Before we even begin, do you remember a video that went a bit viral a few years back of a crab holding a knife, scuttling along by a wall away from the camera-holder, swinging the knife back and forth every time the scary human came close? If you’ve forgotten here’s a quick refresher.
The First Rule of Fight Crab
This video is dated 2016, plenty of time for it to wash up on millions of smartphone feeds and come to the attention of a few mad games developers who thought, ha crabs with weapons, we could make a game where they have a lot more than just some shit knife. We could have swords and spears, katanas and bladed fans, we could strap fucking pod-racing engines to their claws. There really is no limit when you’ve already decided you are making a game about fighting crabs.
Four years go by, and you’ve been blissfully unaware that somewhere in the world, a small crack team has been hard at work, learning more than is healthy about crabs, their anatomy, their shells, their strengths and weaknesses, ranking them as to which would win in a fight, you know, normal nerdy stuff that games developers do. You might have seen a few crabs in those years, maybe you even went crabbing with your daughter, put a little bit of bacon on a hook. You think you know crabs, but you know nothing. These guys know crabs. Calappa Games (which is named after a species of crab) have been eating, coding and dreaming crab, in way that is likely extremely unhealthy.
And now Fight Crab has appeared on the Steam store, and like with that crab holding that knife, you don’t know whether to approach, you’re wary. Is it any good? Or is it crab left out on the beach too long that’s been picked clean by angry seagulls. That’s where we come in. We’ve braved that pungent crabby smell, dodged a quick claw jab or three, and we’ve got the full review.
I Am Crab’s Complete Lack Of Surprise
So imagine my surprise when I read up on Fight Crab and discover it is not the first, not even the second, but the third game, by Nussoft (now renamed Calappa Games) a Japanese indie dev, and the third to feature battling sea creatures. First there was Neo Aquarium: King of Crustaceans, Fight Crab Mark One. Then came Ace Of Seafood, branching out into as much aquatic life as possible and equipping it with lasers. And then finally we have Fight Crab.
I thought someone was too interested in crabs, and I was right. This guy is creating a cult following, almost completely by accident.
As you might have guessed, Fight Crab has no real story. It’s not necessary is it really? Fight Crab instead asks the simple question, which crab would win in a fight? Snow Crab or Spider Crab? Lobster or Christmas Island Crab? Coconut Crab or, you get the idea… You can add whatever backstory to your crab you like, but essentially it’s an arena brawler with physics-based claw control that allows you to sort of spasmodically swing and clatter your way through a series of duels. Story mode or arcade mode is essentially thwacking another crab until its KO’d and knocked on its back. 3,2,1, you’re out! Battle five rounds of two crabs per, and you face the Crabboss, usually some huge overpowered crab, like one of those Spider Crabs they have in Japan, so tall you can hardly hit it.
I Want You To Pinch Me As Hard As You Can
So the controls are probably the thing that I need to warn you of the most. Don’t even think about using a keyboard. Keep it to a controller and you might manage. There’s only a shell of a tutorial at the start, but enough to clasp the basics; your two sticks control the flailing claws of your crab, and you can swing them in and out to put the hurt on your opponent. You can punch with the shoulder triggers, or pinch with the shoulder bumpers. But already that is more controls than I could deftly contend with. While you are swinging the joysticks, it’s very tricky to keep your mind on punching and pinching.
You’re probably thinking, if your two sticks are dedicated to swinging your claws about, how do you move? The answer is with the d-pad using your third thumb, and it’s about as manoeuvrable as crabs in real life. Double-tap a direction and the crab will move automatically in that direction, but then to continue the fight you’ll need to forget about the d-pad and get back to swinging your claws. Forward and backward are slow and cumbersome, but just like real crabs, sideways is always faster.
You quickly earn an array of weaponry, which I’ll cover in a second. Weapons demand the swinging action to hit or block, but everything is so incredibly floaty and slow to register that every battle pretty much degenerates into a face-butting wrestling match, where you can barely swing claws or weapons anyway because they are tangled up with your opponent.
More often than not you simply get twisted up with the environment too. Chandeliers dropping from the ceiling – expect to be tangled up with that throughout the fight. Chairs, desks, trees, lampposts, anything that can be destroyed during your crab brawl, will get stuck between the two crusty foes and be there until the duel is over. If you hadn’t grasped this game was ridiculous yet, try having a fight with a palm tree stuck in your face.
