I’m sitting here now, typing this out and remembering the good old days of Flash-based gaming. Back when the likes of Newgrounds ruled the Internet when it was still in its infancy. We of a certain generation recall greatly the freshness of the World Wide Web and the free game portals that made browsing colourful and interesting. What a time to be alive.
Reminiscing was an initial reaction in this instance, as I couldn’t help but recall a simpler time on the Internet while playing Mission Critical Studios’ new game, Crab Cakes Rescue, a cutesy puzzle platformer that transports us back across the ages to an era when video games held onto the basic principle that fun and simple should be top priorities.
I mean, yeah present-day indie games days are marvellous creations that cater to a wide audience, push the limits of imagination and have deep, rich stories. Well-received titles by all means and they deserve all the accolades they can get, but sometimes you just want something that strips away the subtlety and nuanced characteristics of many award-winning games and presents something that keeps the genre basic and childlike.
Crab Cakes Rescue does not dwell on artistic introductions and deep-rooted plot points. Simply put, you play as a hermit crab in this most innocent and colourful of titles. Your girlfriend has been kidnapped and you must press on in order to rescue her.
And that’s it. That’s the story. If you want to try and read into it, feel free. But it’s definitely not story that this game leans towards. It wants action and adventure from the start and the little plot device serves only as a minor incentive and a means of injecting personality into the game. To be honest, halfway through playing I’d forgotten there even was a story. Not that it really mattered, though.
You begin each level on a cartoon-y backdrop on some brightly-coloured beach. Each one adorned with platforms and dangers. You must pick up the key that’s placed haphazardly somewhere on the level to open the exit door located on the other side of the beach. Along the way, you collect coins, avoid lava pits and dodge blue globules of seagull crap (at least, I think that’s what they are).
Here’s the kicker. While in just about every other game on the planet, you’re required to avoid dying as much as possible, Crab Cakes Rescue actually requires a little bit of death on the part of the player. Each time you die (you have 12 lives for each level), a little box is placed where you fell and the little crab protagonist shrinks slightly.
The purpose then is to decide the best way to shed your shell in order to progress. Can’t quite reach that platform? Die once to leave a box underneath as a boost. Can’t quite fit underneath a particular area? Shed one or two shells to shrink yourself down to the right size. The key is make sure you have the right amount of lives left so that you can complete each level.
This is really all that can be said for gameplay. I don’t wish to be repetitive, but it really is such a simple game to get into that it’s difficult to delve into any sort of critique. The controls are a simple WASD affair to move and jump, and while there are times when it feels overly sensitive, it can’t really go wrong.
There is also the option to purchase add-on powers for your crustacean friend, though the game doesn’t really make too much mention of this. They were introduced during the tutorial, but it wasn’t until I was most of the way through the first segment that I realized there was an in-game shop in the pause menu.
It’s difficult to know how to draw this to any sort of satisfactory conclusion. I imagine it would be a bit like being a food critic, tasked with writing up their expert opinion on the most highly-rated Michelin restaurants in the world…and then one day being asked to review a Kit-Kat chocolate bar.
I liked Crab Cakes Rescue for the pure reason that it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. “Here I am,” it says, “I’m a fun and quirky platform puzzle game. Take me as I am.” And that is exactly what I did. It doesn’t present itself as anything other than this virtuous download that can be picked up and played by anybody, and for that, I would definitely recommend that you check it out.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which was supplied to us.
While it doesn't hold a candle to most other indie games, Crab Cakes Rescue prides itself on being a simple and innocent puzzle platformer that harkens back to a more pure gaming era.