If you haven’t heard of Fall Guys by now, then you’ve been living under a rock for the past week. With millions of people grabbing the game free on PlayStation Plus and it shooting up the Twitch viewership table, this family friendly battle royale contender has been getting a lot of attention since launch. So, is it worth all the server troubles, or is Takeshi’s spirit waiting for you in another castle?
The Fall Guys themselves look like less terrifying little Mr Blobbys. Rotund and jellybean-shaped, there’s a squidginess to their appearance that makes all their arm waving runs and clumsy stumbling through the levels look adorable. Add to that the ability to slap a patterned skin on them, change the two-tone colours of their design and then dress them up in all manner of costumes, and you have the recipe for the kinds of quirky unlockable cosmetics that every battle royale seems to need.
Don’t worry though. While Fall Guys is a battle royale, weeding out the weak/unlucky round by round until one player is crowned the champion, this is not a blood sport. The endless comparisons to Takeshi’s Castle and Total Wipeout have already been made, and they stick. The presentation feels like a slapstick TV show with each round finishing by punting the losers off the screen.
You really only need to know a few basic controls in order to play: movement, jumping and diving, and grabbing. On an even more fundamental level, you just need to be able to run and jump for the vast majority of the game modes.
Each Episode (as Fall Guys calls its matches) starts off with sixty players, whittling them down across five rounds to find the winner. There’s a fairly wide set of modes to do so, from obstacle course races that throw boulders at you and make you try to avoid spinning hammers, to puzzle rounds that test your memory or task you with finding the safe route across a bunch of wobbly platforms – easier said than done when there’s 20 other players all jostling for a qualifying place! Those that survive or cross the finish line in time move on to the next round.
Then there are the team games, splitting everyone up into two or three groups and giving some players the lurgy to spread to the other team, eggs to frantically hoard in your corner of the map, or a game of giant football. They act as a kind of leveller in Fall Guys, throwing in an element of randomness and taking away the benefit that individual memorising of the game modes and skill can provide. Of course, that can also make them feel unfair and frustrating if you’re on the losing team, but a new game after a loss is always only moments away.
It doesn’t take long for a bit of repetition to kick in. The randomisation of how rounds are picked in Fall Guys does mean that there’s still new modes to see after a few hours, but you’ll have seen the see-saws several times, got to know the obstacles courses and more. Some of the original spiciness disappears at that point. Once you’e learnt the trick for how to quite painlessly get across the see-saws, for example, you can regularly get through in the top 10 (so long as you aren’t bumped off in the early rush!).
Cross the finish line and you’ll be waiting and watching other players as they bungle their way through, and if you’re playing with friends you’ll be cheering them on, but on your lonesome you’ll likely be reaching for your phone to scroll through social media in silence until the next round has loaded. The absence of local split-screen multiplayer feels notable as well, with the game’s atmosphere feeling perfect for some couch play.
Thankfully, there’s some bonus replay incentive beyond simply hunting that coveted number one spot. Fall Guys touts a battle pass like system with players unlocking new cosmetics, emotes, and other items as they earn Fame (XP) from matches and level up. Currently there are some sixty-odd days left in season one with the promise of more to follow complete with new levels, features, and ways to dress up your Fall Guy. You never know, we might even see a Geralt skin from The Witcher III or V from Cyberpunk 2077.
Unfortunately, Mediatonic have struggled with the popularity that Fall Guys has (rightly) seen over its first few days. