Look at the name; look at a screenshot. Gimmick, right? That’s the first impression of Nussoft’s crustacean-em-up, and a deliberate one at that. Lead designer Masafumi Onuki is clearly obsessed with the undersea beasts, and is having a laugh at the ludicrous nature of his own fixation.
Fight Crab is a game where you literally spend your time trying to flip giant enemy crabs over for massive damage. Old memes aside, there’s not a great deal more to it than that. It expects you to be entertained enough by a comedy premise to power through, and find enjoyment in the negligible combat system.
So, does the combat itself hold up under scrutiny? For me, that’s a Calappa-sized ‘nope’. The problem is control, in that there’s very little of it. And what there is, ain’t good. You see, the game’s built around making the delicious-tasting combatants feel huge and weighty. Rather than focus on making the battles zippy and thrilling, it’s skewed toward the kind of city-sized destruction you see in monster movies.
As an end unto itself, that’s not a bad thing. In practice, it means correcting for the controls. Your two claws are mapped to the analogue sticks, with shoulder buttons activating your pincers. ‘So how do you move, Stu?’ I hear you ask, to which the answer is, ‘With great difficulty’. You use the d-pad to move, by pressing then releasing a direction. The crab then keeps moving in that direction until you cancel it.
To read your mind: yes, that is as s*** as it sounds. I’m all for new control schemes but it’s obvious why this one’s not been explored very often. The one title that sticks in my mind was Freak Out (aka Stretch Panic) which was similarly gimmicky.
That’s not to say Fight Crab is a terrible game; it’s just a fire-and-forget release. Nussoft must be sitting back with the hope that enough people fancy a chuckle at the overblown foolishness that merry bushels of cash will be thrown at it before the novelty wears off.
To that end, Nussoft have front-loaded this thing with as much meme-worthy content as they can. Your shelled protagonists bandy about absurd weaponry, from knives to gigantic rockets strapped to their cumbersome appendages. You won’t forget the first time you see a lobster scuttle towards you with a switchblade clutched in its huge claws anytime soon.It’s undeniably fun.
The crustaceans themselves are well-rendered and look surprisingly life-like. Compromise comes in the form of low-poly, flat-lit backgrounds (on Switch, at least) that are far from pretty but deform,collapse and ‘splode well enough. There’s also an admirable level of variety in the combat arena design, from seafronts and seabeds (of course) to cityscapes, grocery stores and restaurants. Basically, if you’re not in the creatures’ natural environments, you’re often in a place where you can buy and eat them. Nice.
It’s hard to be unkind to Fight Crab. It’s not a game demanding to be taken seriously, or to strip you of your earnings. It lampshades its own absurd and puddle-deep approach to fighting – so that it doesn’t feel cynical – and is on a par with Rampage: impossible to take seriously, intended to capture your attention in fifteen-minute bursts, slender and insubstantial.
I have to mention that it runs at 30fps on Switch which, for me, is a deal breaker. It makes the klutzy fighting system of random bashing and slo-mo swings feel even less impactful. Sludgy and bizarre, Fight Crab is just pure silliness in game form. If you’re happy to get in on the jest and put your refined sensibilities aside, then grab a side of Marie Rose sauce, put on your lobster bib and get stuck in. Just don’t expect much substance once the joke’s worn off.