The pitch for Fall Guys goes a little something like this: “It’s a super cute video game version of Takeshi’s Castle.” It’s barely even an elevator pitch. It’s more of an escalator pitch, which you say to all of the publisher business execs as they go in the opposite direction. It’s the kind of pitch that makes you go, “Yes! Why has nobody made this before?”
And it is, quite predictably, brilliant. Takeshi’s Castle was a battle royale a good 14 years before the cult classic film Battle Royale was even a thing, let alone PUBG’s earliest gaming ancestors. Sure, there’s a little less direct combat, less blood shed (or puffs of coloured smoke) as people are knocked out, far fewer tortured Hollywood heroines, but the core concept is the same: 100 players begin, but only one can win.
Playing out over several rounds, you drop into a variety of different games, trying to reach the finish line first or survive until the timer runs out, with a portion of the lowest ranked players then knocked out. You don’t necessarily need to be the absolute front runner, just nicely within the upper half of the throngs of players to be assured of making it through to the next round. That is, of course, until you reach the decider.
In the demo at Gamescom only a handful of modes were on show. The first of these a classic Door Dash, with a selection of doors to leap through, hoping that the soft looking blocks filling the gap will get out of the way. Some of the doors are closed though, the first person to bump into them rebounding as red crosses light up above. As you make it through each set of doors, the number of potential openings narrows until you burst through the final set and drop down for a final sprint to the finish line. The lowest 15 didn’t make it.
The second minigame, Tail Tag, mixes things up considerably. Now all of the remaining players are dropped into an arena with ramps and pathways, swinging hammers, bouncers, and a very different goal in mind. Most of the players have spawned in with a tail, but 15 are left without, and as the clock ticks down those players have to chase after and grab tails from the haves, or risk being a have not when the buzzer goes.
And finally, for the curtailed demo, it was a trip up Fall Mountain, with boulders being fired down the hill at the 70-odd players remaining, bouncing off the barriers being funnelled down paths that can easily wipe out a dozen players at once. Not only that, but you have to decide to go with the crowd or against when pushing through seesaw barriers, try to time your run through spinning hammers and sneak past the edges to get to the crown at the top of the mountain. Even then, you want to time your final jump and grab on as the crown bobs up and down in the air.
The whole game has a wonderful sense of style, with the little characters having a hint of ‘Minion in a boiler suit’ about them. Just their little faces poke out behind luridly coloured or patterned onesies, and there’s plenty of possibility that Mediatonic have for adding cosmetics and cute nods to other indie games through different costumes. Maybe you’ll get to run around with a Hotline Miami rooster hat on? Who knows.
Most importantly, the game is just brilliantly accessible. All you really need to know is how to use the left analogue stick to move and press Cross to jump, while Square to dive adds the possibility of a last gasp dive over the finish line and the right trigger’s grab can come into play for certain game types.
These were just three of the game modes that they have planned, as well, with around 30 headed for launch and the possibility of more being dropped into the game afterwards. There’s absolutely the potential to mix up the objectives, so some could be co-operative team games in addition to the more obvious free-for-alls – the reveal trailer teased something with teams on giant skateboards – and even the arenas for Tail Tag and the sprint up Fall Mountain will be shaken up with some randomised layouts and designs.
It think perhaps the one question mark over all of this is what Mediatonic have planned for the game’s online infrastructure. We played with four separate PCs networked together and all the other competitors being bumbling AI, but if there’s really 100 actual players to start and over 50 for the final round, peer-to-peer networking could struggle. It’s something we weren’t able to clarify at Gamescom, but I hope they can pull it off.
Honestly, the only thing I don’t like about the game is that I’ll have to wait until 2020 to play more of it. When it does eventually arrive on PS4 and PC next year, you can bet I’ll be there on day one trying to keep my winning streak going!