Fight Crab 2's physics-based action delivers a welcoming chaos - PAX West 2023 hands-on/interview
At PAX West 2023, the Video Games Are Good team got our hands on a demo for Fight Crab 2, the silly physics-based crab battler announced merely a few days ahead of PAX that pulled gamers in all weekend. Before our demo play session, we had a chat about the totally bonkers brawler with PLAYISM Executive Producer Shunji Mizutani.
At a show like PAX West, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. You're constantly surrounded by the hustle and bustle of thousands of people milling about the show floor, leaving you unable to really settle in and get comfortable (physically or mentally) while playing demos. Trying to figure out a brand-new game is a little more stressful when a pack of people are peering over your shoulder. You know logically they're just trying to get a glimpse of the game before deciding to hop in line or move along, but boy does it bring on some performance anxiety.
But against the vibrant yellow backdrop of the PLAYISM booth, where we sunk into a pair of low-to-the-ground cushions to play Fight Crab 2, we were sucked into the pure joy of physics-based crustacean combat. It transported us in our minds to the late-night chaos of playing weird games on the couch with our friends.
As we played Fight Crab 2, wielding fish rockets and drill arms to fight off lobsters and crabs of all sizes, people stopped behind us and marveled at the chaos. We ended up joking with these strangers about the pandemonium that was unfolding and genuinely just had such a good time.
Such is the magic of Calappa Games' Fight Crab 2, yet another PLAYISM-published game that we had the opportunity to play at PAX West 2023.
Hands-on impressions with Fight Crab 2
Developer: Calappa Games
Genre: Physics-based crab brawler
It doesn't feel like Fight Crab 2 needs much introduction — it's all right there in the name.
Fight Crab 2 is the follow-up to the viral 2020 hit Fight Crab, a multiplayer game that became a hit with streamers and YouTubers for its ridiculous setup and intentionally complicated control scheme. The premise is simple: drop massive crustaceans into a battle arena and let them throw pincers, wield absurd weapons, and wreak havoc. The goal is to flip your opponent onto their back for three seconds and be declared the winner.
A few new things are coming to Fight Crab 2. First, you're actually playing as a human. You can mount a crab to control it, dismount to pick up and throw weapons, or make use of stage gimmicks to support your crab. In team battles, even if your crab gets knocked out, you can fight on by mounting your teammate's crab.
And in addition to the brilliant and completely bonkers multiplayer experience, Fight Crab 2 introduces a single-player career mode.
The sequel doesn't seek to shake up the formula too much — instead it takes the chaos and turns it up to 11.
In our demo, we were given free rein of the available crustaceans (various crabs and lobsters), weapons, and abilities. After a very necessary tutorial, we were free to experiment with everything at our disposal... and experiment we did. Match after match, we came away in love with Fight Crab 2's goofy chaos, but also weirdly impressed by the mechanical depth of such a silly game.
One of the biggest and most welcome changes to Fight Crab 2 is the introduction of a "modern" control scheme. The original became well-known for having purposefully complicated controls. It had you controlling each arm — or rather, pincer — independently with the left and right analog sticks and moving with the d-pad. You can still experience the classic control scheme in Fight Crab 2 if you've already grown used to it. More power to you.
Fight Crab 2's "modern" controls, meanwhile, are more akin to a traditional third-person action game, giving you more familiar handling of your crab and mapping most of the combat controls to the triggers, while still providing the cumbersome chaos that the first game relished in.
Even with the modern controls, it can take some adjusting to, and spending some quality time with the tutorial is key to finding success with the game. But this refreshing change is one that could help bring this game to a wider audience at launch. Goofy chaos is more fun when you actually feel like you've got a handle on the chaos.
In our time with the PAX West demo, I got my crab to wield a giant sword, a drill arm, and I even rode a seal for a few fights. I threw fish-like rockets at my opponent. I shot lasers from my eyes. It all raised my opponent's damage percentage, similar to Smash Bros. The higher it was, the more susceptible they were to flipping.
The back-and-forth of battle feels like sumo, where both fighters slowly wear the other down. In fact, we played in maps where it was much like a sumo match, in that falling out of the map meant instant loss. Another map felt like a classic battle royale, with a shield around the arena slowly closing in on us as we fought. It constantly changes the way you play.
It's pure chaos, but it's so fun.
Fight Crab 2 has a special brand of PvP mayhem, the kind that will have groups of friends shouting and flailing in a room together as they scuttle about and try to get the upper hand.
