Another Crab's Treasure Review - Shellden Ring

  • First Released Apr 25, 2024
  • XONE

Another Crab's Treasure blends hardcore action with 3D platforming to create a special undersea adventure.

To stand out as a Souls-like these days, a game needs to either reach similar heights as the genre's namesake when it comes to gameplay, or have a compelling new spin on the genre. While Another Crab's Treasure gets close on the combat front, its excellent 3D platforming are what help distinguish it. Combining those gameplay elements with a genuine, if perhaps slow to start, story about a crab named Kril, who starts as a loner just wanting to get his shell back and go home, but instead finds a greater understanding of the vast ocean, makes for a fun take on the genre.

The game kicks off with Kril's shell being repossessed as a tax by a wealthy monarch, but this setup is mainly used as an excuse to send him on a treasure hunt across the ocean. Kril's story during Another Crab's Treasure is a particularly strong aspect of the game. While initially framed as a tale about Kril breaking out of his routine and finding renewed purpose, it eventually tackles the ocean's ongoing pollution problems, taking the narrative to a place that is bleak yet also genuine. Where Kril finds himself by the end isn't one of those overdone happy endings, but instead a far more complicated place that feels true to some of the game's more dour themes.

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The game is broken up into large levels, filled with both enemies and platforming challenges, that you need to explore to find an objective, such as a piece of a treasure map, or reach a far-off structure. The levels are well-designed, with combat and platforming flowing together seamlessly. There are a few places where the brutality of Another Crab's Treasure does overdo it--such as during platforming sections overlooked by ranged enemies--which results in unwelcome difficulty spikes. Trying to navigate these areas while not getting blown up by ranged attacks that take away a third of your health goes from difficult to frustrating, but this only happens in a handful of instances.

Another Crab's Treasure provides very little guidance in these open levels. There is no objective marker, nor a place where you can see what your current objective is at a glance. The only direction comes from cutscenes in which characters explain your next goal, or by speaking to characters in the level, which is fine most of the time. However, there were a few instances where something as simple as seeing the current objective would have saved a headache.

In the factory area, for example, you can find a puzzle that leads to the next section of the map, and while you can interact with it if you find it early, you can't actually solve it. But, because I couldn't check my current objective, it wasn't clear that I needed to head elsewhere. Another puzzle has you use a magnet for platforming. Naturally, a metal shell is required to do this, but you also have to hold the block button for it to activate, which a nearby NPC takes joy in not telling you, a reflection of the aloof characterization of characters found throughout Another Crab's Treasure, although it loses some charm here due to the frustration of unclear mechanics. These small hiccups take away from level design that is otherwise strong overall and typically guides you without the need for objective markers.

The platforming, however, sings thanks to a simplistic approach. You have a limited toolset that enables you to grapple between points, hover jump over perilous falls, and climb nets, all of which are introduced early in the adventure. The platforming challenges instead come from the addition of increasingly tricky obstacles and length of the platforming sections, with the demands building alongside your own platforming skill. There is also some nice leeway when it comes to platforming, as falling only takes a chunk of health instead of instantly killing you, providing just enough of a safety net that you aren't forced to take it slow and can instead let the movement really build momentum. There were a few instances of objects in the environment catching or stopping my movement in a way that felt unintentional, but it wasn't a prevalent issue.

Where Kril finds himself by the end isn't one of those overdone happy endings, but instead a far more complicated place that feels true to some of the game's more dour themes

The combat should feel familiar for anyone who has played one of these hard 3D action games. It has mechanical mainstays, such as dodges, blocks, and parries, but where Another Crab's Treasure distinguishes itself is through the use of shells. Since Kril has lost his shell, he can use miscellaneous objects found throughout the ocean as a replacement, so he's able to equip anything from soda cans to sushi rolls and even party poppers. Each shell has its own defense value and other various stats, like increased physical or skill damage, along with a special move that you can use in combat. These special moves can be a projectile attack, like the fizz from a soda can, or a status effect like an electrically charged can, which deals damage when you get hit. Crucially, these shells break frequently, forcing you to adapt based on which shells are available nearby.

Each shell has an armor meter of various sizes, which is reduced each time you block or take damage. Unless you unlock and execute the parry, your shell will always take damage during combat and break. This extra layer adds some depth to the combat, forcing you to always be on the lookout for a fresh shell when exploring levels. Even if you really like a shell, it's only temporarily available to you, forcing you to adapt and keeping you from becoming complacent. Not being able to lock myself into a specific build let me experience far more of the options at my disposal, which kept combat fresh over the dozen hours it took to beat Another Crab's Treasure. While you can insure a shell later in the game to guarantee you will respawn with it, this option comes late enough--and is expensive enough--that it doesn't disrupt the dynamic or become a crutch yet also feels like a welcome option when it arrives.

Another Crab's Treasure falls short during fights against tougher enemies and bosses. While mistakes can be incredibly costly in games like this, here they are more often than not fatal. Missing a block can easily get you stuck in an enemy's attack string, and with tougher enemies, you can almost never take more than two hits without dying. This resulted in losing many, many fights because of one mistake. Losing because you didn't execute a single block or parry can be extremely frustrating, especially the third or fourth time it happens against the same boss. The vast majority of my deaths came with most of my heals unused, because I lost all of my health without the opportunity to remedy the error. While generally the challenge in the game comes from there only being a little room for error, there are plenty of fights that feel like there is no room for error in a way that is unfair and frustrating.

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Another Crab's Treasure also has multiple instances of unnecessary friction when it comes to quality-of-life features. New skills can only be learned by fast traveling to a specific place, instead of just at any checkpoint, putting multiple loading screens between unlocking a new skill and getting back to the action. There is trash to collect throughout the game that can be sold for additional microplastics (the equivalent of XP), but instead of being able to quickly use these items, you are once again required to fast travel to a specific location to cash them in. The skills vendor and junk vendor are also in different areas, so doing both at once takes even longer.

While not everything in Another Crab's Treasure is as smooth as it should be, and some unforgiving enemies take away from the joy of the intense combat, the game is a solid take on the Souls-like genre nevertheless. It brings in fresh ideas with the shell system and a focus on platforming--traditionally an afterthought in the genre. And while Kril's journey takes an act or two to find its footing, the places it goes make the ocean worth exploring.

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The Good

  • The shell system provides a ton of variety in combat and forces you to experience the different options
  • The platforming provides an excellent foil to the combat, making the sections between enemies just as interesting
  • Well-designed levels guide players almost perfectly without the need for objective markers
  • Kril's personal journey reaches a compelling conclusion…

The Bad

  • …only after starting with some well-worn and overdone story beats
  • Some enemies and bosses can wipe you out in just a hit or two, leaving little room for error and causing frustration
  • Important vendors are located behind fast travel and loading screens, taking you out of the action

About the Author

James spent 12 hours battling and platforming through the ocean to get his shell back on PC. His favorite shell to use was the valve. Code provided by developer/publisher.