Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout Review: A chaotic and glorious new kind of battle royale
Played On: PlayStation 4 (Original)
Being a big publisher in the indie game space and creating some of the strangest and most entertaining E3 Press Conferences in the last couple of years. However, I’ve come to realize that the only game I’ve played of theirs is Hotline Miami, but that was all going to stop with their newest game from Mediatonic – Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Inspired by nostalgic Japanese gameshows, like Takeshi’s Castle, Fall Guys looked to bring players into a unique kind of battle royale experience and with it being free for PlayStation Plus subscribers for the month of August, there was no way I could resist seeing what a non-shooter battle royale experience could be.
In Fall Guys, players take part in a crazy game show that tests their teamwork, platforming skills, and ability to stay on their feet as they compete against sixty players to be the last one standing. Throughout each game, players will compete in rounds that are randomly selected minigames in order to qualify for the next round. While some games will have you race to the finish in order to snag one of the qualifying spots for the next round, other games will split the remaining players into teams so they can fight for first place as the lowest scoring team will be eliminated. In the end, players will fight on a randomly selected finale in order to be crowned the winner.
Fall Guys is instantly refreshing and unique as a battle royale because it’s incredibly simple and accessible making it perfect for anyone, regardless of gaming experience, to play and be satisfied by it. Most games within this rapidly growing genre are shooters with a lot of mechanics and variables within it’s controls and playstyle, but ultimately can be unsatisfying because of the format. If you land in a bad spot, you could end up being dead before you even spot a gun. If you’re not the best builder, then you could be easily out in the long game. Even just thinking about times where I just never saw anyone in a match, but then were suddenly sniped after walking around for twenty minutes makes me unsatisfyingly frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no fault of the game’s, but it’s always been a silent drawback to these battle royale experiences and made them not as accessible for everyone.
Fall Guys doesn’t fall into this trap though as it offers very simple gameplay with very short, fast-paced experiences that players always stand a chance at winning. Each minigame last for, at most, about three minutes, so you can actually end up making it all the way to end in about fifteen minutes or so. Even if you end up being eliminated, you can actually end up in a new game pretty quick. With the game being available for free for PlayStation Plus players, it was expected that the high influx of players would make load times slower and hinder matchmaking. However, I was blown away with how quick matchmaking actually was, averaging about thirty seconds when I timed it, and there’s very little to no lag. It’s a genuinely smooth experience that’s likely to stay that way as Mediatonic has been great with server updates lately and been very informative through their Twitter account.
As for gameplay, it’s as simple as run, jump, and grab. Yep, it’s that’s basic and it’s the perfect kind of platform controls that easily learnable. Admittedly, the grab control is a little finicky as there’s no aim function to it and it can drastically hinder your potential in certain minigames. For instance, in all variations of Tail Tag, a minigame where you try to steal another player’s tail and then make sure you keep it before time expires, grabbing someone’s tail can be unnecessarily frustrating and inconsistent. Sometimes I’ve noticed that players would end up being able to grab my tail from like five feet away, but I’d literally have to be next to someone in order to snag their tail. Even when I was next to them though, if other players were around, it was more than likely that we’d end up grabbing one another unintentionally because there’s no way to really aim the grab.
Personally, it’s not a game-ruining experience, especially since all of these games are incredibly fun, but it’s a definite drawback to a lot of the team games. The team games are honestly the most frustrating aspect of Fall Guys – but it’s for understandable reasons. There’s no real strategy that players can come up as you can’t really communicate with your teammates – unless they are friends in your party. Sometimes you can even feel a little hopeless in certain games because one person’s plan could end up putting your team far behind and there’s not much you can do to correct it. It wouldn’t surprise me, honestly, if most people ended up finding themselves being eliminated through team games the most throughout their entire experience with Fall Guys.
However, that doesn’t mean that the team games are bad. There’s no doubt that games like Egg Scramble, which is basically like Hungry Hungry Hippos, and Tail Tag easily caused a good amount of my eliminations and frustration, especially because of the shotty grab mechanic, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t having fun. In some ways, the silent team mechanic actually puts on a lot of personal pressure to do well and it’s kind of nice how some players just fall into place. While I never played goalie in Fall Ball, an incredibly fun version of soccer, it was always interesting to me that someone always seem to put themselves in that position. By their being no real delegations to how teams are meant to tackle challenges, players can play things out how they want to and that’s what makes team games sort of freeing.
For most games, players can directly impact their team’s chances of winning and be a team player. Games like Hoopsie Dasie, where teams fight to jump through the most rings, and Hoarders are highly competitive experiences that are a lot of fun because they are team games that allows for individuals to shine. My favorite team game Rock and Roll, where teams compete to push a ball to the end of an obstacle course, is easily one of the best culminations of this. The game is generally divided into three teams and while one team always seem to get ahead and finish, the other two teams always seem to engage in a highly hilarious battle of endurance as they stop each other from getting to the finish first. It’s hard not to find yourself chuckling as you see teammates run ahead to prepare for the incoming battle and it creates a great dilemma of whether it’s better to stop the other team or push yours ahead. So, while team games are certainly the focal point of some frustrations, it’s impossible to deny how fun they are and the excitement I get when Fall Ball and Rock and Roll end up being selected.
The game’s true inspiration from Takashi’s Castle come out in its single player obstacle races and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a battle royale ever. Whether it’s racing through the spinning propellers of The Whirlygig, fighting the idiots that are tipping giant see saws the wrong way in See Saw, smashing through the right doors in Door Dash, or even finding the secret path in Tip Toe, these games are what Fall Guys incredibly addictive and an absolute blast. The sheer adrenaline rush of going through an obstacle course with sixty players never gets old and I love that your starting position doesn’t have to reflect how you finish. There’s always a chance for players to make a comeback and it’s one of the big reasons that Fall Guys is a game that everyone can find satisfaction in playing.
Slime Climb is the ultimate culmination of all of this as it’s a massive obstacle course that players must work their way up as the eliminating slime rises below them. It’s the perfect amount of challenge that make’s it incredibly satisfying to beat, and it harnesses a delightful amount of chaos that’ll make players secretly hoping that it appears. The same can be said about Tip Toe, where players will have to find a hidden tile path and cross the finish line before their competitors, as it’s a genuine blast to try and figure out the path while also trying to get other players to take the first step to see if they fall. There’re also non-racing single player games that basically have players either try to remain on a small platform as obstacles attempt to knock you off and even a memorization puzzle game that I really enjoy. Personally, I hope that Mediatonic adds more puzzle and non-racing games in the future, but what Fall Guys features now is incredibly varied and always feels fresh with each new group of competitors players come across – especially the finale games.
Truthfully, what would be a good game show without a spectacular finale, right? Well, there’s no need to worry as Fall Guys comes equipped with some rad finale games that embody everything that players have had to go through to get there. Fall Mountain is easily the game’s most game show inspired game as players race up a mountain as falling ball and obstacles attempt to knock them back down as they attempt to grab the crown sitting atop the mountain. The best finale minigame, though, is definitely Hex-a-Gone, where players attempt to be the last one standing as they race across disappearing floor tiles to make their competition fall before they do, as it’s purely strategic, adrenaline pumping, and just plain fun.
It’s all what makes finally earning the crown feel like a true achievement as it feel genuinely earned. After finally winning an episode after a ton of attempts, I can say that there’s a genuine satisfaction of winning because it’s always an obtainable challenge and there was no time that I lost where I felt discouraged from playing again. There’s always that fire that comes from losing that motivates you to try again and even when you get repeats of games it never detracts from the experience. I will say that the randomization, while easy to figure out since certain games work better with certain rounds and number of players left, is great and each playthrough is always different from the last – meaning the experience never gets stale.
Players can also freshen up the experience by customizing their “jellybean-like” competitor with a ton of different costumes and expressions through earning experience and in-game currency. By earning kudos coins from playing through rounds as well as crowns by winning episodes, which I found to be a great motivator to win, players can purchase cosmetic items through the game’s constantly updating store. They can also earn rewards through the game’s seasonal level progression. The character customization is easily one of the most visually pleasing aspects of Fall Guys and seeing everyone’s different mix and match costumes at the start line has been a hilarious good time and really motivates you to find more outfits.
Fall Guys is a true testament that battle royale games can be more than just shooting each other down to be the last one standing. Through it’s vibrant, highly competitive, and, overall, fun game show antics, Mediatonic and Devolver Digital have crafted a chaotically glorious fight for first place that anyone can pick up, play, and have an absolute blast with. With Mediatonic already adding in a new game just this week, it looks like Fall Guys has some great footing for the future and that’s great because it’s one of the most unique games out there currently.
*All Photos Used Here Were Taken by the Author