When it comes to selling a new fighting game series, it really helps to have that special something to help it stand out. When your game title doesn’t include the words ‘Street Fighter’, ‘BlazBlue’, ‘Tekken’ or ‘Mortal Kombat’, the success of your violent creation can often rest on that unique USP. Unfortunately, the difference between a unique selling point and a gaudy gimmick can sometimes be hard to distinguish, which is presumably why a game like Fight of Gods somehow made it into the world.

You might remember this as the game that the Malaysian government effectively tried to block in 2017 on the grounds that its depiction of religious deities was something of a mockery to its multicultural people. So, of course, it was inundated with positive reviews on Steam, which is presumably why we're sat here in 2019 with a port on Nintendo Switch. The end result is a 2D fighting game with iffy controls, low-res graphics and a roster that’s either going to cause offence or make you laugh at its sheer stupidity. Or maybe both.

Fight of Gods doesn’t just let you fight as some of history’s most notable gods and goddesses (such as Odin, Athena and Anubis – amongst others), but also some figures from other more enduring poly/monotheistic religions. It’s a game that lets you fight as Jesus (yes, that Jesus), complete with the remnants of his cross strapped to his wrists, a belt of thorns and such moves as the ‘Punishment Fist’. It’s a game that lets you throw down with Buddha, Moses, Guan Gong (a Chinese deity based on a general from the Three Kingdoms era), Amaterasu (the Japanese goddess of the sun, not the wolf from Okami) and more.

It’s effectively the crossover to beat all crossovers. Who cares about Batman fighting Sub-Zero when you can watch Zeus electrifying Santa to death? That's right – even Jolly Old Saint Nick gets a slot on this roster. So yes, it’s very silly and not trying to take itself too seriously, but the questionable choice of fighters might have been a little easier to stomach had the core mechanics beneath them been tight, robust and rewarding. Sadly, Fight of Gods plays as bad as its sub-par, mobile-level graphics look.

Despite a handful of decently designed character models, the mechanics themselves simply don’t hold up. Inputs are slow and prone to lag even in single-player/local play, and transition animations between frames never ever feel natural. Character models are sluggish to move, and winning a match is less about stringing together coherent combos than it is about simply mashing the buttons on the Joy-Con and hoping for the best. Even pulling off each fighter’s unique special move feels pointless, as most are easy to block or avoid. There’s so little nuance on display here it’s like the developers behind Fight of Gods had heard of fighting games but had never actually played one as a frame of reference.

Developer Digital Crafter took the time to give Sif, the Norse Goddess of Fertility, breast physics that imbue her chest with so much unworldly kinetic movement even the cast of Dead or Alive would likely want to cover their modesty in shame, yet it failed to build any sense of fluidity into its combat model. Even the smallest and lithest of characters move and jump as if the framerate has just plummeted, making every match an exercise in glacial movement. In some ways it’s a blessing there’s no support for online play, because no one would leave a winner.

Aesthetically, Fight of Gods doesn’t do much better. The audio design is atrocious, with everything from the basic and forgettable soundtrack to the voice-over (which was presumably recorded inside a dustbin with a microphone made of wet tissue) failing to inspire. Even skipping through pre-fight intros will still see the audio continue to play as the fight itself begins. And as for the announcer – a key component to a fighting game – sounds like it was quite literally phoned in. If anything, it’s in keeping with the game’s doggedly consistent lack of quality.

The same can be said of the visuals. Some of those aforementioned character models are nicely modelled – and no, we’re not including Jesus and his holy six pack – but the graphics themselves are a downright mess. Consistently pixelated and prone to slow-down, Fight of Gods looks like something from the GameCube era that somehow managed to sneak onto a modern console with seemingly no contemporary improvements.

Conclusion

Somebody, somewhere, thought we needed an answer to the question of ‘Could Santa take Jesus in a fight?’. We didn’t, and we still don’t. With such a wealth of fighting games on Nintendo Switch – and with a port of Mortal Kombat 11 on the horizon – a cheap and poorly executed example such as this simply doesn't make the cut. Even without its questionable choice of characters, you’re much better off spending your money on one of the many other 2D fighters available on Switch.