad boss and one heck of a lot of face-breaking to get to the top. Combo Crew is a streamlined take on an already simple genre, removing the need for any actual scrolling or navigation as the action takes place in short-burst stages across a number of isolated battle rooms.
Combat involves swiping on a foe to instantly dash over to them and plant a foot or fist on their face, with two-finger swipes forming combos and a perfectly-timed tap required to evade and counter an enemy attack. As you progress your funds increase to allow the purchase of perks (such as greater damage and health), boosts (round-skipping) and a wealth of new moves. Without virtual controls the experience is gloriously pure, closer in spirit to overlooked Nintendo DS thrill ride Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword.
Like The Game Bakers’ previous release, Squids, Combo Crew is a treat for the eyes. It froths with colour and confidence, revelling in its influences as you grind your way to the top. And make no mistake, it is a grind – one best taken in short doses and requiring the basest of mental activity but one that has enough content, unlocks and options to compensate.
The value on offer is a pleasing divergence from Squids’ money-hungry design, and while not all the features are worthwhile (an asynchronous multiplayer mode lets you send a high score on to a friend for them to beat, thus reviving you – a novel idea that fails to capture the side-by-side arcade thrills of the genre’s roots) it does suggest that Combo Crew was built with a mindset of player before profit. The Game Bakers has achieved the unexpected, then, and managed to hop genres from its muddied RPG to some robust, purist pugilism.