Review: Fight Crab
There’s nothing quite like Fight Crab. Of that, I am certain. But this is a case where both words and emotions, to some degree, fail me. So I’ll just have to muddle through and see if I can arrange words in a way that can describe this game. Are you ready? Let’s go!
All right, how shall I put this? Do you like tournament fighters? Have you ever asked yourself, “When is someone going to make a game where giant crabs beat the crap out of each other, Godzilla style, with swords, axes, trees, cars, or just claws as weapons?” Do you like pressing buttons? If you answered yes to any of these questions, Fight Crab might maybe possibly be the answer to your crab-fighting fantasies. And maybe not. But still sort of maybe.
Fight Crab was developed by Calappa Games and published by Playism, and released on July 29, 2020 on Nintendo Switch and Steam ($19.99), the latter of which was played for this review.
As originally alluded, FIGHT CRAB is a 3D fighting game where you play as gigantic crabs. There are many to choose from; you can finally fulfill your dream of being a horsehair crab, snow crab, coconut crab, rock crab, or even a lobster or giant mantis shrimp, among several others. You can battle one-on-one or two-on-two (online or off), and the campaign mode also offers online two-player co-op.
Right off the bat, this game brings up many images in my mind of the giant monster battles of the PS2/Xbox era of Godzilla fighting games. The ones where your fighter can cause destruction to the surrounding environment and even use objects like trees and cars as weapons.
Unlike most fighting games, you don’t have a health bar that you deplete to win. Instead the developers opted for a Smash Bros-style system where attacking inflicts damage on a percentage meter, and the higher it goes, the easier a crab is to push around and ultimately, flip. You win once your opponent is flipped onto their back for a count of three.
I feel like this style makes the most sense, although a part of me did want to see the traditional style, and maybe even have crab fatalities and such, but… nevermind, that’s a bad idea. Good move, Calappa.
This game is so far removed from more traditional games that it’s hard not to like it just for that. The gameplay however ends up being a mix of fun and frustrating. This is mainly because I really was struggling to find a sense of strategy for winning.
I actually won a lot, but I don’t really know how I did, which is a bit problematic. Most of the time I felt like I was just mashing buttons, hoping my crab would come into contact with some part of my opponent. If you’re used to traditional button combos, like forward-back-forward-attack and the like, you won’t find that here. It should be noted that the game warns you to use a controller, although mouse/keyboard controls are available and you can bind the controls as you like. But I don’t like it when developers pressure you to use a particular control scheme.
Fight Crab uses a more physics-based system. Your claws can be controlled independently and you can swing or move in the general direction of your stick or mouse cursor, as well as close your claws around your opponent’s body parts to restrain them, block or cause damage. If it sounds clumsy, that’s because it is. However, if you imagine actual crabs fighting each other, particularly underwater, it kind of makes sense, because crabs aren’t usually seen as agile, nimble creatures.
This is why, though, you probably never imagined a fighting game featuring crabs. It is honestly entertaining and I can’t fault it for that, but I feel like the game lacks the strategy fighting games usually need. The environments and the variety of weapons does make up for this to some degree, as the different arenas generally have terrain advantages and other features you can use to your advantage.
Speaking of the environments, you have your pick from a rocky beach, a city with skyscrapers, the desert, a castle’s great hall, a playground, an oecan floor, an underwater boxing ring, and even a clearly Smash-inspired Final Destination level in space. So while the combat may be clumsy, you do have a lot of options and variety, which helps keep things interesting.
As a bonus, if you’re not in the mood for fighting, you can spectate online matches, and you can even choose to view players from a different platform, which allows for some great screenshot opportunities.
Fight Crab‘s biggest plus might come in its soundtrack. The game features a range of original music, tending towards a light metal style but also featuring some different genres, all with a solid beat to facilitate the feeling of action. I spent a bit of time just listening to the music (A deluxe version with a digital soundtrack is available). Very well done, the music definitely enhances the overall experience.
The graphics. There’s a lot of good here, as well as a fair bit of bad. Some of the environments are beautiful. While the geometry is relatively simple, the lighting effects are good, the underwater stages really feel like you’re underwater, and so on. A few of them don’t look so great though. The boxing ring level is too simple with ugly textures and basically no background, and the castle level seems to have some textures that stand out for their low resolution.
I find it odd that some of the levels have a different physical scale from others, as well. Perhaps this was intentional, but I think it would have been better if this was more consistent. The visual effects are largely functional, indicating when you’re making contact and such, and highlighting when a crab is in “Hyper Mode.” They do the job, but detract a bit from the immersion.
The ugliest part of the game though, is hands-down the UI and menus. Some parts of the menus are entirely plain text (Times New Roman, even), with no effects or style to separate it from the background. Navigation of the menus is also confusing, particularly on the match setup screens. While the devs clearly put the time and effort in for the gameplay and in-game graphics, the extremely sloppy menus and UI really hurt the game and make it feel more amateurish. I’m not saying a game needs fancy menu art to look good, but all of the non-gameplay screens look purely thrown together.
So is it good or is it bad, you ask? Fight Crab has me torn. While playing, I can’t help but laugh and smile a bit experiencing life as a crab in combat. There’s a lot of options and ways to play, and the game somehow manages to take the slow and clumsy movement of a crustacean and make it somewhat exciting. It was frustrating at times, though, as I had trouble finding the skills I needed to truly have control over the outcome of a fight.
I admit, the game is quite fun, and I bet I could have a laugh with four friends on voice online trying to find out who is the King Crab. but many aspects of the game also feel sloppy, especially the UI. The game offers leaderboards, online play, all the features you’d want from a competitive type game, so if you’re serious about your Fight Crab, you’ll likely be able to overlook the glaring flaws and dig into the gameplay.
Bottom line: Fight Crab offers an entertaining, and refreshingly unique experience and is certainly worth a look for that. But the game feels very rough around the edges and I think it needs some more time to have its flaws ironed out. If you don’t expect too much from it, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth of entertainment. But the game is at times sloppy and unprofessional, even for an indie title, which does harm the experience to a noticeable degree.
Review Copy provided by Playism for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.