Another Crab’s Treasure: The Kotaku Review

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Key art of Another Crab's Treasure with Kril wearing a Kotaku review shell.

I think most of us are constantly trying our hardest to fill the Dark Souls and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice-shaped holes in our lives. They’re simply some of the greatest games ever, and no one can really be blamed for seeking more of them. Time and time again, studios have tried their hands at soulslikes, and time and time again, they have fallen short of the alchemical mix that makes FromSoft’s genre-defining efforts such an enthralling rush. Of late though, a crop of fresh and inventive games have appeared that seem to be challenging the status quo, and while Another Crab’s Treasure is ultimately a little on the safe side, it’s a brilliant attempt to breathe some life into a genre that often fails to stand on its own two legs.

Yes, when it comes to shaking up soulslikes, Aggro Crab—the developers behind the overlooked roguelike Going Under—are taking a stab at it. Another Crab’s Treasure follows Kril, a hermit crab whose shell gets claimed by a foul and corrupt monarch. As Kril journeys to find his shell and take it back, he comes to meet the denizens of the ocean, who open his eyes to the problems that plague them and the world at large. Everything in Another Crab’s Treasure is some form of trash, from the buildings of New Carcinia to Kril’s weapons and armor. Humanity’s refuse has a home at the bottom of the ocean, and Kril and company fashion a way of life out of it. All the while, though, gunk is slowly driving all the crabs to wanton murder and destruction. Society is collapsing and we’re picking at each other for scraps rather than banding together to forge some kind of solution. Now why does that sound so familiar…

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As crustacean society is eroded and erupts into violence, Kril takes up his rusted fork and plumbs the depths of the oceans for treasure in order to buy his shell back. Before he lays a claw on any treasure, however, he finds a stable of worthy opponents standing in his way. Another Crab’s Treasure is absolutely not as hard as the games that inspired it, but it is also tuned a fair bit higher than it might appear at first blush. The average enemy isn’t really a pushover, and bosses will check you hard if you don’t learn to keep up with them. Much like Sekiro, it kind of demands you learn a few specific mechanics, especially a game-changing parry, in order to make it to the end without ripping your hair out. Take it from someone who went an embarrassing length of time without using these mechanics and suffered for it.

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Once you lock in though, combat in Another Crab’s Treasure falls into a satisfying flow reminiscent of the back-and-forth flow that made FromSoft’s samurai action game so immediately iconic. You don’t get the same clang of katanas viciously bouncing off one another, but Another Crab’s Treasure’s marriage of sound and action is no slouch, either. Every hit has a crunch to it that reminds me of Hollow Knight and the parry is accompanied by a dopamine-inducing knock effect. The ease with which you can hit it and land a riposte all but assures that most players can feel as cool as a (sea) cucumber throughout their time with the game. When it all comes together, Another Crab’s Treasure just feels damn good. It falters in some areas—in particular, the camera screwed me over in some really tight spots—but for the most part, it’s an abject joy to play.

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Kril from Another Crab's Treasure in combat with a pair of crabs.

Another Crab’s Treasure is also a joy to watch and listen to. It’s deeply funny, and delivers its otherwise dark story about the moral (and literal) decline of society with a wink and a slap on the back. A character called Firth assists you in finding a treasure that’ll help Kril buy back his shell (the currency and XP in this game, for what it’s worth, is microplastics), but he also spends the majority of the game blindly admiring a venture capitalist known as Roland. Despite all signs pointing to his shittiness, Firth insists time and time again that Roland is simply a player in the free market and that the havoc he unleashes on the lives of those he exploits is due to a failure of capitalist structures, rather than those who partake in and thrive off that system. He is every would-be economist who learned the phrase “supply-and-demand” in grade school, stopped internalizing anything else after that, and jumps into your mentions to tell you off when you criticize Elon Musk.

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That humor, as well as the cartoonish nature of Another Crab’s Treasure, is Aggro Crab’s bread and butter, and it extends outward into the construction of the world and the game’s aesthetic. Since ACT plays out from Kril’s diminutive perspective, it takes some liberty with the exaggerated proportions of human trash, like some very long mannequin legs that connect the upper and lower crusts of the game’s central hub, New Carcinia. One of the boss fights is against a crab who uses the cracked glass lid of a pot as a shield and a takeout box for a helmet. The first boss you fight shouts at you—in what can only be described as the most violent voice direction I’ve ever heard—from across a huge battlefield about the being a “clawbreaker” before charging you like a lancer. And then, of course, there’s the matter of your own gear.

ACT is a soulslike with a gimmick I genuinely loved. As a crab with no shell, you can crawl into most of the trash in the ocean and turn it into makeshift armor. Anything from a shot glass to a computer mouse can be made into armor, as well as weapons down the line, continuing ACT’s comedic visual language. There’s nothing quite like going up against some fearsome monstrosity from the depths of the ocean with a fucking Rubik’s Cube on your back, you know? The shell system isn’t just for laughs, though; it contains unfathomable depth.

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Most of the 69 (nice) shells you can acquire share a certain number of Umami skills—think of these as the unique “Ashes of War” abilities tied to equipment in Elden Ring—but vary in form, size, weight, and defensive capabilities. Some shells shoot out bubbles that hone in on approaching enemies, while others give you a rising uppercut attack. On the other end of the spectrum, some grant a defensive buff or a prickly glass spine, and one of my favorites gets Kril drunk, which dulls his reaction time, but makes him hit harder. Due to their different defensive ratings, as well as the intensity of many of ACT’s foes, you’ll often break shells while defending yourself in combat, which gives many encounters (especially against bosses) an improvisational feel. My greatest victories came when I was scrambling the most, and making use of various shells and their respective abilities. The build possibilities in ACT are as vast as they are hilarious to realize.

