Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds may have popularised the last player standing format, but Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout has truly unlocked its potential by painting it hot pink and putting it in a hot dog costume. Mediatonic’s family-friendly formula is a colourful, bouncy breath of fresh air that takes a different, less explosive approach to battle royales without losing any of the tension. Instead of C4, it’s Vitamin C you’ll be steering clear of as you’re bombarded with monstrously overgrown oranges in just one of its two dozen game show-like events. The vast majority of these minigames hit the mark, offering fun and frustration in equal amounts. Couple them with a vibrant aesthetic and a brain-tunneling soundtrack and Fall Guys manages to make you want to punch the air when you’re winning and scream at your screen when you’re losing, but you’ll be laughing either way.
The concept of Fall Guys will be familiar to those that have seen game shows such as Wipeout or Takeshi’s Castle. Guide your very own customized jelly bean avatar through up to five rounds of inflatable carnage and you’ll have a shot at taking home the crown. Each match is framed as an episode and lasts around 15 minutes at most, which further drives home that TV show feel. The controls are simple with running, jumping, diving, and grabbing as your only tools to navigate obstacle courses, avoid enemies, or cling on for dear life in more survival-centered events that threaten to plunge you into the slimy depths. If you do happen to get eliminated then you have the option to watch those remaining battle it out for the title while the musical equivalent of glycerin is poured into your ears.
A game show is only as good as its games though, and this is where Fall Guys’ current pool of 24 largely triumphs. The obstacle course-style races are where I’ve found the most enjoyment, especially as it gets down to the wire as beans bounce off one another and desperately lunge for the finish line trying to make the cut.
I’ve been particularly enjoying the havoc of Hit Parade and the precarious spinning platforms of The Whirlygig, which often descend into chaos as twenty too many characters try to fit through a small gaps or all jump for the same narrow platform. There’s always more than one path to take, some offering a high risk-reward option, which is welcome as it never feels like you’re completely out of a race despite being near the back of the pack. In Door Dash you hurtle towards the bottom of a track attempting to dive through doors, some of which will blast open, whereas others will stay firmly shut. There’s a simple pleasure found in walking through an opening as the opponent next to you slams face first into a brick wall.
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But games that rely on silly physics can often take as much as they give, as seen in See Saw, which varies from the other races in that it can become incredibly frustrating almost instantly. The whole course consists of multiple enormous seesaws, funnily enough, and largely relies on your fellow competitors understanding how these playground apparatus made for toddlers work. It’s baffling how very few of them appear to, as you’ll find yourself sliding off their hopelessly titled platforms again and again due to, you know, basic physics.
Then there’s Slime Climb, which is notably more difficult than most and served as my nemesis for many of my early hours playing Fall Guys. It’s a real sorter of the wheat from the chaff as slime slowly rises and you battle the clock, your opponents, and a mountain of obstacles. While most events usually cull Fall Guys’ initial pool of 60 players by about a quarter to half each time, it wasn’t uncommon for only a handful of players to be left after this event. But there is nuance to master here, and I soon found myself able to succeed where I once so often failed, now able to consistently conquer the climb and no longer audibly groaning when it appears in the rotation.
That said, there are no offline modes in Fall Guys currently, so that mastery only came out of a lot of online losses. There’s no practice area to get to grips with the two dozen events, but more crucially there isn’t any scope for local co-op. It feels a bit of a miss to not have the option to play split-screen or against the AI in your own private matches. Most of the fun I’ve had with Fall Guys has been when playing with friends, whether that be cheering them on once I’ve already been eliminated or laughing at them as they get hurled into the abyss thanks to a 20-foot long banana. What’s a party game without a healthy dose of schadenfreude, after all?
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Another small but similar disappointment is the limit of a maximum of four players to a party, which is the only way to ensure you’ll enter the same tournament together. I can only think how fun it would be to have a lobby largely populated with people you know battle it out for the crown. With this in mind, the option to create your own custom matches and playlists would be the feature right at the top of my wishlist for the future.
Another reason for this being so desirable is that while most events are highly enjoyable, some Fall Guys rounds, well, fall flat. These include Perfect Match, an all too simple memory game that results in very few eliminations and – most criminally of all – is just a bit boring when compared with the mayhem found elsewhere.
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Any of the rounds that include the ‘tail tag’ mechanic can become an exasperating affair. At their core, they require you to chase opponents around an arena and grab their tails from them. This can often become an exercise in futility, however, as the grab mechanic often doesn’t latch on to them unless you’re very close, and getting very close is a challenge due to the fact that you are moving at the same speed as the tail’s current owner. It’s disappointing that this mechanic is recycled in three separate games, especially when one of those is among the three ‘finals’ events meant to be the climactic end to a match. It can really take the wind out of my sails to see Royal Fumble as the crowning event after fighting hard to get there.
Then there’s team events. When partied up with friends these can be the highlight of an episode as you work together to achieve your goals – quite literally, in some cases, as you can play bitesize games of soccer. Conversely, they can be the most infuriating part of Fall Guys if your team members are not pulling their weight. I understand that this is a risk with playing any online team game, but it feels at odds with Fall Guys’ free-for-all nature at times when you’re left helpless as a teammate scores another own goal.
Thankfully any frustrations are soon forgotten if you manage to get that all important crown at the end. Whether that be quite literally grabbing it at the summit of the frantic race finale Fall Mountain or being the last left standing on the disintegrating geometry of the surprisingly strategic Hex-a-Gone. There’s a distinct sense of accomplishment and pure joy that the best battle royale games give you when grabbing a victory, and that feeling is the clearest sign yet that Mediatonic has got it right with Fall Guys.
Source: IGN Video Games All