‘Combo Queen’ Review: Majestically Violent

Apparently the Kickstarter for Tap My Game’s fast-paced rhythm-RPG Combo Queen (out now, $1.99) produced tangible fruit last summer, so we apologize for only recently getting around to it. With the plethora of iOS games hitting the marketplace each and every week, it can be somewhat hard to keep track of the many in-progress Kickstarters out there (especially if you haven’t personally backed them all). Anyways — now that it’s finally out — the time has at long last arrived to see if Tap My Game’s promises of non-stop action were properly delivered upon, or if the Queen’s rage sadly fell a little short.

screen480x480Combo Queen stars the eponymous heroine — self-described by the developers as a cute, yet also psychotic, barbarian-princess — whom is out to make a quick buck taking down the rampaging giant-hordes, using nothing more than her hatchets and her unending rage. As Queen always charges automatically forward in search of her next kill, the only thing that players need to worry about will be successfully dishing out damage — as well as sometimes avoiding it — whenever an enemy is encountered. As previously stated, all of this action is controlled by rhythmically tapping the screen — ideally with perfect synchronization — along with the on-screen prompts whenever they appear.

Whenever its Queen’s turn to violently lash out, which also happens to be one of her favorite hobbies, spinning squares — that constrict over time — will appear on top of her current target. At this point players will aim to tap the screen’s right-hand side such that their tapping is perfectly in sync with the exact moment the shrinking square perfectly matches the target’s square (please look at the screenshots for this to make more sense). When you’ve successfully done this the target will then both take damage, and you’ll immediately be presented with yet another shrinking attack square (although this one will probably be shrinking much faster than the previous one).

The number of times your character can successfully attack in a row, with later strikes in the same combo being worth more than the earlier ones, will be determined by the combo book that Queen currently has equipped (with longer combo-books being purchasable). Players would do wise to remember exactly how many attacks are in their current combo, because — after completing their full attack — they’ll be faced with a suddenly ultra-slow moving square. If they correctly nail the timing on this slow square, then — although Queen won’t inflict any damage in the process — players will successfully have earned the chance to begin a brand new combo (all without their opponent ever getting a turn).

screen480x480 (1)Eventually — however — players will either mess up the tap-timing during their attack phase, or perhaps they’ll meet a rather rude enemy that’s never heard of “Ladies First,” at which point it’ll be time for the defense phase. During this section players will need to tap the screen’s left-hand side in sync with the spinning asterisks, aiming to touch the screen exactly as the asterisks reach where Queen is standing. Successfully blocking all of them will prevent Queen from taking any damage that round — which is good, seeing as how she begins with only two hit points — after which it becomes her attack phase again.

One last major mechanic is that Queen has a special fury meter that fills up with each successful attack she lands, although it’ll reset entirely if she ever meets her demise (even if other resources are carried across multiple runs). When the meter is full — and it’s already Queen’s turn to attack — the fury button will appear on the screen’s left-hand side, and needs to be hit without also accidentally messing up your combo in the process. Pulling this off — which is admittedly easier said than done — will initiate a limited-time chance to go crazy, during which Queen will lash out each and every time you tap the screen’s right-hand side (all without this tapping even needing to be synced to anything).

When your game invariably ends — which often doesn’t take very long, as Combo Queen is a rather brutally hard affair — you’ll be able to either restart immediately, or use your accumulated spoils to better prepare yourself for Queen’s next massacre-filled run. During this time she’ll be able to purchase permanent gear such as stronger hatchets that do more damage, lengthier and deadlier combo-chains, as well as alternate outfits (all of which are probably just as questionably skimpy). She’ll also be able to acquire one-time potions that increase things like damage and maximum health for a single run (these will also sometimes get dropped by fallen foes, afterwards waiting to be used on later trips).

screen480x480 (2)Furthermore — whether or not you buy any gear (which must exclusively be done with earned currency, since Combo Queen offers no IAP-options whatsoever) — you’ll still accrue EXP all the same. Queen will eventually permanently level-up once enough EXP has been accrued, after which all of her attacks — no matter which gear you have equipped — will forever dish out even more damage. In this regard — even if you’re having trouble nailing the game’s timing — you’re guaranteed to eventually become more powerful, at least so long as you keep at Combo Queen for long enough.

Unfortunately — other than the minor mini-game that sometimes pops up between fights — there isn’t exactly much in the way of variety here, meaning the endless rhythm-based action found in Combo Queen is largely take-it-or-leave-it. Those whom enjoy such games that are deeply enhanced by “getting into the zone” — such as Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, or even Elite Beat Agents — should greatly enjoy Combo Queen. However, should long bouts of rhythmic-tapping not feel like your cup of tea — or should you should happen to be bad at such games — then there’s a rather good chance you’ll quickly bore of Queen’s unchanging mission for profit.

Sadly this is nothing to say of the common crashing issues I experienced during my time with Combo Queen whenever I tried to start a new game, leading to the app working nearly as often as it crashed. Since not everyone seems to be reporting such issues, I’m just going to assume that this means Combo Queen is only semi-compatible with the iPod Touch 5 (including other iDevices of similar prowess). At least it seemed that these crashes exclusively occur only when starting new sessions, rather than randomly in the middle of the action (which would have certainly been a far less amusing turn of affairs).


Combo Queen is a brutally-hard game of endless rhythmic-based attacking and blocking, coupled with RPG stats — plus gear — that are carried across multiple sessions of Queen’s mission to profit via exterminating the monstrous hordes. Combo Queen is likely to please those whom enjoy rhythm games where you’re required to get “in the zone” — such as Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, or Elite Beat Agents — yet runs the risk of quickly boring everyone else with its limited variety. Finally, for those owning the iPod Touch 5 — or other such iDevices of equivalent prowess, such as the iPhone 4s — consider yourself duly warned that this app isn’t exactly stable on those platforms (despite this not being listed on the app’s page at all).

Endless brutally-challenging rhythm-based barbarian-combat
Limited game play variety
Extremely crash prone on the iPod Touch