Do you ever wonder what would happen if you gave a crab a katana and a revolver?
Imagine if you will, a world where crabs, lobsters, and other crustaceans gain the ability to utilize deadly weaponry from all eras of history and in some cases grow to the size of small buildings and can exist in the outer reaches of space. They have become the dominant lifeform. Humanity no longer exists. Crab is all that there is.
That’s the gist of Fight Crab, er, well, more or less.
Fight Crab is pure unadulterated mayhem and is a refreshingly unique take on versus gameplay. It involves a lot more strategy than one might think necessary going into a game that features realistically rendered sea creatures with battle axes. No two fights are the same thanks to the diverse cast of crabs, weapons, and stages. While its style and presentation might be a bit all over the place, it never detracts from the fun had by going round after round with Fight Crab‘s seemingly endless combinations of crazy.
Fight Crab exists in a plane of existence where contradictions in visual style don’t detract from the experience. Designs of crabs, weapons, and locales are realistically rendered but comedically cartoony action and special effects subvert whatever realism was expected from a crustacean combat simulator. The game works well in motion and while objects might clip every once in a while, you won’t have time to care because of how fast the action is.
Stages are visually unique and impact the gameplay in their own ways. Fighting in underwater or space changes the physics. Battling on a table in a restaurant or a supermarket introduces ring outs. Heading to the city or desert makes your crab grow and capable of tossing trees or tanks. There is a stage for every occasion and they are filled to the brim with detail, interactable objects, and character.
The soundtrack is fantastic and offers a lot of variety. Some songs are heavy rock anthems while others sound like they are ripped straight from a popular anime opening sequence. The music is so good that you can purchase the soundtrack itself to listen to your favorite tunes on repeat. Sound effects get the point across and deliver a satisfy chunky crunch whenever you make an impact with an opposing crab. The announcer is energetic and reminiscent of classic arcade games, bringing each battle to a triumphant close.
I wish I could say more nice things about the design choices for the UI though. Fonts clash and don’t seem to adhere to any real theme. Just look at the screenshot below and count the different fonts, sizes, and case choices. Menus are either oversaturated with video clips or completely bare with a solid color. If the plan was to make everything look as crazy as possible, like the gameplay itself, the UI succeeds at that, but unfortunately, there are much better ways to accomplish this that would be more aesthetically pleasing and easy to decipher. In the end, the strange choices in design don’t detract from the overall game itself.
If you’ve ever wondered what life would be like while having to manage claws and awkward limbs, Fight Crab is a dream come true. It feels like an early 3D title with modern sensibilities. Those sensibilities being the need to fight other crabs with more than just big meaty claws. But seriously, while the gameplay might seem a little silly, and well, it is, there is actually a lot of depth to it.
The core of the game revolves around flipping your opponent without being flipped yourself. While the premise is simple, the execution offers an incredibly unique experience. While there isn’t a traditional health bar, there is a percentage visible above each crab that increases as you take damage. The higher your percentage the easier it is to get knocked over. Matches can include an optional Hyper Mode that boosts your crab’s attack and makes them more difficult to flip over. While in Hyper Mode your special meter starts to go down and you can either fight and let it run itself out before you detonate into a massive explosion, force the detonation by activating the Hyper Mode input a second time while in the mode, or unleash a signature Kanihameha (similar to the Kamehameha) that blasts a huge energy wave just like the move it’s named after.
Every crab has different attributes. those attributes being weight, speed, reach, area, acceleration, and turning. No one crab is better than the other, but it helps you decide which kind of crustacean works for your intended playstyle. I stuck with the snow crab because I am basic and I usually go with the default character choice in fighting games and you start with the snow crab in campaign mode. You could choose something more unusual like a Dungeness crab or a carrier crab or umm…a lobster, and you’d get a completely different experience based on whichever one you went with. This is before throwing weapons into the mix by the way.
Weapons also all have their own attributes that include weight, area, reach, swing, and sharpness. Some weapons have additional special effects like a gun that shoots bullets, a drill that revs, and a trident that shoots lasers, because why not? The pile bunker and the beam saber are my favorite weapon combo. Together they can quickly rack of major damage to your opponent. The beam saber runs out of juice pretty quickly though so you better be sure you’re playing to take out your opponent fast. Every weapon has its own stamina as well that determines how long it can be used before being dropped. Keep your eye on your gauges to make sure you don’t lose out when you’re in the heat of the brawl. The possibilities are practically endless when it comes to the combinations of crabs and weapon choices.
Fight Crab‘s mobility is what ties everything together. Each stick controls an arm and the triggers and bumpers act as the striking and pinching inputs. Striking is pretty self-explanatory, but pinching on its own lets you block your opponent’s attacks to take less damage. If your claws are positioned in the right spot you can actually grab your opponent’s claws to stop them from attacking you, damaging them in the process. This even works on a blocking opponent. You can disarm your opponent too if you strike and pinch at the right time, giving you an opportunity to steal their equipment. Want to toss a car or whatever weapon you have your opponent’s way? Press X/Square or B/Circle for left and right claws respectively.
