You know what’s awesome? Fanny packs. Seriously, they may be the perfect fashion accessory. Stylish, comfortable, and most importantly, practical. That’s why I wear one to the office every day no matter how loudly my peers object. Furthermore, it’s about time that they got the recognition they so desperately deserve, and I have to tip my hat to Super Comboman for incorporating them into the mix. I just wish that its developers had made a game more deserving of the awesomeness that is the fanny pack.
Super Comboman is a brawler ripped straight from the glory days of the 16 bit consoles. You play as Struggles, a comic book obsessed man-child, who takes on random jobs around town to pay his past due bills and provide cookies for his little brother. I won’t fault Super Comboman for lacking in the story department since brawlers aren’t known for weaving the most compelling of tales, but just know that everything shown is a paper thin façade to allow you opportunities to punch people in the face.
Where I can fault Super Comboman is in its failure to present almost everything that’s required to make an interesting beat ’em-up. While I wouldn’t have expected a plethora of enemy types, the game seems to start scraping the bottom of the barrel almost instantly. I had no idea as to why I was fighting construction workers in the middle of a restaurant, but I’ll be damned if that’s not what I was doing.
Outside of just the physical appearances of the enemies, there seems to be very little variety in how they actually play out. You have your standard grunts, ranged enemies who could have been professional dart players considering how perfect their precision is, large thugs, and true powerhouses. The game hints that they all have their strengths and weaknesses in a loading screen, but here’s a little pro tip: Mashing forward and punch seems to do the job pretty damn well.
Okay, so the story isn’t great, and the enemies are fairly trite. But how’s the combat? The answer is “not fantastic.” Struggles controls like he’s underwater for the most part.
Blocking is accomplished by holding a button while a shield reminiscent of Super Smash Bros. appears, and counters can be employed by pushing towards enemies. This sounds okay in theory, but feels incredibly awkward in practice and keeps you from performing your unlocked special moves. This, of course, means less than nothing should you land between two enemies or, god forbid, manage to be between two when they spawn out of thin air, since there’s a decent chance you’ll simply be stun locked until you die.
Your light attacks do decent enough damage, but don’t really stagger your opponents unless you hit a few in a row, which means you will undoubtedly be attacked while in the process of trying to punch. Your heavy attacks need to recharge between uses, limiting their usefulness but offering a bit of strategy. The special moves require a slight input command (such as down + forward + b) before they can be used, but the sluggish controls make them anything but reliable.
The game’s controls were all over the board, and never felt natural. Struggles moves at a reasonable pace on the ground, but feels half as fast in the air. Also, any command you enter feels delayed by about a half second before it manages to come through, rendering a lot of your abilities fairly moot in the heat of battle. Frankly, this sort of input lag is unacceptable for a full release. If you want to design a game around fast-paced combat, your game damn well better be able to handle that, otherwise it’s all a waste.
As you can probably surmise from its title, Super Comboman largely focuses around combos, but even then they often feel tacked on. Combos are easy enough to maintain: simply land a hit on an enemy or any of the destructible items in the environment before the combo meter above your head fades into oblivion to keep them going. Then, as your combo meter rises, you’ll activate your two selected perks, which is a better incentive than most I suppose.
Special abilities — as well as perks — can be purchased in-between levels. The pricing seems fair, and you can count on unlocking things at a fairly regular pace. Perks can feel slightly overpowered at times, but considering you need to maintain a high combo to activate them I feel that can be forgiven. The only real issue with said abilities is that the input lag and imprecise controls don’t allow them to be used to their full extent.
Aesthetically, Super Comboman does come off as pleasant at first, with its comic book-inspired art style and the fact that all of its characters are merely stickers; however, it becomes old hat very quickly. Everything is surrounded by massive white outlines (to really hammer down that sticker thing), which leads to things overlapping in ways that just don’t feel natural. The animations simply fall flat and don’t leave the impression that anything you’re doing has any real weight behind it. The audio side isn’t much better, with a score that’s fine but forgettable and a collection of “thwacks” that simply blur into the background as repetitive noise.
I didn’t encounter a lot of bugs while playing, but the ones I did see were pretty damning. My personal favorite was walking into a new area that shut the door behind me, leaving me sitting there alone for 4 minutes before I realized that the enemy I had seen walk out was needed to get through the room. Other times, important enemies wouldn’t spawn due to obstacles being in the way, or the entire screen would show nothing but the background scenery. The latter would only occur if the camera was stretched out too far, though.
Super Comboman isn’t going to be the worst game of the year in anyone’s mind – that is, if it’s even remembered in a few months. Sloppy combat and imprecise controls sunk this game before it even had a chance to leave port. It’s a shame, because we need more beat ’em-ups on the market, but that doesn’t mean that we should settle for a game like this. Even the genre’s most diehard fans are probably going to want to pass on this one.
This review is based on a PC version of the game given to us for review purposes.