Game Review: “Another Crab’s Treasure”

   It feels like I haven’t written about videogames in a long time on The ‘Bib. In fact, I believe the last time I wrote anything at all was back in December when I wrote about Tormented Souls. This isn’t because of disinterest. In fact, it would be fair to say that I am more a gamer these days than I am a moviegoer or a reader, but I feel like it can sometimes be difficult to summarize my thoughts on a concise way about such larger undertakings. Clocking out at about 30-something hours with a perfect Gamer score on Xbox (this won’t mean anything to the speed runners I have seen conquer the entire campaign in less than half an hour, but I was proud of myself), I spent a lot of time with Another Crab’s Treasure. 

   Developed and published by Aggro Crab, this one had my attention straightaway and I immediately dropped everything when I discovered it had dropped on GamePass (except for my GamePass subscription, which I, in fact, picked up, so I could play it). This is because Another Crab’s Treasure has a pretty novel concept – it’s basically Crab Souls. Or, in other words, a videogame that takes core game-play from elements from Dark Souls (and other Souls-likes) and applies them to an underwater setting.

   Some people will roll their eyes when they hear a videogame referred to as a Souls-like, deeming it an oversimplification of what that videogame is. However, what they don’t know is that by rolling their eyes, not unlike you can roll your body in Dark Souls, they, in turn, are also, inherently, Souls-like.

   Kidding aside, I personally love the Souls-like genre and don’t think it is at all derogatory or disrespectful to refer to them as such, similar to how we use the term Metroidvania to refer to anything and everything that vaguely fits those parameters. Dark Souls didn’t originate everything in a Souls-like, but it was the first to complete the recipe in such a definitive, influential manner. Also, considering the developers aren’t shying away from the categorizing, neither should you!

   With Another Crab’s Treasure, you have a lot of the usual motifs of the sub-genre. Experience is collected and spent at a Bonfire (in this, it’s a Moon Snail Shell), but if you die, you lose your experience (or microplastics) and have to return to where it was lost without dying in order to salvage it. You have your light attack and your strong attack, you have your dodge roll, and the difficulty isn’t mucking around.

   It isn’t as hard as any of the FromSoftware titles, nor is it as hard as something like Lies of P, but it does have some moments that might be a little challenging at first. Sometimes this difficulty isn’t intentional, however, which is something we will talk about shortly.

   Another Crab’s Treasure is endlessly charming, with an undersea decor filled with creative environments and items to discover along your journey. The charm is, without a doubt, the best part of Another Crab’s Treasure. This isn’t an understatement, and I would dare say that, based on charm alone, it may be one of the most likable videogames I have played in recent years.

   Something else this videogame adds to the Souls-like genre that I believe is kind of a game changer is the utilization of Shells. This is a little similar to Mortal Shells implementation of a similar idea. In that, you can basically wear the husk of a character and use that to alter your game-play style. This is a pretty different beast, however, and I really enjoyed it. Basically, in Another Crab’s Treasure, you will find different shells that you can put on and wear throughout your journey. There were sixty-nine of them as of this writing (nice). A lot of that endless charm I mentioned earlier is discovering all the different shells you can wield and the ways they can help form your strategy. For example, wearing a Shot Glass allows you to move briskly, but means that the shell can be easily broken. However, wearing a coconut will wield a lot of extra protection, but make your character heavier and more difficult to move around. It might seem like a gimmick at first, but it actually adds quite a few layers of depth to the combat, adding new wrinkles to a formula we’re all very familiar with.

