Another Crab’s Treasure is a cheery, accessible take on Dark Souls - 6 minutes read

Another Crab’s Treasure isn’t shy about its inspirations. If an area titled “The Sands Between” isn’t clue enough, this colorful soulslike about a crab questing to retrieve his shell serves up constant reminders of FromSoftware’s oeuvre, especially Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. That doesn’t make Another Crab’s Treasure just another FromSoftware clone in an increasingly crowded field. Another Crab’s Treasure is a different beast: a rare soulslike with a sense of humor, plenty of undersea pizzazz, and a surprisingly accessible take on the formula.

The difference is immediately apparent as our crustacean hero, Kril, is dropped into a vibrant world of undersea hijinks, murderous sealife, and oil slicks, all presented in primary colors. Even the mountains of junk that litter the seafloor are colorful. That junk becomes your friend, both as currency (in the form of microplastics) and as, in lieu of his shell, Kril dons shot glasses, soggy tennis balls, and even a gun for protection.

Another Crab’s Treasure’s SpongeBob-esque color palette isn’t just an inviting alternative to the gloomy worlds of typical soulslikes, however. For the first time in years of playing these games, I could reliably see what was going on throughout my playthrough. Kril pops from the background, and enemies are easily distinguishable. Combined with a simplified combat loop consisting of only four stats, Another Crab’s Treasure boasts an impressive baseline accessibility compared to its predecessors.

To bolster this strong foundation, Another Crab’s Treasure also includes a raft of assist features that rebalance the game’s combat. Players can reduce incoming damage, lower enemy health, improve the durability of your improvised shell, increase dodge invincibility frames and parry windows — though, the game never actually tells you how to parry — and even slow the game down. Fall damage, which is only taken when falling into the abyss, can be reduced or removed, as can the risk of losing your microplastics on death. Dying at a boss will also see you respawn nearby, with items in tow, rather than at the last checkpoint. Of course, as developer Aggro Crab’s marketing has spotlighted, you can also replace Kril’s shell with a gun that one-shots everything.

Even with these settings, Another Crab’s Treasure is tough

In other menus, players can also remap buttons, switch sprinting from a hold input to a toggle, customize sound balance, and reduce motion blur and camera shake. Perhaps most notable outside of its assist options: you can pause Another Crab’s Treasure. This may seem like a strange thing to highlight, especially as pausing shouldn’t be rare in the genre. Last year, however, Lies of P demonstrated that being a single-player, offline soulslike doesn’t guarantee a pause function.

It all adds up to a host of options — gun, perhaps, excluded — that many players have been begging soulslikes to implement for years. That Another Crab’s Treasure takes the plunge is a clear demonstration that the formula can be made more accessible without compromising its challenge. Because even with these settings, Another Crab’s Treasure is tough. Accessibility doesn’t dilute the game’s difficulty. Rather, it creates a positive interplay between the game’s inherent difficulty and the player, in which the player is granted control over their own experience. This shifts Another Crab’s Treasure from a grind in places to something more enjoyable. 

Take the game’s first boss: Nephro, Captain of the Guard. He’s an undersea facsimile of Sekiro’s Gyoubu Oniwa and a relatively simple enemy with only a few attacks. Despite quickly learning his dodge timings, I found it difficult to capitalize as his attacks invariably carried him away from my dodges. It lengthened the fight, and mistakes started to creep in with the fatigue — and so did frustration. Yet, through being able to mitigate incoming damage and improve my shield, I was able to remove the grind, give myself room to make new strategies, and start having fun.

This happened multiple times throughout my playthrough, and whether the accessibility was mitigating my errors or the developers’ or both is perhaps moot. The important thing is it allowed me to enjoy what otherwise might have been frustrating — and painful — sticking points. It’s a strange, almost emotional, feeling to play a soulslike that surrenders control over your experience back to you after years of the exact opposite.

I was able to remove the grind, give myself room to make new strategies, and start having fun

That said, much of the accessibility in Another Crab’s Treasure is combat-focused. This means, in other areas, the game still falls short. Though players are generally pointed in the right direction and the game encourages you to get a “little lost,” there are plenty of times when it wasn’t clear where I was supposed to go next — from missing a waypoint character or just confusion. This wasn’t helped by a static map that appears designed solely as a reference to Elden Ring. In other areas of cognitive accessibility, there’s a welcome directory of past tutorials, accessible at any time, but there’s information missing (including, as previously mentioned, how to parry).

This and more will be a particular issue for blind and visually impaired players, as none of this is voiced, with no audio description or built-in text-to-speech functions. But for a few short, voiced cutscenes, Another Crab’s Treasure is a fairly silent game outside a varied collection of sound effects. Slippery platforming and levels full of pitfalls mean, even with assistance, this game also isn’t fully accessible to visually impaired players, especially when it comes to a certain area bathed in darkness that is difficult even for seeing players to get around.

Other smaller elements also creep in, like the uncharacteristically subdued indicators for unblockable attacks and the frequent slowdowns in loading zones — which include a visually uncomfortable blurring effect on-screen. Mileage may vary on how annoying they are, but even these small moments work against the relative accessibility of Another Crab’s Treasure.

Though it references them often, perhaps it’s unfair to compare Another Crab’s Treasure too often to its predecessors. But it is noticeable that when it is at its weakest — in general and in terms of accessibility — Another Crab’s Treasure bears a striking resemblance to its influences. Another Crab’s Treasure thrives when it’s as removed from its FromSoftware roots as possible, when it becomes a tight distillation of those fundamentals but washes them in a colorful presentation, an irreverent attitude, and accessible play.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Another Crab’s Treasure is how plainly — how readily — Aggro Crab understands it has no authority over its players’ experiences. Instead of chafing against that like so many soulslikes, Another Crab’s Treasure leans in and grants us an unprecedented level of control over how we play. In doing so, it lays down a marker for all that comes after, opening the genre to a wider spectrum of players.

More than anything, Another Crab’s Treasure, is a timely reminder that, for all of their challenge, soulslikes can still be fun.

Another Crab’s Treasure launches on April 25th on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC, and PS5.

Source: The Verge

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