By Josh Ong |★★★★ |
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout appeared from relative obscurity. Just a few days ago, I had no idea about the title. Having spotted the game appearing on multiple Steam friends’ profiles over the last few days, I was very intrigued, mostly due to my lack of knowledge surrounding it. However, after one particularly low day, two of my friends bought it for me as a means of lifting my spirits. Within just minutes I was near smitten with the game’s uncurbed absurdity, so much so that I bought my friend a copy so they didn’t miss out on the senseless fun. Needless to say, they succeeded.
The premise of the game is oddly familiar, as if one were to combine Total Wipeout, Takeshi’s Castle, Hole in the Wall, and CBBC’s Trapped into one bite size format with near infinite replayability. At the start of each round, you are in control of a jellybean, who is dropped in a lobby with up to 59 others, with the end goal of avoiding elimination, which can come in various forms depending on the randomly selected minigame you find yourself in. The style of games range from races, with a myriad of obscene obstacles thrown in, to variants of football, tag, memory games, and even a mode similar to the ending of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which your navigation of real and fake tiles will indeed question your judgement of if you chose wisely. In various race-style games, victory is a case of crossing the line before other people, in the football minigame, it’s a case of scoring more goals, and so on. Equally, unlike many titles released today, this game seems a near complete package at launch. With a fair few hours already clocked, I still found myself running into modes and maps I had not yet experienced, which was particularly refreshing.
The game also allows for a reasonable amount of customisation for your jellybean, with a host of different cosmetics available to grab. Whilst the majority of these outfits and character designs can be bought using earned in-game currency, some are only obtainable via crowns, which are gained each time a player wins a match. The game equally sports a free battle-pass style system for unlocking new outfits and emotes, as well as a store that changes its items on sale daily, akin to that of Fortnite.
This game exudes fun from the get go; every element is saturated with bright colours and patterns. This is only reinforced by an infectiously funky theme that’s near impossible to dislike. Like the vast majority of gamers nowadays, I often find myself turning off in-game music, preferring to listen and choose my own Spotify playlists that I feel would best match the mood of the game, or whatever mood I’m personally in. Here, however, I find myself actively switching off my own music in favour of the provided themes. Where in other games I would play a more chilled out playlist if I was tired or a little down, this game uplifts your mood almost immediately, forcing any form of sadness, or complementary music, into redundancy. I couldn’t choose a better pairing to the pure chaotic entertainment that this game provides. It strikes the perfect chord in sustaining energy and excitement, whilst simultaneously being unobtrusive. The music doesn’t distract you from what’s happening on screen, it only bolsters what you’re already experiencing.
“I don’t find myself chasing victories; I do play to win, but the core gameplay means that I’m having fun, even if I’m dead last.”
Most strikingly, the game provides me with a feeling that I have only really experienced across a few other titles. That age old feeling of ‘just one more turn’ when you’re deeply engrossed in the grand strategy of Civilization or Stellaris transforms itself here into ‘just one more game’. To be honest, I am yet to grab myself a win, but I am neither disheartened nor downtrodden by this. Its simple and frankly achievable in-game objectives, mean that victory is genuinely obtainable by all. But, more importantly, I don’t find myself chasing victories; I do play to win, but the core gameplay means that I’m having fun, even if I’m dead last. I would happily be at the back of the race just to experience the pure bliss of watching my best friends’ jellybeans getting absolutely lambasted by massive pieces of flying fruit, putting them back to square one as you successfully avoid the other obstacles climbing to the top of a slime-ridden slope.
This however, has been almost perfectly counterbalanced by the game servers’ performance, or lack thereof. As the news of this game’s unadulterated amusement meteorically spread far and wide, it was clear that the developers had not foreseen such a large player intake over a short period of time. What has resulted are servers that have almost as much downtime as uptime, with the developers’ ‘Server Owl Bot’, whose sole purpose is to provide status updates on their functionality, having already reached 125,000 followers on Twitter at the time of writing this article, despite only existing a few days. These, however, are teething problems that I am sure will be remedied in the immediate future. It’s worth noting that even AAA games released by major game studios often suffer from the same fate, so we can’t judge them too harshly for their comparatively small studio for being rather swamped.
For someone like me, whose main gaming discipline lies in fast-paced, competitive esports titles, this game provides a breath of fresh air away from the stresses of climbing ranked ladders and the rollercoaster of emotions that come attached. Fall Guys is consistently fun, regardless of how much or little you’ve played it. Much of its beauty and success lies within how the game chases simplicity across the board. I can almost guarantee that even those who do not play games regularly could pick up a controller and be beguiled into its tomfoolery almost instantaneously. There are few games in the world that fill me with unbridled joy and excitement; Fall Guys, at least when the servers are working, now sits firmly on that list.