Squid Game came out on Netflix only a few short months ago and has since become the most watched television series on the platform. It is a Korean series in which players who have amassed massive debts are given the chance at financial freedom by competing in a tournament of children’s games. The catch? If you lose the game, you get shot in the head.
The show has plenty of deeper meanings to parallel modern life such as the struggles of debt and the abuse of the impoverished by the upper class. In my opinion, the way the director subtly imparts this message is one of the shining aspects to the show. That, along with the fact that the tournament itself gives a unique look into group psychology during intense events. It is always an interesting concept for a show when viewers can imagine themselves in a certain situation, wonder “what would I do in that situation?”, and still not know the answer.
As we all know, Squid Game has amassed a ton of brand recognition over the last few months. Unsurprisingly, game developers have been quick to hop on the trend and cook up a gaming experience similar to Squid Game. Enter, Crab Game!
Crab Game was released only a month ago and has already obtained a 50,000+ peak player count. Giving players the opportunity to see how they would perform in a Squid Game is a great concept that many people seem to love. It also works out that the game is extremely entertaining to stream thanks to in-game voice chat. To find out whether this trend-following battle royale is only deserving of meme status or something more, I’ll be discussing:
For those who have seen the show, you’ll be plenty familiar with the structure of Crab Game. It is essentially a battle royale similar to Fall Guys in which players must compete in mini games to stay alive and advance to the next stage. At the end of it all, only one player can remain alive and become victorious. That being said, players can still work together to increase their chances of making it to the end. This is only exacerbated by the voice chat option in which you can talk to other players, convince them to help you out, or (more likely) get cussed out and hit into lava. But hey, that’s the way of the road in Crab Game ¯\_( ツ )_/¯.
In terms of the mechanical feel, I was pleasantly surprised with the movement in the game. Considering many of the games involve precise platform jumps, a solid movement system was absolutely necessary for players to play the game for more than the meme. This may be a controversial opinion, but I genuinely think Crab Game has one of the best movement systems in the last couple of years in terms of feel. The movement is precise, sliding feels intuitive, and getting into a rhythm of slide jumps/strafes makes bunny hopping and strafe jumps possible. The combat system (literally just left click to melee) feels, unfortunately, much worse than the movement system. It’s not so much that hits don’t register or anything like that, but for as good as the movement system feels I was certainly expecting more in terms of player vs player combat.
The developer has been pushing out updates like crazy to accommodate all of the new players from Twitch recognition. These have helped to create more stable servers with more people that do not crash as often. Thankfully, there is a server selection feature where players can host or join online games. This is nice as it allows you to pick the server size you desire, choose from the list of games included, and even toggle voice chat if you are just looking for a quiet game.
As with all mini game competitive games, the game is only as high quality as its mini games are. For Crab Game, there are a few different modes that I found myself really enjoying. A recent update has also pushed out many new modes which help add variety to the game even though it only came out a little over a month ago.
Hold the Hat is a classic chasing style mini game in which a random number of players spawn with a crown. Players holding the crown slowly gain points to pull away from the crowd. The bottom ⅓ of the lobby (approximately, sometimes less) will be eliminated at the end of the round. It is similar to any of the chasing mini games like stick tag which make for some really fun moments in voice chat. I’ll be grouping all of the tag style mini games into this one as they are all great, but do not vary too much from each other.
This one is a classic for anyone who has seen the show. Players can only move while the robot child is turned around but need to make it across a large field in a certain amount of time. Moving while the robot is watching or not making it to the finish line by the end of the time both result in elimination. I really enjoy that you can sneak up behind someone and hit them during the ‘stop period’ as it results in some really angry gamers. I would be careful, however, as other players exploding can push you and result in ‘movement’ (i.e. death).
This mode is a classic platformer similar to Honeycomb from Fall Guys. Players all spawn in on a separate stone and stay alive until the timer runs out. Stones will randomly sink into the lava, resulting in an untimely death if you are not quick enough to jump to another one. My favorite part about this game, however, is when it is down to only a few stones left and players are forced to jump to the same rock. Sometimes players will call out in voice chat that they are jumping so other players won’t hit them. This work sometimes, other times it results in both players hitting each other off.
By far my most favorite game mode, Stepping Stones (among other variations) is the classic 50/50 game from Squid Game in which players must advance across a number of stones (or glass tiles) that may break when jumping on them. This is a hilarious experience with voice chat on as it is usually a bunch of people screaming at each other to go first. Even better, however, is when only a handful of people spawn in and must force each other to go. The interactions in these situations are surprisingly intense, especially if there is a full lobby of players spectating.
As great as the previously mentioned mini games are, there are some game modes that have been implemented that are not as high quality. Thankfully, the majority of these games can be fixed quite easily with only a slight effort from the developer. I’ll include a single line at the end that states what the easiest way to improve the game mode is, in my opinion.
Hide & Seek places a select few (about 20%) on a team of seekers that spawn with knives to hunt down the hiders. If the seeker kills a hider, they then become a hider. All of the hiders remaining at the end of the time limit (or after everyone becomes a hider) will move onto the next round. The biggest problem is that this game mode can still be randomly picked with only a few people left (and on a really small map). This basically means whoever spawns with a knife is guaranteed to make it to the next round, which is never a fun concept.
To fix: Only allow the game mode to be picked when there are at least 20 people left.
Ugh. Of all the game modes available in Crab Game, this is by far my least favorite. Players are randomly assigned a color associated with a certain team. Running over a tile will turn that tile to your team's color. The team with the least amount of tiles at the end of the time limit is eliminated. I strongly dislike this last part as it often results in a certain team (that may have been dominating the entire time) getting screwed over in the last couple of seconds because some kid in voice chat yells out “F**K GREEN.”
To fix: Recurring point system that stacks throughout the round instead of who has the most at the end of the time limit. Or just remove it. That would work too.
There are two major additions that would greatly improve the game and one minor one. These fixes are purely my opinion, but I genuinely do think they would go a long way in improving the experience the game provides. After all, as memey as this game looks it is the closest thing to experiencing Squid Game any of us will have.
The first major change, and most obvious, is to have dedicated servers. This is not for connection or latency issues, however, it is to avoid the host of the lobby leaving and ending the server. This is by far the most frustrating issue in Crab Game at the moment. I have lost multiple games that only had two or three people left because the host died and decided to leave.
The other big addition that would help the game is to increase the number of players allowed in a lobby. This would require the developer to make bigger maps, improve player latency, and even rework some game modes. It would be a ton of work, but I think it would be worth it to make it more accurate to the show. Also, more people in a battle royale is always more fun. If you wanted less, you could simply create your own lobby or join others with the limit set lower. It would just be nice to have the option.
The final, small addition, that would improve the game is to improve the victory screen. I won’t spoil what the ending screen looks like, but it is honestly not too impressive. I can’t say I blame the developer for not taking time on it, however, as the mechanics and game modes should certainly be a bigger priority. Even so, I’d love to eventually see a more gratifying victory screen.
Would I consider Crab Game to only be worthy of meme status?
I had a number of really positive moments playing it (and some frustrating ones) and met some really funny players. I think the game is perfect as a time-killer or something to play more casually. I would avoid taking the game too serious as there are a bunch of modes that are purely RNG.
Do I think Crab Game is the next big thing?
It is hard to tell what the future holds for Crab Game as it is so new that the initial hype for it is still holding strong. If I had to predict, I would say the game will remain relevant for about a year or so and then slowly fizzle out. I would love to be proved wrong, however, as I have had a lot of fun just mucking around with friends!
Heading image courtesy of steampowered.com