Upgrades and other pieces of equipment build upon and feed into the promise of the shell system and make it explode. A grappling hook, for example, allows you to pull shells toward you in the middle of combat, rewarding quick thinking when the going gets rough. An upgrade I unlocked allowed me to recover my shell’s health, which gets knocked down when you block, by attacking immediately afterwards ala Bloodborne’s health mechanic. A hammer upgrade lets you stick any shell on the end of your weapon and make it more powerful, while simultaneously granting you a second shield and set of abilities if you choose to swap between your armor and weapon. After unlocking a nearly impervious shell—which needs to be sought out and worn or bought to unlock permanently—I insured it at a shopkeeper (meaning that I could spawn with it), found a way to duplicate the shell, and doubled up on it as armor and a weapon. By the end of the game, I was effectively in the chunkiest armor imaginable, fat rolling all over the place, and two-handing a max-level Zweihander that I swung with reckless abandon. If you know, you know, but for the folks that don’t: Another Crab’s Treasure has got the sauce.

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Another Crab’s Treasure

Another Crab’s Treasure

Back-Of-The-Box Quote

“Claws out for the new king (crab) of the soulslike!”

Type of game

Soulslike action game with emphasis on boss fights.

Liked

Rock-solid combat and exceptional shell mechanic, bright and upbeat style, phenomenal sense of humor and voice direction.

Disliked

Uneven homages and boss fights, unpolished in some places, performance issues on PS5.

Developer

Aggro Crab

Platforms

PS5 (played), Xbox Series X|S, PC, Nintendo Switch

Release Date

April 25, 2024

Played

About 25 hours, just short of the final boss fights.

Now, given that boss fights are crucial to any good soulslike, let’s take a beat and talk about ACT’s big baddies.. This game has a ton of them—some are even optional—and much like those in FromSoft’s own Souls games, they span the range of “great” to “why?” The more that these encounters focused on pretty level one-on-ones, the better they were. But in paying homage to the genre’s best, ACT falls into some pitfalls it might’ve been better off avoiding. One late-game optional boss is a particularly egregious gimmick fight that looks far better than it feels and eventually, a few of the fights start to get a little same-y in their construction. The amount of times I circled a single big crab and waited for my turn to swipe at them is simply too high for a game that’s quite often so creative. ACT’s fan-service leaks into other aspects of the game too, and leads to similarly mixed results.

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ACT wears its soulslike flag proudly, and that’s evident in the layout of the game and some cheeky references to levels and games past. A huge stretch of the game is this nearly barren wasteland that connects various regions called the Sands Between, which Elden Ring players might appreciate. Soon after your first trip through the Sands Between, you come to a grove that has a bit of a poison swamp theme going for it, and not long after that, you come to a town with a huge central lane and one big sniper crab at the far end.

These are the kind of fun nods that ACT’s upbeat aesthetic generally brightens and adapts, and I’m entirely here for them. On the flip side, there are also some oppressively dark caverns that feel reminiscent of spots like the Tomb of the Giants from the first Dark Souls, which was never really great to begin with! To make matters worse, one really late-game area leans into this even further and sticks a bunch of large, walking turrets into these dark caves that laser you out of goddamn nowhere and pad out the ending a bit. In a sense, Aggro Crab recreated “Horsefuck Valley” out of Dark Souls 2, an infamously difficult area that ought never have been made in the first place.

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I also can’t discuss the difficulty of playing ACT without drawing some attention to its performance. I’m rarely the kind of critic to make mention of this stuff, since I feel it’s the least important part of a game’s assessment and it’s typical to expect some bugginess when playing games prior to their release, but ACT toed the line of what even I could accept at times. Performance generally held up, but every now and then, I’d hit a pretty noticeable hitch as zones loaded during transitional areas, which nearly impeded me from progressing at one point. But then I noticed that the longer I played, the worse the performance got on PS5.

Some areas weren’t as optimized as others, leading to some acceptable frame drops (if this game wasn’t already enough of a soulslike, now it definitely was) but by the end of my longest sessions, my game was absolutely chugging no matter where I went. I once spent the better part of a minute simply trying to stick a shell onto my weapon right in front of a boss fight because the game outright froze about three different times. Loading screens would also catch on a small bit of the game’s soundtrack like a record with a scratch in it. And though I’ve been in communication with the team since, and they’ve assured me that it will be fixed as soon as possible, I hit a bug toward the end that has actually completely softlocked the game, stopping me from taking on the final few bosses and beating it.

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While I’m sure post-launch patches will spare most folks these headaches, it feels worth mentioning, on the off chance that it isn’t all resolved by the time ACT launches, that it’s definitely coming in a little rough, especially on consoles.

Performance issues and rough homages aside, Another Crab’s Treasure is far and away one of my favorite soulslikes. It obviously loves that lineage of games enough to replicate their formulas pretty well, but it is at its best when it steps out of the shadow of the inimitable Souls games and has its own fun. A healthy stable of boss fights keep things fresh and vibrant while the story reflects on the plights we’re currently facing and the ripple effect they have on the world around us, giving players a taste of the sweet and the sour. But it’s the shell system here that feels like a revelation, and the fact that it also works as a great visual gag is simply the cherry on top. Despite some rough spots, Another Crab’s Treasure is simply too charming, funny, and inventive a game to miss.

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