The first few minutes of King of Crabs are great. No time is wasted in unleashing its crustacean-filled madness. I'm thrown into a game and there are crabs, snails, and baby turtles everywhere.
Panicked, I start tapping. My crab – a fairly drab brown crab, nothing close to the giant lobster who's heading my way – begins to shuffle about.
Another baby turtle scuttles by me and I obliterate it. The giant lobster takes notice and decides to have a go. I grab a nearby backscratcher with my pincers and start slapping my newfound nemesis across the face with it.
They hit back and take off around a quarter of my health in one fell swoop. Backscratcher still in hand, I leg it…
There are two big highlights in King of Crabs: those introductory minutes and the first time you're crowned the king.
Sadly, everything between and after those moments is what drags it down, makes it disappointing, and turn it into, at best, an ever so slight recommendation.
The game offers two modes: Friendly and King. Friendly sees you fighting alongside your fellow crabs to survive and feast together, while King is a PvP mode that functions like a mix between the battle royale genre and those .io games.
The primary goal is to keep eating until you're the chunkiest crab/lobster in town, and the best way to go about it is usually to fill up on the various AI-controlled animals that wander throughout the sizeable map.
Attacking other players early on can be a recipe for disaster, especially if they're bigger than you. So it's always best to exercise caution and stay out of the bigger fights until the time is right.
Being the largest crab around is typically a very precarious position to hold. The bigger you get, the more food you'll need, and your health bar will eventually empty at an alarming rate.
In fact, it's perhaps a little too harsh on the top players, especially considering that long-term survival is dependent on frantically gorging on the occasionally scarce AI animals.
The combat itself is basic, with multiple taps resulting in high-damage combos. In terms of other moves, flipping your opponent will almost always spell their demise, though the means of pulling it off can feel inconsistent. You've also got a stamina meter, which is primarily used up when sprinting, to keep an eye on.
If your claws just aren't cutting it anymore, it's time to turn to the game's assortment of weapons. From splintered sticks to pirate cutlasses, causing havoc with any of the death-dealing paraphernalia on offer can be good, messy fun. However, full-on assaults aren't always the best option, and you'll need to accept that there's no shame in a well-timed retreat.
When in a match, the only thing to do, besides gobble up the wildlife, is to scour the map for rare treasure chests. These destructible crates are usually filled with weapons or sometimes even additional lives.
They take a while to break into, and so it's a real risk/reward decision whenever you see one appear, as you know your enemies won't be too far behind you.
Despite the initial goofy appeal of watching a bunch of crabs duke it out, the core gameplay doesn't remain compelling throughout back-to-back matches, and – despite my stupidly fast connection – the sheer amount of lag frequently renders the game unplayable.
If that wasn't already bad enough, every round drags on for far too long, often becoming exhausting rather than more intense as things progress.
If you do decide to keep on keeping on, you'll get skill points to doll out between your health, attack, and speed attributes. Each crab also has passive skills that can be gradually improved.
So, yes, the various crabs all have specific pros and cons, and they come in all shapes and sizes, but the reality is that many of them play and handle in much the same way.
While their differences go slightly beyond being purely cosmetic (the big ones are slower and the little ones are faster), more could have been done to really set them apart – perhaps something like unique active skills or a greater emphasis on learning and attacking each crab’s physical weak points.
Crustaceain't that good
During an especially drawn-out, bug-filled match, I lost all control of my crab. As he continued toddling south of his own accord – with the camera careening around the area, the lag kicking in again, and an AI enemy confusedly traipsing back and forth – I decided my time with King of Crabs was at its end.
This is a game that, at first glance, should be nothing if not a good time. Though once the initial hilarity of a "crab royale" starts to dwindle, there's little else to cling onto.
The combat is one-note, the matches drag on, and the connection issues are egregious. And, sure, the ultra-rare character unlocks might stand out in a fight, but the grind to get there needed to be far more enjoyable.
Perhaps in a few months it'll be worth a second look, once the myriad technical issues are sorted and the core gameplay is honed. At the moment, though, this is little more than a joyously silly concept in search of great game to back it up.