On paper, Super Comboman sounds like something I’d enjoy. “Super Comboman is a colorful beat-em-up with wacky characters and fast-paced fighting game inspired combat based in a destructible sticker world. Fluid combos and upgradable moves allow you to smash and juggle enemies with air and ground combos, while developing your own style in the process”. Sounds good doesn’t it? It even actually delivers on these promises too. The combat system indeed allows you to upgrade your moves, a couple of which are nods to fighting game favourites such as Ryu’s hadouken or Zangief’s spinning lariat. It is based in a sticker world, where some objects and items are destructible. The characters are wacky and colourful. But even though it does exactly what it says it will, Super Comboman sadly fails to deliver much entertainment, due to the repetitive nature of the combat and sluggish controls.
The protagonist (Struggles) starts the game with the goal of getting some cash together to pay the mortgage so he and his little brother Biscuit don’t get kicked out of their home. He finds a construction job, but instead of knuckling down and working hard he immediately starts beating seven shades of shit out of his co-workers. It’s an odd tactic, as in my experience assaulting your colleagues is grounds for gross misconduct and a prompt firing, but it seems to work. At the end of each stage, Struggles is rewarded with a fat cheque from his employer to spend on new moves at the store.
At its core, combat is boiled down to light attacks, strong attacks and a stun attack. A few of the directions will modify these basic attacks; pressing up will result in an enemy-launching uppercut, pressing back sees Struggles performing a backward attack and so forth. This moveset can be bolstered by purchasing moves such as the aforementioned hadouken (performed as always by pressing down, forward then attack), and other homages to classic fighting games. The idea is to perform combos using a mixture of the basic attacks, sprinkling in the other special moves as you see fit to create long hit chains and devastating those foolish enough to show up for work and earn a living. Perform a big enough combo, and you’ll activate one of two perks (also bought at the store) that further increase your damage or survivability for as long as the chain remains active.
The reality is that you’ll mash square like it was made out of potatoes then maybe triangle for the strong attack. This basic string will work on most enemies, until it doesn’t for some reason. So now and again you’ll input the command for a special move only to have it come out like seventy percent of the time, making it next to impossible to achieve any kind of ‘fluid combo’ consistently. Occasionally an enemy will require you to stun them with circle, but if you try this gut-punch on the wrong enemy, you’ll drop them straight to the floor and ruin any chance to continue the sweet combo your were trying to perform. Some stages will require you to punch enemies into buttons dotted around the stage, which is another crap-shoot requiring more luck than skill, as often the enemies just wont land where you need them to when you need them to. So they’ll keep pouring in and you’ll continue the cycle of hitting square a bunch then triangle, until you hit the enemy into button or break the right barrel to progress and move on.
Some enemies will have attacks that you’ll need to avoid. Purple construction workers for example, will throw pickaxes at you, so you’ll press L1 to block. Either my timing was off a hell of a lot, or this also just works when it feels like it, because I took a lot of damage that I was certain I was going to dodge, and died. The game gives you three lives and checkpoints frequently enough, but lose all three and its back to the start of the whole level you go. Bearing in mind a lot of the stages contain those previously mentioned enemy/button mechanics, or just a lot of walls and debris to break through to progress, frustration soon sets in.
Aesthetically it can’t be faulted. It’s colourful, friendly and as it’s set in a world of stickers for some reason, everything has a white outline. Think Paper Mario-meets-Dragonball Z and you’ll be on the right track. Everything is nicely drawn, the stages have a few environment pieces you can smash your blue-collared combatants through, and there’s nice use of 2D and 3D elements together in the levels, features such as cranes and scaffolding pop out of the backdrops while staying consistent with the flat sticker world. It’s all very pleasing in a family friendly sort of way. The sound design is the polar opposite. While the music score itself wasn’t that bad, almost every attack seemed to make Struggles grunt out some annoying noise. In a game where I’m pressing the attack button around a hundred times a minute, this progressed from a mild annoyance to me muting my T.V. in the space of about half an hour.
Maybe I’m the wrong audience for Super Comboman. Given the look of it all, I might have just been really disappointed by a game meant for five-year olds or something. It doesn’t seem likely though. I really don’t think any children would have the patience to slog from checkpoint to checkpoint fighting hit-sponge style enemies with moves that only register seven out of ten times. Furthermore, if it’s a game for children, why are the developers giving such clear nods to my childhood with moves like the spinning pile-driver? The whole experience is such a shame, as the concept of a fast paced combo-centric game with such stylised visuals really appealed to me. But the execution is just too far off for me to enjoy at all, and the whole affair seems average at best. One for die-hard fans of the genre only.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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