Movement is tied to the d-pad with each direction deciding which way your crab will begin to crawl. Until you press the opposite direction, your crab will advance continuously in the chosen path. You can double-tap a direction to dash and while moving sideways you can actually crawl up walls with Y/Triangle. Moving both sticks in a specific direction at the same time will cause your crab to rotate. Clicking down on either stick rotates the camera itself in that specific direction.
There is definitely a lot going on. Every button on the controller is utilized in battle, (except for A/Cross which confirms anything outside a fight) making this an extremely involved game. You are constantly switching directions, circling your claws, and alternating between striking and blocking as if you were in some kind of crab boxing match. While controlling your crab might feel a little awkward at first, once you get into the swing of things everything clicks.
Fight Crab‘s main online modes are Campaign and offline versus. Campaign presents the player with a series of missions set in different stages and battle scenarios. Some fights are a simple 1v1 while others escalate to a 1v2. You will find missions that pit the player against a crab of gargantuan proportions and others put you against waves of crabs until you finally get flipped over.
If you lose a mission you can actually get help from an AI-controlled partner crab. This marks the level with a different colored checkmark than if completed on your own so you know which ones gave you a hard time. You can also play through the campaign in online co-op. It doesn’t seem like too many folks are searching for others to fill their party, since I’ve waited a few minutes without a match. You can create a room for friends specifically which helps if you plan on playing together.
You can purchase crabs and weapons in campaign mode as opposed to unlocking them through matches like in online and offline versus mode. This function is a bit confusing at first because the game doesn’t explain to you if these purchases are expendable or permanent unlocks. (They are in fact permanent unlocks.) The game also lets you purchase duplicates of the same crab species. The reason for this is because purchased level upgrades are tied to each individual crab in your inventory. You can level up each crab in different ways but I am not sure how worthwhile that function is if you could just make one of each species the best it can be.
Offline versus mode lets you adjust the settings like whether or not you are playing 1v1 or 2v2, the availability of Hyper Mode, the number of rounds to win, and the time limit. After every few matches, you will unlock a new crab or weapon to use in both offline versus and online versus. As mentioned before when talking about the gameplay, each crab and weapon changes the game in a big way. It is a bit odd that unlocking things in the campaign doesn’t do the same in versus mode and vice versa though, making the whole experience of unlocking feel unearned and a bit redundant.
There are two online play modes, those being Ranked and Free Match. While waiting for a match to queue up you can train, play the campaign, or minimize the window. Right now matches appear to be only 1v1 unlike the potential 2v2 offering found in offline matches. Cross-platform play is planned for the PC and Nintendo Switch releases but according to the site it is locked to Free Matches only. Still, that’s a nice feature to look forward to.
Ranked matches work as you’d expect. Battles are 1v1 and the rules are fixed, unlike Free Match which lets you create a room and change the parameters like offline versus. Since offline and online matches share the same pool of crabs and weapons, it can seem a bit unfair to battle against someone who has unlocked everything. That being said, the most capable player can win with just their claws if they play their cards right. Ranked matches might try to pool you against a player of similar skill but there were times where someone had thousands of points more than me but I think they were the only other person online so it makes sense we kept getting paired up.
My online experience with Fight Crab has been very solid. Not once did I experience an instance of lag and believe it or not, I was playing on WiFi the entire time. (Please forgive me) I did have one match drop though but it certainly wasn’t the norm from my time with the game. Depending on the time of day you can find a match fairly quickly. While there were a couple of moments where it took a few minutes to locate an opponent, I just played some campaign to kill the time. The game wasn’t necessarily clear on how rematches worked though. A few times after a match, I found myself with the same opponent immediately afterward which was weird because you are taken back to the online mode selection screen after each match instead of back in the queue for your selected game mode.
There is an online Spectate mode but I wasn’t able to actually see how it worked. Whenever you select Spectate, you are allowed to choose the source platform to view the stream from. As previously mentioned, Fight Crab is available only available on Steam currently but a Nintendo Switch release is planned for September 15, 2020, so it is assumed that players will be able to watch fights from either platform. Spectator mode works by letting players watch a room from Free Match, but if there aren’t any rooms there isn’t anything to watch. This will surely change as more players pick up the title, but right now it has only been a concept to me and not a game mode since I haven’t seen it in action.
Fight Crab is a crazy fun crustacean simulator that achieves quite a lot considering the concept it sets to execute. While it might be a little rough around the edges, the vast combinations of crabs, weapons, and stages, make every fight unique. The UI might be a little outrageous and go against all rules of design, but the game itself is colorful, vibrant, and easy to understand. At the end of the day, Calappa Games/Nussoft most definitely delivered “a game where you are crab, and you fight crab,“ and if you are looking for the next great party game, Fight Crab should be near the top of your list.
PLAYISM provided Shoryuken with a Steam key for Fight Crab for the purpose of this review.