By Spencer Furniss
It isn’t often that a game comes out of the ether and surprises the world by becoming a phenomenon over night. So much of our year is spent tracking release dates (and pushed back release dates) that any game that doesn’t fit that schedule is looked over in favor of larger releases.
Enter Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. A game filled to the brim with fun for the sake of fun and a love of gaming with others that shines through on every stage … for the most part.
I would like you all to meet Gordan Beanman, the silent protagonist of my play time in Fall Guys so far.
Hopefully through his actions and my words, we can express exactly why this game is so popular right now.
The Most Extreme of Elimination Challenges
Do you remember back in the day when you would stay home sick from school and all you had was the terrible daytime TV to keep you company?
There was one show which always brightened my time while I was sick, and that was Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC from now on). Taken from the Japanese game show Takeshi’s Castle, MXC was a godsend of ridiculous television. Dozens of competitors would compete from round to round, trying not to get eliminated in stages where the objective would simply be to navigate an EXTREME obstacle course. This is the most basic concept of Fall Guys.
With a starting player count of 60, you will jump, grab, and fall your way through 5 out of the 20 stages in the game (as of writing this review). Every round will see fewer and fewer beans (the name of the player avatars) competing as there is either a set number of players who are allowed to cross the finish line, or a certain number of players who will need to be eliminated every round. Think of this game as Wipeout meets Mario Party mixed with a battle royale.
Stages are decently varied, with every round beginning with a race through an obstacle course and the final round being a race to either reach a crown or be the one holding it at the end of a time limit.
In between the first and final rounds are stages that you could find on the latest game show flops on TV, like fitting yourself in the gaps of oncoming walls that will knock you into the water, or Mario Party-esque games where you need to stand on a tile that matches where the game tells you to stand.
Every time you move from round to round, the game rolls through the available minigames and gives you a random one, which ensures no match ever truly feels the same. This is great for replayability, especially since you will never have to deal with the same players every round.
When it comes to picking out the negatives of the stages, my biggest complaint is about the team-based games. This was one of the few times I ever felt frustrated in a game that otherwise just supplied pure dopamine.
One team will often be missing a player or two compared to the others, and these game types can feel unwinnable depending on your teammates. There is no communication within Fall Guys, so you will have several beans on your team struggling to do a simple task while the other teams are split up and in perfect sync with each other.
These team-based games are simple things like “Keep Away” with tails or “Hoard them All”, where you collect eggs and bring them to your side of the arena. The team that has the least amount of eggs at the end of the round is kicked out. You could be the best solo player in the match, but if your team doesn’t do well in a team game it doesn’t matter, which is kind of a slap in the face for a battle royale game when you think about it.
Big Beautiful Beans
Two of the things that brings me the most joy when it comes to Fall Guys are the music and art style.
The music is very game-show-esque with upbeat tunes and tones, and somehow never got on my nerves. You will hear the same few songs over and over through each match you play, but they fit so well within the game that I just found myself smiling to it every time. There’s a magic to the music that, no matter how many times I lost during a session, I never found it grating.
The graphics and art style are another piece of magic that Devolver Digital brought to the table. Each stage is a bright neon adventure from start to finish, and it reminded me of indoor jungle gyms I would visit as a kid. From the moment each round starts, your eyes are treated to lovingly crafted platforms and swinging hammers.
While this party game won’t win any awards for realism, it will be loved for being a bright spot in a year where we played games like The Last of Us 2 and Doom Eternal.
Beyond music and the beauty of the stages is the customization of your bean! As I said earlier, my bean is Gordan Beanman. For preordering the game on Steam, I received a Gordan Freeman skin (complete with headcrab!), but you can use in-game currency to purchase more costumes like a T-Rex or Pineapple skin for your bean. You can also gather different color schemes and patterns for your bean, dressing them in your best to stand out from the rest.
Where the hell did this fame come from?!
On day one of the game’s launch, servers were up and down for hours throughout the day. This wasn’t because of faulty servers or poor management, but because of the sheer volume of people pouring in to play this phenomenal party platformer. The servers could accommodate 150,000 players on launch day between PS4 and PC (the two places you can play Fall Guys), but by the end of the day Fall Guys had been sold or downloaded for free on PS+ around one million times. How did this happen?
Twitter and Twitch truly were magical marketing tools for this game. Twitch streamers like Dan’s Gaming, who regularly streams and uploads YouTube videos for tens of thousands of people, streamed the beta of Fall Guys. He wasn’t the only popular streamer playing the beta, and most of the popular streamers had hundreds of beta keys for viewers to try their hand at the game before it released. Knowing that there was a chance to get early access generated a large amount of demand with limited supply, as after a short amount of time even the official Fall Guys Twitter ran out of beta keys to give away.
And oh boy, the Fall Guys Twitter page is just… Mwuah! (Like a chef’s kiss! It’s a joke on their twitter page, I swear!)
Every few hours, the Fall Guys Twitter would interact with the thousands of fans eagerly awaiting the release. They would have fun joking about the stages in the game and ideas that others would bring to the table, or just ask questions about what teams are best and how many wins people have racked up.
Recently they have been tweeting back and forth with developers like CD Projekt Red to work on a Witcher and Cyberpunk collaboration. They’ve retweeted awesome fan concepts for bean skins and even started meme wars with popular YouTubers or Twitch streamers, which only generates more interest in the game. It was truly a successful case study in how to market an indie game.
Guess the number of beans in the jar!
According to Steam, I’ve spent about four hours playing Fall Guys so far. In that time, I have probably played at least one hundred matches. Not once have I won a final round, yet I still queue back up like a madman every time I lose. There’s something about this game, despite some aggravating stages, that just keeps me coming back over and over again.
So how would I rate it? Do I suggest this game to everyone?
10/10 : I find this game so refreshingly simple in design, while also being bright and colorful with it’s own style. The landscapes underneath the different stages all look beautiful as you fall to your doom, with the platforms themselves being distinct, clear, and crisp. The visuals receive no complaints from me.
7/10 : As I said earlier, I love the music of the game. Not once have I become sick of the same few songs in the game. But at the same time, there are very few songs in the game. While I love them while I’m listening to them, I could not hum you more than the in-between-stages tune. It is definitely a good thing that they didn’t go overboard with sound effects and zany music, but the game could still use some more varied and memorable tunes to go along with its stages.
7/10 : The only reason this category loses any points from me is because of the team-based stages. There is nothing more frustrating than having an awful team in a game that does not allow you to carry your team alone, unless it’s mostly a battle royale, which is the case here. Otherwise, the gameplay loop is incredibly satisfying whether you lose or not and will have you coming back time and time again.
8/10 : Fall Guys is a fantastic game with more stages and customization options slated for the future. With so many people buying and playing the game every day, Devolver Digital has all the assurance in the world that whatever effort they put into the game will be devoured and loved by the playerbase. With only a few negatives in my books, Fall Guys will be my standout surprise game of the year. Itwill be something I come back to anytime my mood has fallen and I need a pick-me-up.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to racing for my first crown