All over Twitch right now, Crab Game—much like the cephalopodic Netflix show it so gleefully emulates—is a multiplayer battle royale game where players compete in a series of events based on childhood games. One by one, they are eliminated, until the last surviving player is crowned the winner. It’s created by Norwegian developer, Dani, who earlier this year found similar Steam-based popularity with survival-roguelite game, Muck.
Unlike director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s drama series, Squid Game, which critiques capitalism and makes social commentary on wealth inequality, Crab Game leaves politics at the door. This is simply a game about crushing players in games of chance and skill, to get that sweet pogchamp.
Crab Game then gets even weirder, by putting some old-fashioned Xbox Live voice chat in the mix. The game uses proximity voice chat, but also makes players’ mics sound like they’re coming out of a megaphone down the block from you. The voice chat can be disabled, thank god, but players will trash talk you via messages, unless you disable that too.
The gameplay is basically like Death Run in Garry’s Mod, if it had a Spirit Halloween Squid Game skin on. There are games lifted straight from the Netflix series, like Red Light, Green Light and Glass Stepping Stones, although perhaps with a twist, like playing on icy terrain where friction joins aggressive players to be your downfall. Other game types include King of the Hill, hide and seek, and a Splatoon-type game mode appropriately called Splat, where players must cover up tiles with their team’s color.
Instead of taking part in a series of life-or-death children’s games with desperate, debt-ridden strangers, Crab Game’s player base are gamers™, who only want to see you lie in defeat. You’d probably have a more civil time with the former.
When you start up the game, you can either create a server or join someone else’s, but be advised, it’s the internet: the voice/text chat and server names are exactly what you should expect. Then again, I played with randoms online while being Black, so your mileage may vary. When you lose, instead of getting taken out by a firing squad, your body explodes like you were hit with a Fallout-style V.A.T.S. high critical shot.
The only through line between Crab Game and Squid Game is its aesthetic which includes a lackadaisical version of the show’s soundtrack, players wearing the titular jumpsuits, and a lobby which acts like the resting area in Squid Game. One neat detail about the lobby is that there’s a red button in the middle of the room. Unlike players pressing the button for a majority vote to end the games in the TV series, Crab Game players must press the button to ready up.. Another replicated aspect of the show is that Crab Game has a nerve-wracking “lights out” section, where players are left in the lobby with weapons, and dwindle their competition before the lights come back on.
The game does have some jank, which is honestly it’s selling point. The physics are so comically strong you can launch a player to the other side of the room with a baseball bat, or fling them into the air. Players can be seen floating above long-since disappeared platforms, technically drowned, yet, you know, floating in the air. Oh, and either some players are gganbu with god, or the game can be hacked. In the couple rounds I played, where I lost a lot, I witnessed some players cheat by floating miraculously above a pit of lava. In others, the game recognized they had survived Red Light, Green Light, when they were never on the field.
Unlike Squid Game, playing Crab Game won’t elicit a strong emotional response, outside of how fun the game can occasionally be. Unless you have voice chat on, and haven’t weathered the storm of Call of Duty in the early aughts. With the racism I experienced playing the game put into consideration, I’d say Crab Game is best played with a group of friends, rather than strangers. Plus it’s free, so that helps.