We are witnessing the birth of a brand new genre, friends. We've had games based on movies, television shows, comics and even literature; here, though, is Fight Crab, the first game ever made based on an animated GIF. Yes! The popular GIF of a crab menacingly wielding a knife has been adapted into a full-scale Switch title. What's next? That sloth in the hammock with pixel-art shades descending onto its face getting a full-scale RPG? The next Star Wars game covering the adventures of that one Stormtrooper pelvic-thrusting his way through some sort of visual novel? The sky's the limit, folks. But it's all for nothing if Fight Crab doesn't live up to its source material.
The premise screams "meme game" pretty loudly; taking control of a crustacean of your choice from a selection of snippy sealife, you go into pitched battle with an opposing decapod in an attempt to (usually) flip them onto their back. Damage is measured with a Super Smash Bros.-like percentage gauge, and the higher it goes the easier it is to knock over your enemy. You're not just limited to your claws, though; just like in the GIF, you can wield (or dual-wield!) knives, but also a selection of other weapons. Nunchaku, tonfa, even a revolver. Our initial sighting of a crab wielding said handgun, we're not ashamed to admit, had us laughing so hard we had to pause the game.
The controls in Fight Crab are a nightmare, but intentionally so. The D-pad moves your crab, with a double-tap letting them move faster – sometimes with the aid of jet propulsion. The left and right sticks control their respective claws, with ZL and ZR punching (or using the held weapon) and the bumper buttons pinching. In practice, this leads to directionless flailing, with the occasional delightful endorphin-buzz of actually managing to get hold of the enemy crab.
It's fair to say that describing Fight Crab's core gameplay as "directionless flailing" doesn't exactly constitute a ringing endorsement, but given the comical nature of it all we're inclined to pigeonhole Fight Crab alongside novelties (for want of a better descriptor) such as Goat Simulator, I Am Bread or Octodad. Accounting for the fact that it's inscrutable on purpose inclines us to treat Fight Crab more charitably. The most surprising thing about it? It's actually a lot of fun, despite the seeming lack of depth.
Helpfully, the graphics are remarkable. It runs nicely, at a seemingly locked 30fps – in a game like this, you could forgive a few Goat Simulator-style performance issues as they almost become part of the carnage, but Fight Crab feels well-tailored for the Switch. Battles, as knockabout as they are, have a genuine impact. It's a real thrill when you manage to get your opponent caught in a claw grip, and the close-up lock-ups feel surprisingly epic. Battles rarely last longer than a couple of minutes, which keeps things fresh and breezy.
There are a number of different locations in which to practice pincery pugilism, which can result in a change of focus and "tactics", such as they are. Among others, there's a traditional rock pool, a miniature city that gives kaiju vibes to the battles, a child's playroom (complete with a lethal toy train) and a supermarket's fresh crab stall – upon which you fight alongside frozen crabs and can use said corpses as a ghoulish shield against the pincers of your opponent.
The silliness of it all takes longer to wear thing than you would expect, helped along by an impressive array of unlockable crabs and weapons. Besides the main campaign – effectively just a series of battles with little to no narrative thread that we could perceive – there's also co-op and versus, all online and in split-screen besides the co-op which is online-only. It's actually this local split-screen that we had the best time with, as both players are effectively evenly-matched by the ridiculous control scheme. It's nice that you can unlock new things in this mode, but there's also a shop to purchase new bits and bobs in the campaign. This variety gives Fight Crab more longevity than it probably deserves.
Of course, Fight Crab can be played skilfully if you are committed to learning how everything works – it uses every button, stick and trigger on the Switch and the skill ceiling is very high. The brilliant thing about the game is that even if you don't care to do this, it's still fun. You could put it in anyone's hands and the weighty, freeform silliness of the play control will elicit glee.
Fight Crab is an impressively full-featured and surprisingly good-looking game that transcends its silly meme origins and ends up as something much more. It could end up a staple party game with its joyfully nonsensical premise and well-executed crab simulating gameplay, which goes above and beyond what a crab-battling game really needs to be, and we applaud it. Some novelty titles are a complete flash in the pan, but Fight Crab sticks.