Combo Critters Review - Like Pokemon for Busy People

This capture-em-all game isn't massive, but that's what some people want

Combo Critters Featured Image
Combo Critters Artwork. Lucky Kat Studios

Lucky Kat Studios has made the Pokemon game for the super-casual player in Combo Critters. If you enjoy the idea of catching creatures and making them better, but perhaps don't want this pursuit to take over your life, and want to knock it all out in a few hours or so, this is your game. You make some trade-offs with the casual factor to the experience, but the satisfaction you get in exchange makes it worth checking out for the casual player.

Combo Critters' combat gives you three creatures to go up in battle against an array of creatures, with a simple combat system. You choose which of your creatures will attack the enemy, and they do damage based on their prescribed statistics, with a combo meter that fills up if you attack with a creature 3 times. Then, you can pull off special attacks if you complete several gesture-based challenges. The creatures you fight can be captured and collected, though with varying odds to actually capture them. Each planet you explore has a certain number of puzzle pieces to collect, which will unlock the boss, which can also be captured, though there are low odds to get them. They do respawn in the same spot, so you can just leave and go back to their spawn point to capture them again. What's kind of funny is that when you're weaker, enemies will pick fights with you – roll up with a stronger lineup and they'll run away, and you have to hunt them down. Then, with the creatures you make, you can combine them to make new creatures, including higher-level ones.

You have to complete each of the game's 6 planets to unlock new levels of creatures, so you can't just find a way to make a level-8 creature off the bat. But this does encourage you to explore the litany of creatures and combinations in order to find all of them.

The game's whole aesthetic reminds me a lot of something from the Game Boy Advance days. The usage of pixels, coloration, and the feel of the world being 2D but representing something of a sphere feels like some of the mode-7 rendering tricks that SNES games used and that GBA games tried to emulate. The GBA era of gaming is one of my personal favorites, happening during my teenage years, so Combo Critters really brings back a lot of good memories for me. Lucky Kat Studios turns out some fantastic pixel art games; their previous game Sky Chasers was a game that also shone in part because of its visual style.

The list of critters that you can make is varied and includes some gloriously absurd options. Want to fight with a giant donut? It's one of the best high-ranking units, actually. The developers have come up with all sorts of goofy creatures: fighting vegetables, more plausible reptilian creatures, and characters that are unsubtle cultural references. It's just a really charming game with a selection of characters that's part of the fun. While you won't know the identity of the creature you're forming before you make the actual combination, the stats are known.

One of the more clever features in the game is the ability to fight Twitter accounts. By inputting any Twitter account's name, you can take on a creature with that profile avatar, and stats based on the account's statistics. If you have a friend or famous figure that you'd like to capture and add to the wall of Twitter creatures you've battled, then this is your chance to do so. These creatures can be massive, massively powerful with the right stats, though they only attack every 3 turns so you have more of a fighting chance. For example, my Twitter account is particularly deadly for whatever reason with nearly 6000 health and over 200 damage per attack. You might need the most powerful team in the game to defeat me.

Combo Critters is free-to-play, and it's not a game that will compel you to spend hundreds of dollars on it. The coins you earn in-game from each battle can be used to heal your creatures, getting another shot at capturing a creature and paying to combine critters. The largest coin in-app purchase is $3.49 US for 6000 coins, which will last players a long time if they buy it. I bought the 6000 coin pack while I was on the second planet, and I would say I didn't get down to single digit coins until the fifth planet. There are video ads for getting coins, and these increase in value the more that you play. Plus, they are offered rather often. Some games limit the video ad supply, or ad networks limit the supply of ads to players, but regardless, this game lets you get a lot of coins for free. There is a $2.49 in-app purchase to remove non-incentivized ads, as well, though I only saw one forced video ad in the first hour of play. Still, I was happy to pay to remove the ads. Free players will just have to deal with some additional ads and additional grinding for money and creatures, but the entirety of the game is accessible to those who choose to enjoy the game for free, unlike many social RPGs.​

The key issue with Combo Critters is that it's all a bit on the shallow side. There's no elemental differences or anything to differentiate the creatures beyond their stats. So, while it might not be easy or cheap to do, the best thing to do is to get 3 of the most powerful creature in your highest available star rating class and use that as your loadout. Even basic differences, like different numbers of turns to charge up the more powerful attack, would add some variety. There is some strategization in terms of which units you should use in battle, but the amount of player skill that alters the experience is minimal.

Thankfully, in context of this, Combo Critters is a fairly small-scale game: the 66 creatures and 6 planets to explore means that you could devour most of this game in a small time frame; one sitting, even, if you invest into it. If you're a fan of larger-scale games, then perhaps this is disappointing, and Combo Critters is a little bit. It's easy to see where this game could be this massive, expansive experience with hundreds of critters and complicated combinations to unlock them all. But if you're someone who perhaps enjoys experiencing large quantities of games, or enjoys the idea of a collect-them-all game without wanting to put in the dozens of hours of effort that similar games require, this is more your speed. A few hours investment will give you a comparable experience to those games. And that's really the best reason to play Combo Critters – if you're busy, and don't have the time to investment in a full-fledged game, here is a shorter, more casual experience that can give you enough of the satisfaction to be worth playing.

Combo Critters is available on Google Play.