The nearest most people come to crabs (the sea-dwelling kind, folks) is either taking the kids crabbing with a bit of bacon tied to a string down at the local seaside hangout, or dining on a nice bit of dressed crabmeat with brown bread and butter. That is, of course, unless you’ve been following the long-running Discovery show Deadliest Catch. On air now for the thick end of twenty years, it is a surprisingly gripping look at the brave fishermen who risk their lives to ensnare prized crabs from the icy depths of the Bering Sea. It is fair to say that such a niche subject, and a job which has such a high real-life fatality rate, wasn’t something I ever expected to experience vicariously in a videogame. Yet here we are with Deadliest Catch: The Game.
My main takeaway from playing this one is that it actually does a surprisingly good job of simulating the technical aspects of running and working on a crab-fishing vessel. In keeping on-brand to the Discovery channel, Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe offers up some narration, which led me to wonder whether one day we will also see a Worm Dung Farmer sim, or Alligator Egg Collector: The Game.
There is an impressive, if somewhat banal, amount of depth to process, with multiple considerations to be made such as forming your crew (naturally, you do this by visiting a pub), buying the necessary supplies needed to entice the delicious pincered beasts, and then the art of actually netting the blighters. My knowledge of catching deep sea crustaceans is patchy at best, but it turns out that the best way to do this is submerge a crab pot, essentially a giant 750lb cage that crabs can enter but not exit, and play a waiting game as they become trapped. This means a degree of in-game waiting, too, before you get to the next step of processing and grading the crabs.
Now, the world of high-risk crab fishing has a pretty hardline set of rules and regulations. Equipment must be of a certain standard and tagged by the powers that be to prevent illegal and over-fishing. And it is also illegal, for obvious reasons relating to conservation, to flog crabs of the lady variety. What this means for Deadliest Catch: The Game players is that until you earn enough in-game clout to get some other AI mug to do it, you will have the ball-aching pleasure of spending long periods of time examining and sexing eight-legged sea critters.
Once you have sorted your crabs, you return to shore, cash in, and then upgrade your ship and crew to repeat the gameplay loop afresh, and hopefully catch even more crabs the next time around. It soon becomes very dull, very quickly, but is also annoyingly finnicky. There are a number of steps needed to be adhered to when lowering or cracking open a pot, with a whole bunch of different levers, pulleys and buttons to worry about. Accidentally dropping a whole cage full of hard-earned crabs is a real possibility if you lose concentration on the task at hand.
The presentation is as choppy as the seas upon which you carry out your arduous task. The graphics are merely functional, with some strange pop-up and clipping, weird character models and animations and unimpressive environmental effects. Considering the gravity and drama of the television show, which portrays one of the most dangerous professions imaginable, the dull music and lack of atmosphere or sense of peril is distinctly lacking.
Deadliest Catch: The Game had the almost admirable ability to make me not want to either take up crab fishing in real life, nor to find out what the eventual endgame of its videogame counterpart was. Unless you really must get heavily involved in looking at a shitload of crustacean genitalia, then my advice would be to have a look at the dramatic and compelling television show, which will make you think twice next time you hear rappers like Rick Ross boasting about chowing down on expensive crab meats, and be more inclined to hit up your local estuary and try to bacon-bait some little UK crabs into a bucket.
Does a functional job of crab fishing
Mike Rowe narration is funny
Graphics are poor
Takes itself too seriously