There have been a slew of cinematic blockbuster games coming out in recent months, from the debut of samurai epic Ghost of Tsushima to the massively anticipated The Last of Us Part II and even the surprising PC release of Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece Death Stranding. These are games that revel in developing a realistic, dramatic world rife with intricate character stories, big-budget visuals and finely crafted game mechanics. They’re massive, Hollywood-level experiences and they’re well worth experiencing, but not every game has to be like that.
Sometimes, games can just be simple and silly little experiences. Sometimes, they can just be a colorful and flashy afternoon of dumb, childlike fun. Sometimes, a game can just be about two crabs flinging crowbars and shuriken at each other in an absurd and addictive duel to the death. That particular kind of game is Fight Crab, and it’s one of the most delightful and charming games I’ve played all year.
You play as a crab. You fight other crabs. The first crab to be knocked onto their back in three seconds loses. That’s really the long and short of what Fight Crab is. Of course, the challenge comes from just how dang difficult it is to engage in bloodsport as a simple crab.
The game is built on dynamic physics gameplay, with your left and right sticks controlling the direction your claws are pointed in while the shoulder buttons and triggers punch, pinch and grab. Add in the slow crabby movements and ability to walk along walls on the D-pad and face buttons, and it’s an awkward control scheme that might result in you holding your controller in the all-too-appropriately named “claw grip”.
Much like the incomprehensible physics mayhem of Gang Beasts or Human: Fall Flat, there’s a learnable yet slightly unpredictable charm to the controls and physics of Fight Crab that constantly kept me engaged in battle. I definitely may have resorted to wild button mashing and stick twirling in times of duress, but if I played smart and timed my punches and claw-swings to land speedy swinging hits or flip over a wounded foe, I could always manage to deliver exactly what I was hoping to dish out.
The main campaign mode doesn’t present any kind of deep story or quest for vengeance, although new levels are often complemented by flavor text describing the events of the stage. My favorite line of text? “The crab has obtained the holy sword.”
So much of the charm and fun in Fight Crab comes from how much ridiculous stuff is just tossed into the game with little explanation. When it happens, the game immediately expects you to comprehend the fact that you are a giant crab fighting through a destructible city, swinging cars and trees at your foe by grabbing them with your pincers. A couple of levels in, you’re suddenly fighting a lobster holding a knife and a revolver, but that’s nothing compared to the spider crab equipped with tonfas who summons a giant dragon, or the horsehair crabs jumping around wildly and swinging lightsabers at you. There’s no rhyme or reason to the crustaceans and weaponry you’ll come up against as you play, and the surprise of seeing what sort of foe came next always left me hollering with laughter and screaming in surprise.
The stupid and unexpectedly hilarious energy of Fight Crab is complemented by the high-octane soundtrack and silly sound design. Moments like hearing triumphant Spanish guitar music while a mitten crab swung nunchaku at me or hearing the bassy and overblown reload sound effect on a coconut crab’s sawed-off shotgun left me speechless.
Similar to how your foes grow in variety and strength as you progress, your own crab can also grow and evolve by spending money on a variety of upgrades in-between missions. Perhaps you want to swap out the species of crab you’re playing as for something with a lower center of gravity or wildly larger arms. You could also stick with your current crab and simply upgrade your stats to ensure you’re harder to knock down or quicker to land hits. You could also do what I did and save up your money for most of the game to unlock the holy sword Excalibur that fires waves of raw energy whenever you enter Hyper Mode.
Sorry, did i forget to mention your crab’s Hyper Mode? The mode that lets you fire the Crab Ball, a devastating projectiles like the Kamehameha? Yeah, that’s a thing too.
You don’t have to experience the absurdity of Fight Crab alone. You can take the battle online and duke it out with other crabby combatants across the globe, or even load up a split-screen battle on any map in the game and play with whichever crabs and weapons you so please. If there’s a single thing missing from the game that truly bums me out, it’s the lack of local co-op. You can create a lobby to play the game in online co-op mode, but the fact that local versus made the cut, but local co-op didn’t is a disappointment.