Fall Guys Review – Ultimate Knockout Win
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout couldn’t come at a better time. As the world is facing a pandemic where we all have to social distance ourselves, we have here a chirpy, playful online multiplayer game about bunching up together in swarms to get pass obstacle courses like it’s some kind of a game show.
In fact, I’d argue it is a game show. Don’t call it just another battle royale. It’s a game show game.
Fall Guys marries the appeal of massive multiplayer battle royale with the casual nature of a party game inspired by game shows like Takeshi’s Castle and children games you see played at the playground.
What we got here is possibly one of the biggest hits of 2020.
Fall Guys oozes with charm. The titular Fall Guys are essentially jellybeans with floppy limbs that on its own is already cute. Listen to the adorable whims, oohs and ahhs they make when they hit something, hit another Fall Guy or when they just.. well, fall down.
Even better, these jellybeans are blank slates that can further be customised with a bunch of wacky cosmetics. From furry costumes to crossover cosplay outfits from other games, you can mix and match the cosmetic pieces way you like. Now imagine seeing 60 of those on screen, all with questionable fashion sense, fumbling about.
The whole aesthetic around Fall Guys has this mass mainstream appeal to it. Unless you hate vibrant colours that remind you of an inflatable castle playground found in some corner of a shopping mall. Or a set for a game show.
The walls on the levels look inflated, the nasty swivelling long pole looks padded and cushioned. The slime may not be Nickelodeon green slime, for obvious copyright reasons, but the purple counterpart seen here captures the icky, gooey but playfulness of the texture we’ve seen in game shows before.
And man, that soundtrack is a bop. The bass slaps hard, both literally and figuratively speaking. There are chorus bits where it reminds me of Splatoon- kids speaking gibberish lyric with a filter on the audio (which is just the composer singing while jumping on a bed, pitched higher). And above all, it captures that game show vibe it’s clearly inspired from. It’s just jolly fun.
The only complaint I have is that it looks much sharper and whimsy in 60fps on PC- the PS4 version is lower than that.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is a 60-player battle royale, but replace the combat and looting with short bursts of mini-games and levels. You and 59 players play an “episode” consists of multiple rounds, with every round less players can get through. So your first obstacle course run will see the top 40 players advance, for example. As the numbers dwindle, the remaining players then compete in the final round to win the crown- the ultimate prize.
There’s a lot to love in Fall Guys’ simplicity. Take this example. One of the levels is a survival match where the goal is to not fall off a platform. These are log-shaped, and they rotate down into a pool of slime (that you must not hit or you’re eliminated). There are various sections of the log that rotate independently, and each of them have some walls, bouncing barriers and holes to make it tricky to stay on the log. Survive until enough players are eliminated, or until the clock stops ticking.
That’s a long paragraph to just describe this. Look at this image here.
Immediately you’ll know what to do. There’s also simple instructions in the loading screen, before the round starts and during the round. But all of the rounds are self-described. Go to the finish line. Survive. Grab that tail and have it when the clock is 0.
Battle Royale + Slapstick Physics = Game Show Game
But if it’s just played straight like a game show adapatation, it won’t work. What makes Fall Guys even more fun is the addition of slapstick physics. The Fall Guys will bumble and stumble and behave with physics on. And it can lead to hilarious shenanigans.
Obstacle course race rounds are designed to have chokepoints and it’s silly fun seeing you and many others trapped in falling animation to get through a small door, while the rest of the crowd slowly pushes you out through it as well. And all the Fall Guys are giggling about.
It’s this mix of battle royale and slapstick physics games like Gang Beasts and Human Fall Flat is what makes Fall Guys stand out. Add that it’s released in 2020 when we can’t be in close contact with a crowd, this game also fills that void we have right now. Remember having to walk in pack crowd in a convention? Such times.
Trackmania, But The Collision’s On
The obstacle course races are brilliant all round. It’s like Trackmania with the collisions on. Everybody has the same speed and moves (sort of, more on that later) and you’re here competing to be the best you can. Like game shows, there are many swings to the rounds.
The leader in front of the pack in an obstacle course may not hold that lead long, with some rounds makes it more advantageous to be in the pack just behind the lead. The lead Fall Guy fall or took the wrong turn? Enough time to change direction and lead the way!
Subconscious Jolly Co-Op At Its Best, Human Greed At Its Worst
Some of these courses also requires co-operation. And it’s magical to see that we, as a society, can workout how the Seesaw level works. If everybody fends for themselves and be greedy the seesaw sways down and drops every one of you on it. So you have to subconsciously work together to ensure the seesaw is balanced so most of the players can hop to the next platform. It’s amazing when everyone just gets it and help as many of the jelly beans to progress.
It’s also amazing to see how players can be either greedy, didn’t know how to co-operate, or a mix of both and they continuously be stuck in seesaw hell.
Another simple example of silly human greed is those turnstiles in Hit Parade. If you follow the flow of crowd, you’ll easily get through it. But if there’s even just one guy, just one guy who thinks they’re smarter by going against the grain but push on the turnstiles on the opposite side, that feels nasty. That move not only impedes you, but them as well. And no one wants to give up until more Fall Guys pile up on one side to determine the winner of that outcome.
“Luck As A Skill”
Another point that makes Fall Guys amazing that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s like a party game in that way, where luck (or RNG) plays a huge part of influencing one’s run to the crown.
In a way, it captures that game show magic. Some people that seem to have the skills to go through might just not have the luck to progress thanks to starting at the back of starting line. Or silly flop from someone ruined their timing and have them fall down. Or the door you try to burst is shut tight. Or you have to be the only one not starting on the front row in the final round of Fall Mountain. Or you got drawn in team Yellow in the team rounds. It makes each match unpredictable enough that everyone can have their fair share of fun. And if you lose, there’s always something to blame other than lousy teammates: you were just unlucky.
Team games, apparently a controversial aspect of the game, are also chaotic fun. It’s either a team of two, three or four and there’s always big swings that can happen. Some rounds task you to do, as a team, one thing. But opens the playfield enough to mess up the other teams. There’s a level about rolling a boulder, and my team were the slowest to reach the 50% mark. By then, the separate paths for each team open up to a large incline down. And the leading team members, working together, already waited down for our boulder and stop us from pushing.
It’s proper bullying. It’s nasty. I love it.
Jellybean Processing Has Drawbacks
The one issue about Fall Guys is due to it being an online multiplayer game. As long as the servers are doing fine, which it didn’t on the first week, the game plays well. If not, it just feels outright bad.
Controls can feel mushy with a lot of delay to your inputs. Other physics objects behave warped around oddly thanks to lag. And grabbing becomes an RNG- the not-fun kind, unlike what was discussed before. You just can’t tell if you can are grabbing that egg or tail when the online connection isn’t at its best.
The physics of the Fall Guys are rendered server-side, actual Jellybean processing, as we like to joke as. The good side is that everyone sees the same flops, stumbles and bumbles. The downside is that if the servers are not optimal, you’re going to have a really bad time. If you can connect to one, to begin with.
A match of Fall Guys is quickly paced, you don’t feel like it’s that long. But on average it can be around 15-20 minutes. Again, like a game show would’ve been. Loading times between rounds are quick and as of right now, queuing back in after elimination is quick too, thanks to the currently huge player base.
Fall Guys is naturally a live service game. So expect to see more content coming down the line. Right now at launch, there’s 25 levels or minigames you can expect to see in a round. With more planned to be added.
I wish the levels have a much nicer spread in difficulty. Slime Climb is the de-facto hardest level of the race/obstacle course kind, because you can get eliminated by just falling off. Unfortunately it’s an outlier- maybe a few more “hard” rounds like this should be nice, like how there are levels dedicated for the final round.
And you can bet there’s plenty, plenty of cosmetics available down the line. So far, crossover costumes for Hotline Miami, Half-Life and Enter/Exit The Dungeon has been revealed. And thanks to the game being popular other brands like KFC and… Konami.. are pitching ideas for cosmetics. This game’s popular.
Growing up, I used to watch many of these game shows Fall Guys is inspired from. In particular, Takeshi’s Castle. There’s always that time where I fantasised: what if I was on the show, can I do it better?
That’s exactly what lit me up when I saw the reveal trailer. It’s not a battle royale per se. It’s a games show game. I got the chance to try out the beta, I was in glee, it was exactly what I expect. And the chaos of everybody not knowing what to do and just pile on the chokepoint is stupid fun.
I immensely enjoyed playing Fall Guys. I found myself audible giggling on my own, something that doesn’t happen often. It sparks a joy I rarely found in video games these days.
And best of all, unlike other slapstick physics games, I can play it without any friends.
What makes me infuriated, however, is that the PS4 version doesn’t have invert camera controls. I swear it is available on PC but for whatever reason it’s not on PS4. Which is baffling. I just don’t understand. I’ve sent a ticket to the support site and hopefully it will be added soon. For now, for the first time ever, I’m docking points for this travesty.
On another note, your playing experience may differ if you’re on PC. Apparently hackers and cheaters have found its way here. It’s petty to use hacks for a game about jumping and fumbling. But again, it goes to show how massive this game’s appeal is. Even tryhards want in.
Fall Guys is the perfect storm of ingredients delivered at the right time. This could be the first of many game show games, and I hope this catches on as a new sub-genre for battle royale.
With the depressing state of the world right now, the jolly bliss fun from Fall Guys is what we all need. Despite some server fumbles, Fall Guys haven’t put a foot wrong, and may it continue to stumble its way to greatness.
Review based on the PS4 version played on base PS4. Review copy purchased by the reviewer.