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Another Crab’s Treasure hands-on report: a playful Soulsike tribute with fresh ideas

Developer FromSoftware minted a new genre when Demon’s Souls first released on PlayStation 3 back in 2009. The “Soulslike” genre was born, inspiring developers across the globe with its risk/reward mechanics, thoughtful melee combat, and connected world design.

Aggro Crab is one such developer. I recently went hands-on with their game Another’s Crab Treasure, which charts a different course through the genre. The PS5 game, out tomorrow, April 25, eschews grim, crumbling kingdoms in favor of colorful underwater lands. Instead of grim lore, it injects cheeky humor overflowing with references to Soulslike games and other properties. While at its core it still plays like a Soulslike, it introduces unique mechanics such as equippable shells with distinct properties.

Not your typical Soulslike vibe

On the surface, Aggro Crab’s Soulslike resembles a cheerful, simple adventure based on children’s cartoons. Beneath the surface lies controls and combat encounters familiar to fans of FromSoftware’s third-person action-RPGs.

The game begins with snail protagonist Krill being evicted from his shell, as a result of not paying taxes. Naked and vulnerable, he ventures deeper into the ocean to speak with the local matriarch to reclaim his home.

Aggro Crab’s tongue is firmly in cheek throughout the colorful adventure. For example, experience points are represented by environmentally devastating microplastics. Magic power manifests as mystical “Umami.” Trash litters the sandy sea floor, including fun and groan-worthy puns (see above used popsicle stick joke). One of my favorite details is a castle guard holding a straw and plastic soda cup lid like a greatsword. Aggro Crab’s sense of humor and colorful aesthetic serve as an entertaining antithesis to the familiar melancholy Soulslike tone.

Raise shell against your enemies

Of course, the main hook of any Soulslike lies in the gameplay, and Aggro Crab remains faithful to the genre with some fun twists. Krill’s moveset includes light and heavy attacks mapped to R1 and R2, respectively. The Circle button is sprint, Square casts Umami magic, and L1 blocks with your makeshift shell. Locking onto enemies like aggressive crabs is key to studying their movements, blocking and dodging until the perfect opportunity to strike. Holding R1 unleashes a satisfying charge attack, oftentimes causing defeated foes to drift off with the ocean currents.

Krill’s shell is where Another Crab’s Treasure distinguishes itself from many Soulslikes. As the game’s name suggests, Krill is in the market for temporary homes while he reclaims his original shell. These come in the form of soda cans, bottle caps, banana peels, party hats, you name it. Each “shell” acts as a shield and offers unique stat boosts, like tradeoffs for attack, Umami, defense, etc.

Some enemies are especially vulnerable to Umami magic, which means unleashing shells’ unique magical abilities is key. I particularly enjoyed the soda can’s proximity-based attack bubbles and the tin can’s electricity field. Shells have limited durability, however, so you’re always scanning for Krill’s next defensive flophouse. I was initially hesitant about the durability factor, but I ultimately appreciated being forced to try out the myriad shells.

3D platforming fun

Many Soulslike games keep players’ feet planted firmly on the ground, which is another area where Another Crab’s Treasure swims against the current. The X button jumps, and holding it down makes Krill do a cute little glide-swim. These nimble traversal options blend well with the cheery, classic 3D platforming aesthetic. One location might hide a path behind breakable glass bottles, revealing a light platforming challenge. Another may entice players to climb to a vantage point and glide to a far-off collectible.

Krill eventually discovers a grappling hook that adds a new dimension of verticality to the mix. Holding the L2 button in mid-air slows time and allows Krill to grapple onto specific points like fishhooks and climbable nets. These traversal options encourage players to carefully study the vibrant environments for hidden treasures (once the enemies are taken care of). Pacing is key in Soulslike games, I appreciated the palate-cleansing platforming sections after tough fights.

A knowing wink to Soulslike fans

Another Crab’s Treasure reminds me of musician and national treasure Weird Al Yankovic, it delivers a humorous parody of a well-known topic yet delivers entertainment beyond the surface-level goof. For example, I was tickled by the first boss encounter, featuring a mounted knight-like sea creature charging down a hill as its name and health bar filled the top of the screen. After I was done chuckling, I had to buckle up for a genuinely challenging-yet-rewarding fight.

Based on my hands-on time the homage runs deeper than its fun references, and the unique cartoony vibe and shell-swapping mechanics freshen up the formula. Dive into Another Crab’s Treasure when it releases on PS5 April 25.

[This article originally appeared on PlayStation Blog]

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