Games these days take themselves way too seriously, especially the battle royale market. Sure, Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone are hugely competitive and can offer intensity like no other. Sometimes, though, all you want is to chill out and have some harmless, silly fun, away from the guns and gore.
British developer Mediatonic felt the same way, and it has created a game for anyone who’s ever watched a silly TV game show and thought, “Man, I’d love to try that myself.” That game is Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout.
The simple pleasures
At its core, Fall Guys is a platformer where the objective is to complete a series of obstacle courses, or rounds, against 59 other competitors. Framed as a ‘show,’ rounds have differing win conditions, such as racing to beat other players, pure survival, and even team games where you must work together to eliminate other teams of players. With about 10 players remaining, a final round is played to determine the winner, and that player is crowned for their victory.
As a fall guy, you move at the same speed as everyone else, and you can jump upward or lunge forward. You can also grab, though the practical uses of it outside of grabbing the crown in the final show are limited.
Shows on TV often live and die on their fun factor for the audience. Takeshi’s Castle, for example, was hugely popular in the U.K. in the early 2000s and still receives plenty of viewership today because of its simple yet brilliant set of games. It’s clear to see that show’s inspiration in Fall Guys in the form of some of its games and its general light-heartedness.
It works in its favor very well. There’s not a bad game in the set, with some lifted straight from TV shows (Door Dash, for instance, is very close to Knock Knock from Takeshi’s Castle). Some highlights include Jump Club, where you must avoid beams that will hurl you off the platform if you mistime your jump, and Hex-A-Gone, one of the final-round games that sees you trying to survive multiple levels of falling hexagons.
Most of the games are simple, a case of timing your movement and ducking obstacles—other fall guys included—but there are some games, such as Hex-A-Gone, that can require some thought about how best to survive. The team games also favor teams that work together to win.
It’s a knockout
Graphically, Fall Guys is also simple, but that suits its laid back nature. Levels are filled to the brim with bright colors and mountainous backdrops, with minimal texturing across all surfaces. If you’re playing Fall Guys on PC, you’re not going to need a titan build to run it, and that’s the point. Having less need to load textures while maintaining the high player count allows games to progress quickly and maintain stability, even when the smaller maps get congested with players. Hit detection from obstacles is solid here, so there can be no complaints that the game chose to ruin your round.
There is also a heavy emphasis on customization. You can deck out your little dude in a huge variety of patterns, costumes, and face types, which can be unlocked through progression from playing the game.
Performing well over a show also earns you coins, which can be used in the in-game shop to purchase some of the more elaborate vanity items and emotes, perfect for when you reach the finish line early enough to turn around and gloat with celebratory breakdance. The game launched with Season 1 pass, so you can expect new content for all cosmetics as seasons progress.
The shop uses a variety of currency that can all be earned in-game. Kudos are earned from every match, scaling depending on your performance. You can use real money to top this up, but most of the items are cheap enough that it shouldn’t be required for the majority of players. Crowns are much harder to come by and are rewarded for winning shows. There are just a couple in the season pass, but they can be used to purchase rarer skins compared to Kudos items.
You can play shows with friends, though currently this is limited to a party joining a show together. The game will try to place you on the same team, but you can’t create a private show or pick a certain round to play amongst your group at this point.
There’s also no option for players to choose or vote on which game to play, and it’s instead chosen by the game itself. This lack of choice is, unfortunately, where the Fall Guys concept begins to fall apart.
A fall from grace?
The rounds in each show are effectively mini-games in a battle royale format. Most games take no more than two minutes to complete, so realistically, you can get through a show in about 30 minutes if you manage to make it to the final game.
There are currently contains 25 different rounds. For comparison to another party-style game, Super Mario Party on Nintendo Switch has 80 minigames, all of which you can choose to play whenever you want.
While Fall Guys has a good variety to its format, there are still going to be some games that players will enjoy more than others. The order that games are picked is structured to accommodate for the remaining players, meaning rounds with wider maps, such as Dizzying Heights, will always show up early in a show. As a result, you tend to play the same games repeatedly if you are knocked out early. Not offering players the option to choose or vote for rounds that they want to play, in practice or in a show, can lead to players slogging through rounds that they don’t enjoy just to reach the ones that they do.
Fall Guys also experiences a problem that occurs with the format on TV. Most TV game shows are enjoyable because they’re only shown for perhaps an hour a day. The short burst schedule is designed to avoid overexposure. But if you continue to watch back-to-back episodes of Wipeout, for example, you will quickly tire of it. Fall Guys suffers from the same issue, and while you could stick to short bursts of play, this is at odds with the battle-pass-style progression system, which asks you to play regularly to unlock all the items before season’s end or risk missing out on content.
The question of longevity is my biggest concern for Fall Guys. Twenty-five is not a large number of rounds for a game that rewards exposure, and because of this, it’s hard to say whether it can provide longer-term value as a player.
With that said, if the format excites you, Fall Guys is only $20, and this month it’s free for PS Plus members on PlayStation 4. The game is undeniably fun, and there’s growth potential here as a franchise. If Mediatonic can continue adding new rounds and content post-release, the investment should be a no-brainer. To secure the game’s longer future, the devs now need to continue building on this excellent framework.
7.5 / 10
|+||Easy-going approach is refreshing for a battle royale|
|+||Enjoyable set of games|
|+||Concept has franchise potential|
|+||In-game microtransactions are fairly priced|
|–||Tricky to play with friends, and no private matches|
|–||Rounds structure leads to games repeating often|