There is no denying that my love for Fall Guys has been existent since late February– just before the United States divulged into the depths of the ongoing pandemic, I had the chance to play– probably too many times– Fall Guys. A massive double sided booth that occupied the space between Devolver Digital and the Indie Mega Booth, it was impossible to miss the colorful characters, banging tunes, and crowd gasps as players faced off all weekend long at PAX East. The winner of our Best of PAX East 2020 award, Fall Guys is a fresh take on the battle royale genre, but does it still warrant the praise?
In Fall Guys you control a fumbling character through a variety of outlandish obstacle courses and team-based cooperative rounds in order to stand as the final player out of sixty. Possessing the ability to run, jump, dive, and grab you must force yourself through a rainbow of customized competitors in order to win each round and inch your way closer to the coveted crown.
With an unpredictable rotation of game modes such as racing from one point of an obstacle course to the other, diving into soccer balls to outscore the other team, or hoarding piles of eggs– Fall Guys is a marriage of skill and luck that even when I failed, it was usually accompanied by a boisterous laugh and chuckles from my party members. A rare moment in a game where not only can failure reward your group with entertainment, but even when I failed and my friends were still chasing victory, I never felt uninvested in the action on screen.
Of the available game modes, Hex-A-Gone, which was initially a game I dreaded, has quickly become one of my favorites. Dreaded not because I think the game mode is bad, but because I could never win and my anxiety was through the roof the longer you stay in that round. Hex-A-Gone is usually a final round with less than ten players competing to be the final person standing above the slime, while each platform you touch disappears shortly after contact, it’s a constant battle of out running and out jumping your opponents while making the snap decisions of which way to run or jump to last the longest. Heightened concentration paired with the waning level of calm, as the available platforms decrease substantially by the second, is the perfectly calculated mixture of stress and excitement that when you succeed in surviving, the euphoria bursts through instantaneously. It may be the standout game mode within Fall Guys.
Even though there are a set number of game modes and matches can sometimes be short if you lose early, the variety in game types and the chaotic nature of the game will result in most matches being completely different from previous bouts simply because of the other players in your match. Levels like Slime Climb don’t change their layout, but a bump from another player, someone diving into you, or missing a timed jump will all unravel a course you think you may know front-to-end in a matter of seconds. This balance is hard to attain, but mostly seeps through and becomes apparent in each match. Even when I feel confident on my run in a specific level, there’s always a tickle in my hands that something could go awry at any moment and push me off the stage or cause me to fall over.
Fall Guys takes doughy looking creatures and gives you the ability to dress them up as hot dogs, pineapples, raptors, and more while dropping you into glistening obstacle-filled worlds that shine and pop off of the screen. Though, nothing seems to be made out of food, the world has a candy shop feel with the colors and textures looking like a jar of gumballs and lollipops burst onto the floor. Coupling this simplistic yet original world with catchy tunes, from the menu screen all throughout each course, has you completely hooked into the Fall Guys experience as soon as you start up the game. Even when queue times were high due to the high volume of players trying to get into matches, the Seinfeld-esque bass lines powered me through.
Earning cosmetic upgrades in Fall Guys is similar to other battle royale games, in that there is a season of progression and a store. Though, at least for now the first season of unlocks for Fall Guys is a free season so you are able to progress and unlock everything available simply by playing the game and earning experience, Kudos, and crowns. Kudos and crowns are the currency you can use in the daily rotating shop to purchase new outfits, colors, and patterns for your fall guy. Kudos and crowns can both be earned by playing the game, though there is also the ability to purchase Kudos. Although, I haven’t had a problem unlocking the items in the store that I’d want simply by playing so I never felt like the game was asking for my money.
Addressing the online matchmaking is tough to do at the current moment, simply because Fall Guys skyrocketed in popularity and I don’t think Media Tonic or Devolver Digital forecasted for that, so their servers have been overwhelmed in an unplanned way. That being said, I’m going to refrain from commenting on the matchmaking for now, since they are actively trying to rectify these issues. Not to mention, most online games have issues at launch– not that Fall Guys or anyone else should be given a pass, but I think it’s worth noting and looking at this through a specific lens. If these issues don’t get resolved in a reasonable timeline, then I would feel more comfortable calling it out as a negative on the game, but instead now I will simply mention that the frustration exists but I understand why. All of that being said, when the matchmaking worked, it was easy to group up with three friends and drop into matches. I do hope in the future, they add the ability to group up with a party larger than four, or even add the ability to host custom lobbies for friends.
There’s no escaping the addicting, energetic gameplay and aesthetic that Media Tonic have come up with. I think Fall Guys is a shining example of how indies can shape and further along the industry, taking the battle royale genre, injecting some new ideas and life into it and– in my opinion– making the best battle royale since Tetris 99. As it stands in its current state– launch matchmaking issues aside– Fall Guys is the breakout hit of 2020, setting not only the benchmark for party games but erecting the new goal post for what battle royales can be. I hope to see Media Tonic continue to support Fall Guys and add additional content in the coming months and years.
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