Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout hit PS Plus and Steam this week to a stampede of demand from gamers, to the point where the servers simply could not cope with the surge of demand, but is this oddball freebie worth the rush?
Simply put: Yes.
Fall Guys is a delightfully basic concept. Imagine the slapstick fuelled gameshows like Takeshi’s Castle or Total Wipeout mixed with the battle royale concept, where the numbers whittle down round by round until only one person is left standing. And the people aren’t actually people, they are walking jelly beans.
If that is not enough of a sales pitch for you to open your web store of choice and grab this game then we cannot be friends and I don’t know you. If you need more convincing then read on, stranger.
The gameplay itself is very simple. You move around your jelly bean, you can jump, you can dive, and you can grab things like ledges, objects or even other jelly beans for a bit of sneaky sabotage. The challenge comes in doing this when 59 other jelly beans.
It starts out in suitably jumbled, anarchic fashion with an opening round of up to 60 players. Maybe a few shy but most games I have played have been between 55 and 60 players so essentially full. The first round is usually one of several Race modes. The core gaming modes are Race, Team and Survival.
Race mode includes different race types, all colourfully named things like Hit Parade (where every obstacle is violently attempting to smash you), Door Dash (where your progress is blocked by a series of doors but only certain doors will open when crashed into), to name but a few.
Once the initial race is out of the way, competitors who fail to qualify are eliminated and the successful jelly beans move on to the next round. At this point the game becomes a revolving playlist of modes; it could be another race, it could be a Survival game like Perfect Match (a spin on the classic memory game, only the losers fall into slime) or Tail Tag (where you have to run around with a fluffy tail attached to your backside, ensuring no one steals it from you), among others, or it could be a Team Mode. Whereas all of the other modes require a certain ruthlessness, and often a reliance on the bad luck of others, the Team Modes ask you to think about the good of the jelly many rather than the beanie few. Team Mode includes things like Egg Scramble (a sort of manic spin on Hungry Hungry Hippos) or Fall Ball (the clumsiest, funniest possible Rocket League rip-off imaginable), among others.
You go through four rounds of this, if you are lucky, before culminating in one of three final modes: Fall Mountain (basically a greatest hits take on all the other race modes in the fame), Royal Fumble (a large scale version of Tail Tag, only there is one tail and everyone is trying to get it before the timer runs out) and Hex-A-Gone (where the panels beneath your feet disappear once got touch them and the key is to keep moving and not fall to your doom). All of these modes are ruthless and largely dependent on good luck, which is honestly no bad thing because sometimes skill creates an uneven playing field, whereas abject chaos makes us all equal.
The gameplay is so simple but the sheer number of other players all trying to do the exact same thing as you created an almighty cluster fudge of flailing bodies, seeing a swinging pole slam into a sea of wobbly jelly boys, sending them all flying in the air, is honestly one of the funniest things you will ever see. Seeing 50 jelly beans trying to jump through the same narrow doorway is another absurd delight, Fall Guys is full of this sort of bonkers anarchy and after over three days of play, it has yet to lose that inherent sense of comedic joy.
A lot of that comes down to the design choices. The base jelly beans are utterly adorable and ridiculous creations but when you get jelly beans dressed as hot dogs and dinosaurs, it only gets funnier. The stages are all brightly coloured, the music is bouncy and energetic, and the sound effects the jelly beans make when they run or fall over is beyond endearing. Hearing that same sound 60 times simultaneously is even better. Fall Guys is a game that never fails to entertain, even when you get angry about a crushing loss or a turn of bad luck, it is hard to stay mad at something as ceaselessly charming as this.
There have been teething issues during its first week of release, with recurring server issues preventing you from getting into a game or impeding your claim of a reward, but they appear to be largely ironed out now so hats off to Mediatonic for some incredibly taxing work in the face of unprecedented demand.
The games dependence on online play counts against it, if only a little, but possible server problems will, unfortunately, get in the way of your good time. An offline mode with bots and the option of local multiplayer would have almost certainly assured this title a Gold but Silver is never a bad thing as, honestly, next to no online-only games are deserving of such an accolade. This game deserves every ounce of praise it receives and the actual criticisms are so minor that it barely matters.
Fall Guys is pure, wholesome fun. Pure, wholesome, manic, chaotic, hilarious fun. In my many years of playing games, I cannot recall an experience quite as giddily brilliant as a round of Fall Guys. This game is the real deal and deserves to become the next big thing.
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