You Are Not A Beautiful And Unique Snow Crab
Considering its pretty simple concept, Fight Crab has quite a lot of things to experiment with and earn. There are a least a dozen or more crabs and lobsters to buy in the shop and each is lovingly and painstakingly recreated, pretty much true to life. Massive attention to detail has been paid in the oddest place – the different species of crabs are all wonderfully created with colourful intricate models that show a careful eye was taken on this section of the game. I told you someone is too into crabs.
Each has strengths and weaknesses, based on weight and power or claw size and reach. You want a heavy crab, who is harder to flip, but you need to balance this with good claw power. The Coconut Crab you can earn after an hour or so, is a complete bruiser and definitely my favourite.
There are half a dozen levels in Fight Crab. Some of the best include the Kaiju crab B-movie city with crabs the size of Godzilla terrorising downtown beneath them as they grapple to the death. It lends itself to that strange 60s Japanese TV feel, of pitting monsters like moths and lizards against each other for the sheer entertainment value. Another standout, was the Chinese restaurant table, which felt as if the crabs on the menu had just jumped out of the bowls, pinched the cutlery and began a duel. Who knows what reason these two titans fight, but who cares?
Later levels pit you against multiple foes at once, and fighting more than one crab with controls like this is nigh on ridiculous – You face one crab, and the other can attack from behind, and switching between enemy targets was never really explained. Thankfully for the most part, the second bot crab usually leaves you alone. If you do get overwhelmed and can’t complete a Crabboss, you can ask for aid, and the next round is a 2 vs 2, with a friendly crab friend to help.
The Weapons You Own End Up Owning You
After each battle in Fight Crab you earn points, and points can be exchanged for prizes. You can either use them to buff and upgrade your crab, levelling up strength, power and weight to get small advantages in battle, or you can take the points to the shop instead. Two parts to the shop; one full of other crab species to buy for use in battle, the other full to bursting with 40 or so weapons to buy to swing at other crustaceans. The weapon variety is pretty fantastic, starting with your basic knives and swords, through to tonfas, shuriken, claymore swords, bladed fans, chainsaws, hammers, and yes, pod-racing engines. They make your claws rocket-powered punches. If the game can be commended for anything it’s the sheer variety of crazy shenanigans that these weapons can unleash. The trouble is there are stuck in a game whose controls and concept are laughable.
The menus outside of battle are a strange cluttered mess, and I can’t decide if it was all deliberate or not. Stats and words are just thrown on the screen without design or UI being thought about. In some menus words overlap others that haven’t left the screen. With terrible fonts, eye-wateringly bad placement to everything, and awful over-the-top colours the menus are painful to navigate. I just can’t tell if it’s a particular vibe I’m not getting, like its deliberately going for that cobbled together game look, or if it’s just bad.
I’ll try to end on a positive. There is a nice selection of fun over-the-top j-rock and techno tracks to listen to as you fight. I especially liked the theme song music you can hear on the trailer which sounds like it comes from a goddamn awful anime, which is the best kind of theme song.
This Is Your Life, And It’s Ending One Minute At A Time
With fights that boil down to a pointless tussle with both crabs ending up face to face with the weapons and claws almost completely unable to fit, or get any purchase, I can’t recommend Fight Club on its combat. It has no story whatsoever, lots of painful menus and the craziest floatiest physics controls. But it’s certainly a spectacle.
What is Fight Crab? Maybe it’s a nihilistic treatise on being the middle crabs of history, and Fight Crab is the only place they can go to feel truly alive in the modern crab world. I thought there wasn’t a story but maybe there is. It’s about feeling real and alive amidst rampant consumerism. It’s about the truth behind the Americrab dream. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.
One thing I do know is it is far more fun to watch than it is to play. Find a streamer gung-ho enough to punish themselves, and watch them for a bit. I had more fun writing the review than I did playing the game. All these fight club references don’t make themselves, you know. This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time. You haven’t got the time to waste on games like Fight Crab.
Fight Crab is launching on PC (Review Platform) and Nintendo Switch on July 30th, 2020.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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