I’m sure we’ve all seen the video on the internet with that crab with a knife in its claw, waving it around like it knew what it was doing. It’s like developer Calappa Games saw that and built a fighting game around that concept–except they kept adding weapons—things a crab has no business possessing–until they ended up with the craziness that is Fight Crab.
Fight Crab is a physics-based fighting game. You play as a crab (or lobster), controlling each of its arms independently to punch or grab your opponents with the goal of knocking them onto their back. Like Super Smash Bros., crabs don’t have a health bar but instead take a percentage of damage. The higher the percentage, the easier it is to knock them on their backs.
I think the closest thing it resembles, control-wise, is ARMS—but don’t get into Fight Crab expecting a super tight fighting game, because it’s definitely not. And I think the only reason it even gets compared to ARMS is because I played Crab Fight primarily on the Nintendo Switch for this review. They are both played from a behind-the-fighter perspective—but besides an optional and similar control scheme, that’s where the comparisons end. Crab Fight is its own strange creature.
Crab Fight doesn’t have great controls. At least, that’s what I thought when I first tried it with my Pro controller. The left and right sticks control the left and right claws. You can punch by pushing them forward, or hitting the triggers (ZR/ZL on Switch). Moving is done with the D-Pad, but thankfully you don’t have to hold it down—clicking it makes your crab continuously move in that direction until you change directions or click to stop. This makes your crab feel like a sort of mech or tank, except instead of a cannon, you have two unwieldy arms. Surely, the motion controls would make for more precise controls. Nope—it’s way worse.
So one of the reasons I compared Fight Crab to ARMS is because they have a similar motion control scheme. In ARMS it’s implemented beautifully, and I was surprised how accurate the Joy-Con gyros were for movement tracking. None of this brilliance has been translated to Fight Crab. The motion controls are absolutely horrendous. Fight Crab’s already imprecise control scheme is made more complicated by the addition of movement. You have to tilt the control to move and rotate, and punch to attack with each of your individual arms—ZR/ZL still works for attacks, fortunately.
While I thought the controls were unwieldy on my Pro Controller, I found them frustrating and nearly unplayable with my Joy-Cons with motion control. I even tried out a different set of Joy-Cons to make sure mine didn’t have strange gyro issues, which doesn’t seem to be the case. Hopefully the motion control issues were just an anomaly for me, because I feel like Fight Crab could be its most fun that way—even if it’s a bit complicated with its movement scheme. I stuck with the simpler Pro Controller option.
One of the zaniest and most hilarious aspects of the already ridiculous Crab Fight is the arsenal available. Knives are available, but if you wanted to ride a seal into battle while wielding a javelin, you have that option. Want to pull the turret off of a tank and ride the treads like a vehicle? There’s a level that lets you do that. If you want to play as a heavy slow crab you can fix the speed problem by strapping a couple of jet engines to its claws. Weapons have stats, but the most effective weapons seem to be the ones that you can relentlessly jab towards your opponent.
Wielding weapons is hilarious fun in Fight Crab, but wielding weapons exacerbates the control problem, exponentially in some cases. I appreciate that these weapons have heft to them, but they never hit with any sort of satisfying oomph, and you do damage by merely scrapping your opponent’s shell. I found, most of the time, blitzing my opponent was the best strategy.
Getting into Fight Crab I didn’t expect the choices that are available. There are a lot of fighters to unlock—mainly different types of crabs. Each of these crabs has different stats, with speed and weight seemingly the most important. The heavier your crab, the harder it is to get knocked on its back—and though speed is theoretically good to jab and run, the controls don’t seem precise enough for that.
Fight Crab has a great selection of battle arenas. These locations are just as surreal as the game’s concept, and are mostly great, and full of weapons to grab, and obstacles to knock over. Some levels have you fight as oversized crabs—like large 50’s era movie monsters battling downtown in some city.In other levels you’re appropriately crab-sized, fighting in a supermarket or a restaurant table. Some arenas allow for your crab to be knocked off—which is an instant loss, but lead to hilarious moments.
There are two main game modes in Fight Crab—campaign and versus. Each of these have their own unlocks. Versus you unlock crabs and weapons as you fight, and in the campaign mode you have to use accumulated currency to do the same. You can play the campaign in an online or local co-op mode, but that’s not something I got a chance to try out too much. Same for versus, which can be played split screen, online or over the Switch’s wireless connection.
When Fight Crab made its way over the Nintendo Switch, it seems like it got uglier. Fight Crab was never the prettiest game, but with whatever technical magic the developer used to get it on Switch turned all of the visuals muddy. The the already atrocious UI is made even worse, but the biggest problem is the performance. Fight Crab runs well enough to play, but just.
I don’t really think of Fight Crab as a “serious” game. It feels like a joke, but one that it wants its players to be in on. You can kind of think of Fight Crab as the Goat Simulator of fighting games: wonky, janky, and with most of its appeal towards the hilarity of its concept. But let me tell you, a crabs fighting with ridiculous weapons can lead to at least a few hours of hilarious gameplay.
Fight Crab is available on PC and coming to Nintendo Switch on the 15th
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