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Fight Crab Review: Breaking The First Rule

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Loading up Fight Crab is like channel surfing at three in the morning and landing on a foreign language film without subtitles. The characters on screen seem energetic, the action is enjoyable to watch, and the plot is absolutely indecipherable. The third sealife-focused nonsense simulator from developer Calappa Games, Fight Crab is exactly the game its title implies and so much more. Involving everything from chainsaws and ninjitsu to lightsabers and energy waves inspired by Dragon Ball Z, these crabs are ready to defy every law of land and sea in order to gain the pinfall and best their crustacean brothers.

At its core, Fight Crab is a 3D weapon-based fighting game with a behind-the-back camera angle. Whereas most games could find common ground with others in its genre, there's no use trying to bridge the gap between crabs with nunchaku and Soul Calibur. For one, the game's control scheme is wholly unique, mapping both claws to the analog sticks with punching and pinching tied to the triggers and bumpers. Movement involves hitting directions on the d-pad to send the crab crawling automatically, while a double-tap institutes a dash. The often unused back button activates a super mode and special energy attacks after a crab suffers enough damage. It's all truly bizarre to look at on paper but feels intuitive once the game begins.

Like most fighting games, there's a single-player campaign and multiplayer of the local and online varieties. The solo play is not too challenging, providing an AI buddy at the first signs of failure. Weapons are also plentiful even beyond those the crabs bring into combat, including oversized chairs, candelabras, and pork buns scattered about. While it's entirely possible to master this unique control scheme, the challenge doesn't seem to be the point of this endeavor. The player simply has no idea what to expect from any new level in Fight Crab, and the ridiculous weapon combat continues to amuse even as the gameplay becomes repetitive.At any given time, players could be facing off against a pair of crabs wielding revolvers or a giant boss with a greatsword that Cloud would find ridiculous. The different locales also change things up beyond aesthetics. One arena set in a Chinese restaurant essentially changes the rules from knocking opponents onto their shells to flinging them off a dinner table. A later level has crabs dodging shuriken in a tight alleyway as they match towards the battle. The game never lets up with both the variety and the insanity, making for a different kind of "spectacle fighter." This is a game so wacky that it needs to be seen to be believed.

The whole thing is reminscent of early 3D games made in an era where no one yet knew what standards for controls would be. In a game where things like precision and grace are a factor, an unusual control scheme of this ilk would be a huge problem. In Fight Crab, it's all part of the charm. While most games are doing the right thing by sticking to genre standards, truly off the wall indie games have room to explore novel controls, and Fight Crab's strange limb manipulation provides a great mixture of clutch moments and insane comebacks no one could ever duplicate.However, the same indie spirit that gives Fight Crab its room to experiment comes at a cost. In this case, the game's presentation could best be described as Newgrounds-esque. Fonts are all over the place and options are sometimes unclear in their wording. There's no real tutorial on how to level up characters or whether buying weapons grants a single-use or a permanent unlock in the store. While the UI could use some work, the soundscape is right on the money. There's a title track straight out of an anime (complete with lyrics) and a battle announcer that could fit right into any game in Sega's 1990s arcade lineup. The energetic music playing in each stage continues the trend, providing great motivation to overtake the opposing sea creature and claim victory.

Fight Crab is not going to appear at the next big esports competition, but any casual competitors are sure to have a ball. With a novel control scheme that's easy to learn and gameplay that's impossible to take to seriously, it will certainly find a home with variety streamers and those looking for a new game to play with friends. Any faults it does have are part of the charm, evoking an independent spirit that's hard not to root for.

Fight Crab is available now on PC. A Nintendo Switch version of the game complete with motion controls is on the way on September 15.

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