Another Crab’s Treasure Brings a Charming Yet Shallow Undersea Journey (Review)

Just crab things

Many titles love to put their own spins on traditional formulas by bringing them to unusual settings. Sometimes they mix it with other genres for varying results. Another Crab’s Treasure goes for both approaches at once and succeeds at hooking you with its quirky features. But the line, unfortunately, breaks apart while trying to sink you under its deep waters.

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Twenty Thousand Crabs Under the Seas

The adventure begins when Kril, a hermit crab living peacefully on the shores, gets his shell… sorry, I mean his home, taken by a loan shark. Yup, a literal loan shark. Apparently, there’s a new duchess out there and she demands taxes from her subjects. Kril is completely oblivious to what taxes are, to begin with, but is eager to retrieve his home sweet home, no matter what it takes.

His fervent wish leads him to a violent, fierce journey where the young crab has to stand up for himself in the only way the gaming industry knows: through Souls-like combat. With crabs. Once he finds out he’ll need to bring something big to retrieve his shell, he’s dragged into a race for a legendary treasure worth more than all microplastics you can imagine.

Being a crab Souls-like (or a Shells-like if you prefer) is the game’s whole gimmick, but that’s not all there is to it. Beneath its stiff shell, lies an open-world platformer game as the soul. Sometimes I felt like I was playing a licensed THQ game from the PS2 era. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, although it does come with its own issues that I’ll get into later.

The game still works mostly as a Souls-like, despite all. You have the usual combat dance, hard-hitting enemies, big bosses, hidden secrets (to a degree), death as part of a cycle and even poison swamps. Miyazaki would be proud. Collect all Microplastics (the equivalent to Souls, Runes or whatever you want to call it) your claws can hold as there’s always some bigger fish to fry.

A crab wouldn’t be complete without his shell. While searching for his one true home, Kril can take up many different shells he finds during his journey, claiming their abilities for himself by using the ancient Umami magic. He can use soda cans to throw magic bubbles at his enemies or spin wildly on that ketchup nozzle he just found. You wouldn’t believe the things people throw under the sea.

Shells also work as your shield. Hiding inside them negates almost all incoming damage while you wait for your chance to strike back. You can also host Stowaways inside it, and each of them gives you another special skill. Did I mention that Krill also learns skills from his opponents and becomes stronger? Yeah, he’s just built differently.

Such an unusual mash-up brings some unexpectedly chill vibes for a soulslike game. Dying isn’t as frustrating as you would imagine, and you even get the option of activating some of the “Assist Mode” features, which tunes down the difficulty a bit more to make it more accessible for everyone. If you don’t like soulslike that much, there’s still a funny crab game for you.

So. Many. Coddamn. Puns.

It’s just impossible to keep a straight face while talking about this game. Hard to do so when you’re a crab killing other crabs with a fork while chomping down some tasty Microplastics. And the game won’t shy away from delivering some of the most ridiculous dialogue lines possibly imagined by humanity. And I love it for it.

Okay, I might have a slightly broken sense of humor, but I couldn’t help but crack up whenever I saw things like “For the love of Cod” being said unironically. Or when Kril exclaims “Oh, crab!” whenever he’s in a pinch. And those puns keep going the whole shucking time! Not even the most “serious” characters abstain from these, and that always got me a small giggle. Maybe they crossed the line when a crab called me an inshell, but I’ll let that one slip.

But they work because Kril is just a little guy. The littlest guy of them all. A little crab guy, even. He genuinely doesn’t know why this is all happening to him. Seeing the world through his innocent eyes makes the writing sound a bit more natural, if that makes any sense. It’s not like the puns wouldn’t grow old after some time (especially when the game feels longer than it should), but it’s still interesting to see them committing to their themes until the end.

Speaking of themes, Aggro Crab definitely did their research when designing these depths, as it tackles a lot of good, the bad and the ugly found beneath the waves. Many of Kril’s shells are straight-up junk he finds. Take a look at any map and all you’ll see is abandoned human trash, pollution and other nasty things invading the natural undersea formations. The criticism is silent but it’s undeniable there.

Sometimes it’s not that subtle, though. Many characters complain about the bad conditions they have to live in, and eventually start to rebel against the big collars ruling the city, sitting in their trash thrones. But these themes are dabbed upon in the same joke-ey manner and without much depth. Much like the later portions of the title.

A Shell Also Has Its Cracks

Another Crab’s Treasure delivers its proposal and shows immense heart, but struggles with its identity crisis. Level design is the first thing that comes to mind. Some areas bring too much from the platformer side, but fail to acknowledge that it doesn’t mesh well in Souls-like games. Dying by itself isn’t a problem, but revisiting the same jumping sections you just finished a few minutes ago is not the coolest thing on the reef.

The formula works for bigger areas such as The Shallows and The Sands Between, two open areas filled with secrets and hidden paths. But for the more secluded locations, there’s little to no payoff in your repeated endeavors.

Combat is a love-and-hate relationship for me. The grappling hook and the shell mechanics fit perfectly in this game and are quite amazing by themselves, but your other tools suffer in comparison. You have your fork and that’s it. You can change it to a heavy stance and make it more akin to a claymore, but that’s as far as you go. The skill tree does give you some new moves, but nothing too special.

Enter Adaptations. The skills you learn from defeating bosses break the game’s thin balance as using them turns any crab on its shell immediately. And there’s no downside to spamming them as much as you can. They’re fun to mess around with and allow for slightly different playstyles, but they never go too far from what’s set in stone.

Combine it with a seemingly uninspired final row of bosses. The first few conflicts are a delight, but the closing fights avoid diving into new waters and keep things simple. The sole exception was the final fight, which I enjoyed despite being so overpowered. Most opponents feel more like platformer big baddies rather than Souls bosses. This is a shame, as they proved they can make terrifying sea creatures if they want to.

The final moments of the game also take an unexpectedly dark turn, which is not a bad trope per se. However, the execution falls flat as the game is always at its strongest when it embraces its silliness rather than avoiding it. I mean, I wouldn’t expect a somewhat serious plot in a game that I can use a rubber duck as a shell.

Maybe the game dragged itself for too long in a setting that wasn’t that promising, to begin with. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit, as I still enjoyed meeting Kril and his crew. There are a lot of funny interactions here and there, and some areas are really satisfying to go through. As I said previously, the game is incredibly chill and cozy, as well as being quite accessible for newcomers.

Animations are always on point, and you can see how much love went into the development with so many details, biologically accurate sea facts and references to pop culture and other games in general. While its downsides are somewhat prominent, I had my fair share of bad games and this one is not even close to any of them.

Another Crab’s Treasure is great if you don’t dive in with big expectations. More than just a joke game, it serves the role of a relaxing game to play once in a while, and it’ll probably have you under its claw for some hours. Just be careful or you might end up with (even more) microplastics in your blood.

Another Crab’s Treasure releases on April 25, 2024, on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Review on PC/Steam Deck. A review code was provided by the publisher.


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Author
Patrick Souza
Patrick is a Staff Writer for The Escapist and has also contributed to Prima Games. Interested in writing about games ever since he left college, he intends to keep this passion burning as long as he can. Diligently ignores his ever-growing backlog to keep raiding in Final Fantasy XIV, exploring in Genshin Impact or replaying some of his favorite RPGs from time to time. Loves tackling hard challenges in games, but his cats are still the hardest bosses he could ask for.