   The platforming is a mixed bag. When it works, it works, and when it doesn’t, it really doesn’t. It doesn’t play like when other Souls-likes try to add platforming, where it is stiff, precise, and prone to cheap depths (largely because platforming generally depends on ones’ ability to hop properly, which you can’t in most of these games). Unfortunately, it isn’t exactly a perfect 1:1 Souls-like + 3-D Platformer either. At its best, it plays okay. The biggest issue, which will be a reoccurring theme from here on out, is that Another Crab’s Treasure has a lot of performance issues

   Maybe it plays perfectly on the PC! I didn’t play it on the PC, I played it on the Xbox. It shouldn’t matter in the least (I can’t imagine what people playing on the Nintendo Switch are going through though), and it also doesn’t matter if these problems have since been patched. I mean, it will be good for you, and I hope it happens, but I played what I played and that is what I am writing about. In the form I played it, Another Crab’s Treasure is pretty rough. At its worst, I couldn’t make it more than a couple minutes without it lagging, and, as you can imagine, this is pretty make or break for a platformer.

   This nuisance, in turn, severely damages the boss battles in Another Crab’s Treasure. For the most part, I enjoyed most of the boss battles well enough and was able to make relatively short work of them. However, more often than not, I was met with some undue frustration. For a first, this wasn’t because I needed to git gud. It was because of the sheer amount of glitches I encountered while fighting them. I am never a fan of technical snafus, like when a character with a large spear is able to attack through a pillar that should provide ample protection from the attack, but I can accept and even eventually accommodate that level of jank. Unfortunately, what I can’t tolerate is when an enemy throws me through the ground, and my character continuously spawns beneath the ground, endlessly falling into a pit of despair. I encountered this glitch repeatedly throughout boss battles and throughout platforming sequences. Another glitch that I encountered continuously throughout my play was that the sound would drop for long stretches and would return just as randomly. If there are any key points to take away so far from my review – (1) Another Crab’s Treasure is charming, (2) the Shell feature is really creative and unique, and (3) the experience is ripe with glitches. Charming. Cool mechanics. Glitches. All of which I feel very strongly about.

   Another Crab’s Treasure offers the ability to change the difficulty settings in the pause menu. It basically allows you to either tone things down a smidgen, or make it an outright cake wall. As much as I like that we are allowing players to gauge the difficulties settings and attune them to their preferred play style, this approach becoming the norm will take some getting used to. I am so used to the Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty settings of yesteryear, and, without them, I find myself stubbornly unwilling to tweak them. I would recommend turning off fall damage, if nothing else.

   The Map System is pretty awful. It offers you a zoomed in, vague understanding of where you are in each level, with no way to zoom out or provide yourself further inspection.  

   The story is heavy handed, with all the subtlety and nuance of a brick to the face. I have heard some refer to it as a woke videogame. In fact, the last time I looked, the review section on the Microsoft Store was filled with such accusations. I don’t really like calling things woke, per se. I think it is a buzz word that ultimately creates an unneeded divide between people. In Another Crab’s Treasure, you play as a crab named Krill who has his shell repossessed and is trying to do everything he can to get it back. As he does so, he traverses the ocean, coming across an array of characters and a wider array of pollution plaguing their home. I don’t think anyone would be up in arms about a videogame with thinly veiled criticisms toward what we humans are doing to the environment and the undersea critters, but this, however, isn’t thinly veiled. This is pretty direct, and, at times, it can feel a little preachy and, worse than that, boring and melodramatic. I didn’t hate the story, by the way. In fact, there was some moments I found kind of, sort of profound and unique, acting as a commentary toward the existential woes we all face and feelings of doom and gloom recent times have given us in heavy doses. However, it can feel a little at odds to itself, an imperfect recipe, if you will. It wants to be savory and sweet, and that can make for a confusing meal. I would equate the story to Kingdom Hearts. On the tin, Kingdom Hearts suggests a fun, wacky journey through different worlds filled with Disney characters, but, then, it’s doused with Final Fantasy shenanigans. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. At the same time, I can’t bring myself to wish the two be parted. That is how I feel about the story in Another Crab’s Treasure. 

   In summation, Another Crab’s Treasure is a pretty good game. There was a lot I liked about it. Unfortunately, it could have and should have been a great game. I chalk that up mostly to its subpar platforming and performance issues, but, even with that in mind, it has enough charm and things it does right to make it worthy of a recommendation.

Rating: – 3.5 out of 5.0