I'm also intrigued by how the single-player mode manifests and just how outlandish the mission concepts will get — prominently advertised on the PAX West banner for the game is a mission where a crab is seemingly facing off against a giant tractor, so... some real goofs are in store, I'd guess.
Fight Crab 2 is expected to have an Early Access release on Steam this winter. But in the meantime, we spent some time learning more about this silly game from PLAYISM's Executive Producer Shunji Mizutani, and of course took the opportunity to get a little bit silly ourselves.
Shunji Mizutani on one of the strangest games at PAX
This interview was conducted through an interpreter just before our demo session.
VGG: Can you give us a brief introduction to Fight Crab 2?
Mizutani: Fight Crab 2 is developed by a Japanese solo developer named Masafumi Onuki. And he's really passionate about crabs. He's really just developed these games, Fight Crab and Fight Crab 2, for his love of crabs. Fight Crab 2 is basically an action game where it takes a crab versus a crab, where you fight and whichever crab can topple the other crab wins.
VGG: Especially in the indie gaming scene, there's a lot of love for crabs right now. There's Another Crab's Treasure here at PAX as well, there's Fight Crab, of course, and there was Crab Champions. What do you think it is about crabs that game developers are flocking to right now?
Mizutani: [He laughs and thinks for a while.] I don't know.
VGG: [We laugh.] Fair enough!
Mizutani: Actually, we feel like Calappa Games is kind of the pioneer in terms of crab games as he made a game nearly ten years ago called Ace of Seafood. So, in a way, he kicked off people making these games, I guess. We don't know if it made a trend or if that was just a coincidence, but... [He thinks.]
Do people in the U.S. like crabs as much as Calappa Games?
VGG: Well, my mom definitely does. [We laugh.] But we're Filipino, Southeast Asian, you know, it kind of fits. Apart from that, though... we've seen some memes of crabs that have grabbed onto kitchen knives, and there was a viral video a while ago from Metal Gear Solid 3 that featured Snake having a fight with a crab. I think there is something to crabs being seen as fighters.
Mizutani: Even now, as we're exhibiting the game here at the show, we're still amazed by how many people just love playing the game — how they're just so interested and how they pass by saying "wow" and get pulled in. We're just really just in awe of how many people have become fans of our crab game.
VGG: And how about for those who were fans of the previous game? What do you think is the biggest improvement in Fight Crab 2 over the first game that they can look forward to?
Translator: The biggest addition to Fight Crab 2 is the single-player mode. In what we call career mode, you can pretty much deck out your crab. You can train your crab, sending it to the gym, and getting it buffed and everything. There are goofy missions you embark on. We feel like that's kind of the most fun addition to Fight Crab 2.
VGG: Fight Crab 2 promises to be a game that has a bunch of weird weapons and spells. What would you say is the most ridiculous one of them all?
Mizutani: The laser beam from the crab's eyes. That one is, by far, my favorite one.
VGG: I can't wait to see that! Fight Crab 2 feels like a game that has so many funny stories you can tell, either from playing it or just watching. Is there one story you have of a fight that just was so ridiculous that you just have to share it?
Mizutani: There's a fight in Fight Crab 2's story mode, where you're protecting a kind of parade stand with humans on top of it. And your crab's goal is to protect these humans. There's a villain crab who's kidnapped them and stranded them in this arena.
Protecting humans from an evil crab that's trying to attack them? It's very strange, and we don't know what to make of it, but it's just really funny.
VGG: Since we've now talked about both of these PLAYISM-represented games, I have to ask this silly question. In Fight Crab 2, it's humans that actually pilot the crab. So, in a way... the crab is like a mech. If the crabs from Fight Crab 2 had to fight one of the mechs from Metal Bringer, which do you think would win?
Mizutani: [He laughs.] I want the crab to win. I'm rooting for the crab.
VGG: Well, thank you so much for chatting with us. PLAYISM has a ton of games we're excited for. What's the best way people can help support the teams PLAYISM supports?
Mizutani: I guess the best way would be sending love for these games to the developers, whether it be on social media or by word of mouth, things like that. These developers are working tirelessly to make these games. They're working and constantly grinding to bring you all of these titles. So we feel like just sending them love, through your experiences with their games, is the best way.
If you want to see more from a game that has crustaceans hitting the gym, casting spells, riding sharks, and dealing damage with everything from a double saber to a revolver to a yo-yo, wishlist Fight Crab 2 on Steam and follow its development on social media!
In a matter of only a few months, Fight Crab 2 is planned to release in Early Access on Steam. You'll be able to play all four game modes: career mode, local matches, online matches and tutorial mode.
Want to see more like this? Check out all of our PAX West 2023 coverage.