Review | Super Comboman (PC)
If I wrote up a list of my top 25 games of all-time, a sure-fire member of that list would be Super House of Dead Ninjas. A 16-bit styled take on platforming, you play as the ninja Nintai Ryoko as she cuts through hordes of skeletons and other monsters on her way to the bottom of a seemingly endless tower. It’s efficient, sleek, and challenging. Combine that game with the simple-yet-fun fusion of a 2D puzzler and platformer in the nearly 8-bit Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe and you’ve established Adult Swim Games as one of my favorite game publishers in the industry. Super Comboman, in contrast, tries to make a somewhat modern 2D brawler, but it lacks the focus or polish that made many other Adult Swim games successful.
Super Comboman tries to fuse a combo-based brawler with absurdist-humor, but neither of them come across as well as they should have. You play through the game as Struggles, a poofy-haired, living-fannie-pack-wearing (it’s named Flappers) comic fan who realizes his mortgage is due. It’s pretty easy to tell this game won’t make too much sense as you progress, and maybe that channels more of Adult Swim’s comedic approach as of late. There are little jokes spread around the game that take some thought: load screens tell you to wait because “Your mom’s biscuits are not ready;” when you remember that Struggles’ little brother’s name is “Biscuit,” it might channel a snicker or two. But most one-liners feel off-course, like when a hammer-wielding boss says “Get ready to get the jammer hammer!” before combat…it’s easy to see where the game tries for humor, it’s just hard to see where it actually hits the mark.
Super Comboman’s biggest issue is its lack of consistency on all fronts. Plot-wise, Struggles, takes a job with DoDoCo and completes tasks to earn a paycheck…except “completing tasks” involves beating up all the construction workers and randomly-placed boxers you see on the way to your goal. Struggles sees his comic-book idol Super Comboman running through some stages and chases after him, but in the very next level he’ll simply accomplish a DoDoCo-delivered task with no mention of his hero. I still feel like the team at Interabang Entertainment tried to channel the wackiness that makes hit TV show Adventure Time so successful, but Adventure Time pulls off its craziness because there’s substance at its core; neither the writing nor the gameplay of Super Comboman provide that reinforcement.
From a pure gameplay perspective Super Comboman offers some neat features, but too many bugs. One of my favorite features is the combo-based powerup system: you can equip two special powers, with one activating when you get either 30 or 60 hits in a combo. The combo system itself is pretty forgiving; you can get hit and still continue your combo, and punching inanimate objects keeps your chain going when traveling between groups of enemies. It’s a novel system, but it’s not enough to carry the engine through its rough patches.
The developers at Interabang Entertainment have worked to patch Super Comboman since its release, but even now it still suffers from glitches and imprecise controls. Powerups are available for purchase in the in-game store using currency gained from beating baddies, but there’s no guarantee that the Hadoken will execute with the prototypical down -> forward -> action input, that the dash through move will actually take you through an enemy, or that the auto-counter powerup will actually counter incoming attacks. Admittedly, Super Comboman has come a long way since launch by improving hitbox recognition and making small tweaks to ease the game from its previously brutal difficulty. Still, there’s a long way to go before the game feels refined enough for the big time.
After putting multiple hours in to the game, I just couldn’t find anything to motivate me to keep playing. Each stage gives you a bronze, silver, or gold cookie-medal at the end based on your score, but more often than not I received gold medals without really trying. Using unlocked power-ups felt underwhelming when I could actually get them to execute. There are stickers spread around each level to collect, but they don’t unlock anything or add lore to the game’s story. And, most personally frustrating, I just felt no concern about Struggles or his “struggle,” even though the cutscenes and banter made it seem like I should. Sure, there’s something humorous about a game that makes you bust open a toilet, then see the main character shout “Holy poop nuggets!” as the contents of the toilet spew around the room, but it’s just not enough to drive a game forward. With some continued patching and tweaking of the game engine it could be another great Adult Swim game. Right now it’s just a struggle.
Final Score: 2.5 out of 5