Fighting games are one-in-a-million. Let me save both our time and, instead of listing a bunch of them, just say there’s a lot. There’s a million flavours, ranging from your stock-standard 2D one-on-one fare, those featuring depth with which to circle your opponent, brawlers, party-friendly group fighters, and so on. But, how many of them allow you to pilot massive crustaceans in a brutal fight to the death?
That’s where Fight Crab blasts into the ring, rockets strapped to each claw, punching you right in the face. From solo developer Nusso (@NeoNusso), Fight Crab is a game for up to 4 players in either splendid split-screen or online. Choosing from a wide variety of crabby fellows, you kit up with a variety of weapons and step into delicious warfare. Combat feels as fresh as the participants, utilizing physics based control where each arm is controlled with its respective analog stick. Punches are thrown with the triggers and blocking is done via shoulder buttons. It’s all easy to grasp, despite your crabby claws, but hides a surprising depth.
For instance, blocking can also be mixed with a punch to position your pincer in a way that snags your enemy’s sword and rends it from their cold, meaty claws. Punches also take advantage of momentum, raising the skill ceiling for those who are able to pay attention to their rotation and swing even harder. Each attack that lands raises a percentage, and as it climbs the crab becomes easier to flip on its back. Once there, you have a three second counter (which only drops so long as you’re in contact with the ground) that can only be stopped once you flip back over. Unfortunately you’ll find little more than your fervent punches able to flip you back to normalcy.
Within this small system of interconnected mechanics, battle commences. Fights are fast-paced, frenetic, and a joy to watch. One level takes place on a table in a Chinese restaurant, your opponents dropping into the ring inside ornate ceramic pots, shattering on impact. Food and plates are scattered to the sky swiftly as you swing about dim sum. Sparks fly from claws clashing into each other, and as the battle builds to a fever pitch your Hyper Meter maxes out.
As you take damage, this Hyper Meter slowly inches towards 100% and, once there, activation bursts a golden aura across your body. In this state, it’s possible to clench your claws and pull them to the side, initiating a kamehameha that can blow other crabs over with ease. If you eschew the beam, Hyper Mode will conclude with a blastwave that can also topple crabs carrying heavy damage.
All in all, Fight Crab manages to be a hilarious game beyond any writing or situational set-ups. The whole game in-and-of itself is a hilarious set-up, its premise being so absurd. But, it’s in the actual play that the humor is exuded. The way it feels, the physics of the crabs, the sense of being so weighty and unwieldy creating the same sensation of not quite being able to execute one-to-one what you intended positions the player in a way that leaves you caught off-guard when, say, one of your rocket punches misses, causing you to fly upward and land on the side of a building.
Oh, did I forget to mention that crabs can walk on walls?
Verticality plays a big part in a lot of levels, such as the cityscape of the first arena. You can scramble up the skyscrapers around you, allowing for pounce attacks. It all feels so versatile while also maintaining a huge skill ceiling that will reward those who dig into the game and allow for impressive moves or counters. Even for newcomers, the silliness of crab fighting alongside the extremely approachable controls allows for easy pick up and play. The same unwieldiness that players will need to account for becomes a fun, reactive system for the yet-uninitiated.
Creating humour is difficult, especially for games without an expansive narrative. Furthermore, blending your mechanics into that humour and even creating humor from them is a monumental task. Fight Crab does it effortlessly and with a lot of love and care in crafting not only the fighting mechanics, but also the semi-destructible environments and weapons system. The crabs feel lively, something exemplified by the tails on lobsters springing about as they flip around (protip: lobster tails help a ton with avoiding getting tossed straight on your back). The sheer imagery of a coconut crab dual wielding revolvers and firing wildly is well worth the price of admission. So, go on, get a heaping helping of Fight Crab and crack into what’s sure to be the next hotly demanded game of EVO.
Fight Crab is currently available in Early Access on itch.io, and is coming soon to Switch.
Catherine Brinegar is a trans game developer and filmmaker who explores the surreal and abstract in her work. Beyond her creative endeavors she enjoys losing herself inside other worlds, interactive and not. Finding inspiration in everything, Catherine aims to see all the world has to offer, through the continual conversation of art. You can keep up with her on twitter @cathroon.