Combo Critters (Free) by Lucky Kat Studios is a casual RPG game that has you exploring and conquering planets while collecting your own army of unique and interesting creatures. If you are looking for a game that has a fresh and distinctive take on the monster-collecting genre, then Combo Critters is just what you need.
As a kid, I grew up with franchises like Pokémon and Digimon. It was all the rage back then (and the Pokémon craze is certainly back with Pokémon Go) and it was just super fun for me just watching the cartoons after school and collecting cards and playing some of the related video games when I could. I’m not sure what it is, but there is just always something fun about collecting virtual, imaginative monsters that makes me giddy. And while Pokémon Go has arrived and has me hunting down various Pokémon all over the real world, sometimes I just want to relax at home but still collect creatures on my mobile device. That’s where Combo Critters comes in. I had an opportunity to try the game out at GDC this year, and I must admit that the game has come a long way since I first saw it.
Visually, Combo Critters is a beautiful retro throwback, since it is all done up in fun pixel art. If you’re like me and grew up with the 8-bit graphics, then you’ll feel right at home with Combo Critters. Despite the pixelated art, I still found the various creatures and environments to be packed with plenty of detail. Colors in the game are bright and vivid, which is perfect considering the super cartoonish style of Combo Critters. Animation is also buttery smooth and fluid, so I had no lag on my iPhone 6s Plus. The chiptune soundtrack is also fun to listen to as you play, and sound effects are a nice touch. My favorite part about the game, though, is how every critter you come across or collect has their own outrageous design — the developer was truly creative when coming up with this game.
Combo Critters, despite being a casual RPG game, is level-based with six different worlds for you to explore. While that doesn’t sound like too much, the game has over 70 critters that you can encounter and even collect to build up your own team of stab-happy carrots, mean looking onions, and fat cats. There is also the combination mechanic, where you can combine two creatures you’ve collected to make a new or different one, so the real fun in the game is finding critters and combining them to see what you can come up with. But the main objective on each world is to collect the puzzle pieces to reveal the boss, defeat him, and then move on to the next planet.
The controls in the game are simple and straightforward: just swipe on the screen to move your character. You can also just keep your finger on the screen to move continuously. As you wander around to collect the puzzle pieces, you’ll see other critters scattered about, minding their own business, that is, until you get near them. When you run into one, the battle sequence begins.
In Combo Critters, you can have a team of up to three monsters to take into battle. The one who shows up first will always be the first one in the lineup, but you can alternate your critters at any time by tapping on their card. Tapping on the critter you want to use will also initiate a standard attack, which enemies follow up on with an attack of their own. The number next to the heart icon on each monster’s card is their number of hit points, and the number next to the sword icon is how much damage their standard attack will do. Once a monster does three normal attacks, the “Special Attack” button pops up and you can activate it to unleash a flurry of hard-hitting attacks that do much more damage, as long as you follow the instructions on the screen before time runs out.
After you defeat an enemy, you’ll have an opportunity to capture a new creature that you just fought (if it was a group of at least two or more, the selected monster is random) and add it to your collection. The percentage of catching it is shown at the top, but if you’re unsuccessful, you’ll get one more chance if you spend some coins, which also increase the percentage. But be careful — even though coins come in ample supply (they’re earned for defeating enemies, opening chests, and watching video ads), you’ll probably want to save them more for healing your team, as you can’t heal them during fights, and it gets expensive later on.
However, I noticed that there is a huge difficulty spike in the third world, as other iTunes reviews have mentioned. The enemies in the third planet can do considerably more damage than what you find in the first two, and the boss has an extraordinary amount of health, making it hard for you to defeat him before your team bites the dust since you’ll be taking a beating even before the boss. I like a challenge, but I feel like the jump in difficulty is a bit high from the second to the third world, so hopefully the developer balances that out in an update. Otherwise, prepare for a lot of grinding, as you need coins to heal your team, and the cost for doing so gets higher and higher depending on the level of your critters. Even watching videos for free coins is not enough, surprisingly.
Still, because of this jump in difficulty, I’ve found myself just going back to the previous two worlds to grind up the coins and more critters. As you find new creatures, you’ll want to see what their potential is when combining it with other creatures that you don’t want to use. To combine, just open up the game menu and go to the Combine section. Drag two creatures into the slots and you’ll get a preview of what the outcome will be. It’s best to pay attention, though, because sometimes you’ll get something with mediocre stats (though it can be fused with something else after), but other times you can get something much better than what you already have. The level of critters that you can end up with are determined by your progress in the game, and usually you will get better results when combining higher level creatures, though you can be pleasantly surprised.
When you collect something new that you want to use, or end up combining two lesser critters into something great, then you may want to add it to your team or replace something weaker. You can just select the “Edit Team” option in the menu to drag-and-drop the monsters you want in your lineup.
I’ve only spent a bit of time with Combo Critters since the launch, but I’m having fun with it so far. The graphics are superb and a nice throwback, the chiptunes and sound effects are delightful, and the gameplay concept is fun and rather addictive. The only thing that needs to be improved in the future is the game’s difficulty, because it’s a bit unbalanced right now. Hopefully this happens sooner rather than later.
I recommend checking out Combo Critters if you enjoy casual RPGs with healthy mix of weird and crazy fighting vegetables in your gaming diet. Combo Critters is available on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for free with in-app purchases for coins and ad-removal.