Illusion Labs is well-known for their eye-popping and easy-to-play mobile games. Touchgrind, Labyrinth 2, and Blast-A-Way all share a common set of quality attributes that make each new game a best-seller on the App Store. Illusion Labs’ latest game, Mr. Crab, is deceptively cute and simple at first, but the complex level design makes it more than a typical casual platformer.
You play as Mr. Crab, a cheerful crustacean who wears a variety of hats. That doesn’t mean he takes on different jobs at different times– the hats seem to be just for show. Mr. Crab will scramble automatically around tall, curving structures, and it’s up to you to time his jumps so that he can reach the goal at the top.
If Mr. Crab hits a barrier, he’ll reverse course, scrambling backwards just as quickly. He’ll also have to bop creatures on the head, bounce off of springy objects in the environment, and break through small branches to secure new routes. Along the way, he’ll pick up smaller crabs, which are there purely to give you extra points and three stars on each level.
Mr. Crab will also have to fight bigger versions of each level’s enemies in a boss fight. These often involve circling around the base of the tree, mountain, or spire, gaining enough height so that you can land on enemies and take them down. The consequences for getting hit aren’t major– for normal enemies, you’re knocked down a level, and in boss fights, if you lose, you just have to restart the fight from a lower perch.
What makes this game special is not the one-touch jumping controls, which are fairly common in casual mobile games. Instead, it’s the curving design of each level, which are full of walls, obstacles, and complex routes. The tiny details in Mr. Crab also shine, like the polished rocks that stack up in the background of a few levels. Everything in the game looks incredibly sharp, and on an iPad 4, the frame rate never staggered, even when we were frantically jumping and fighting our way to the top.
Mr. Crab is nearly everything we look for in a great mobile game– it’s easy to play, looks fantastic, and offers plenty of replayable levels. There’s not much of a story, though, and a sequel or update could likely support more power-ups or a procedurally-generated endless mode. If you enjoy frantic platformers with a lot of detail and charm, Mr. Crab’s your new best friend.