There were few addictions I had in my formative years, though right up there with sugar and fast food would have been Japanese elimination game shows like Takeshi’s Castle, and of course their unfortunately racist American counterparts like MXC, which I’d consume as happily as I would empty calories. So to hear that Devolver Digital were partnering with a small indie developer called Mediatonic to adapt the hilarious, knockout format for a videogame, it caused my ears to prick up and my mouth to bark the famous catch-cry of Captain Tenneal: “Let’s go!”
Pitched with the British game show It’s A Knockout in mind, Fall Guys does a fantastic job at capturing the mindless, digestible nature of these game shows. There’s never a set amount of rounds, given each particular game is designed to knock out a different amount of contestants, leaving it fairly unpredictable which game will spin up on the wheel next. There are twenty-five games or so at launch and you’ll quickly become familiar with most of them, with the heavily-populated races being the ones you’ll see most though I’m sure there are final rounds that rely on a specific number of remaining contestants that I’m yet to see.
Everyone is going to have a different taste when it comes to which games they prefer, I personally love all of the race events while I’m not fond of team-focused games like Egg Scramble or Fall Ball unless I’m playing with a set group of friends. With randoms, strategy goes out of the window and chaos ensues and it’s often the team that gets ganged up on that frustratingly loses. While I don’t think Fall Guys will necessarily live and die based on how fast Mediatonic can produce new content, knowing they’ve already got plenty of ideas and content planned for the near future is promising when it comes to the legs of the game.
Fall Guys is truly the first battle royale I’ve seen that I feel is for all ages, and this is most evident on how easy it is to control the jelly bean shaped contenders. Though the charming ragdoll physics might, on a glance, remind people of challenging platformers like QWOP, Fall Guys is much more kid-friendly than that. Aside from moving in general, you’ll often need to jump, dive and grab things or other beans to succeed all with the hope of outlasting and outpacing the other fifty-nine contestants in the episode. Familiarity often is an aid in games like this as you learn the best routes through the obstacle courses, though you’re constantly at the mercy of the other players and the physics they force onto the world, it’s whenever you feel the most invincible that an enormous peach will launch from a cannon and flatten you. It’s a constant challenge and though I’m seeing people I know win more than ever in Fall Guys, each crown feels truly earned.
It’s no secret that the game has had server troubles during its launch week and I’m not going to fault the team for that, regardless of whether they perhaps should have broadened their beta experience or anticipated the game’s success to increase server capacity. I’ve been lucky enough to see behind the curtain pre-launch how great this game is when it works. It’s a temporary issue that’ll have a solution in time and I don’t feel the launch experience needs to scar Fall Guys with an everlasting brand of its brief window of failure. If anything, the server load issues are a testament to just how fun this game is across all types of gamers.
The server problems aside, Fall Guys is a pretty sound experience that has virtually no hiccups although there’s a noted concern about hackers that I hope is ironed out in time because cheating has no place in a game as wholesome and full of brevity as this is. It was a relief to see that Mediatonic had paid attention to feedback regarding the ball physics for the final release, as clipping through and triggering the balls to fire off in wild directions was a source of great despair throughout the beta period. With an already vocal community, it’s clear they’re making great effort to address issues as they arise, so I don’t expect anything that’s broken to stay that way for long.
After some particularly grim and muted colour palettes from bigger releases these last few months, it’s great to play a game so rich with colour. There’s a lot of customisation that can go into making your bean unique, with more colours, outfits and emotes rolling out on a daily basis. It’s a vibrant game that won’t get enough credit for its art direction, though I feel a large part of the Fall Guys appeal is its presentation. I cannot be denied that the soundtrack is another area of the game that excels, it has a real earworm quality and it fast burrows into your brain and has you drumming your fingers along to it as you matchmake.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, despite its launch woes, has captured the gaming public in a way that’s only been rivaled by Animal Crossing in 2020 – it’s everywhere and it’s not without good reason.
THE PC VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Fall Guys is not only a charming, whimsical take on one of television’s biggest spectator events, it’s on my shortlist of the year’s very best games. I don’t think the Mediatonic team could have ever dreamed just how big of a success their one-page pitch inspired by It’s A Knockout would amount to. It’s insanely addictive with the rapid turnaround episode-to-episode making it easier than ever to keep telling one of gaming’s biggest lies: “Alright, just one more.”