Battle royale is a relatively young game genre, but that hasn’t stopped it from almost wearing out its welcome already. Ever since the massive successes enjoyed by the likes of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and especially Fortnite, gamers have seen similar games put out by just about everyone. Many of these quickly crashed and burned, and others managed to put out a good product still enjoyed by many today; Call of Duty: Warzone is one of these.
Good or not, almost all of these games revolve around gathering better equipment and out-shooting one’s opponents. It’s an old formula by now, and it’s all the more boring for those who aren’t particularly good shooting and/or building. For those players, the genre itself might as well be a write-off at this point, or at least it would be if not for Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Thanks to this game, it’s become clear that there are still fresh ideas and fun to be had in battle royale.
Instead of dropping 100 hardened soldier-types into a warzone to fight it out, Fall Guys brings sixty jelly bean-looking mascot characters together for an episode of Wipeout! or MxE. Players still want to be the last bean standing, but there’s little they can do to work against their competition. Shoot-outs are replaced with obstacle courses, log rolling or team games revolving around stealing tails from each other. There’s no equipment to pick up and no advantages to be found on any of the courses; success and failure depend entirely on luck and mastery of the somewhat wonky controls.
Well, perhaps “mastery” is going a bit too far. The controls should be simple enough to master, but they’re also a little chaotic; they never do what one thinks they should and that’s actually a good thing oddly enough. In most games, inconsistent controls would lead players to abandon it out of frustration; losing to bad controls never feels good after all. This still somewhat holds true in Fall Guys too, but it’s forgivable for the most part.
First, the controls don’t feel like they’re broken. Rather, they feel like they’ve been deliberately made to feel a little awkward so as to match one’s top-heavy, nonathletic mascot character. These are characters that look like they should be stumbling all over the place and missing their jumps, so the awkwardness actually fits and even adds to the fun in some cases when one has a particularly silly wipeout or fall. Combining these deceptively simple controls with the simple games helps ensure a low skill-ceiling too. People can only get so good at this, so there’s a good chance that the game won’t become more and more closed-off to new players as it ages.
It’s also helpful that failure doesn’t feel like a punishment in this game like it often does in other battle royale titles. Fall Guys episodes are both short and fast; if one person in the party gets eliminated, they only have to wait five minutes or so at most before they can get back into the fray with their friends. This also holds true while playing solo; it takes about one minute to get into a new game after losing in the last one. Losing players also still get a share of “fame” and “kudos” too, so it’s not like losing players are always walking away empty-handed either. It also helps the game is just downright charming.
Fall Guys looks like it’s set entirely in the “Luncheon Kingdom” from Super Mario Odyssey. All the colors are some variant of bright, saturated neon; the courses all have a cheerful kind of feel to them, and there’s no water here, only that same hot pink soup that Mario had trouble with in his game. The Fall Guys themselves are fun to look at as they’re stumbling their way to the finish line or just hanging out in their scoreboard squares taunting the other ones. These guys spend all their time getting knocked-around and they don’t seem to mind it one bit. One can’t help but smile after watching them do their thing for a few minutes.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout isn’t a flawless game; it’s got some connection issues at the moment and the game could do a better job of cycling through its available games. It also needs more items for players to spend their hard-earned “Kudos” as well. Aside from this though, Mediatonic has created a very charming and enjoyable take on an otherwise tired genre. Hopefully they can keep the game feeling fresh over the next few months, thereby retaining interest and encouraging other developers out there to bring their own outlandish ideas to life.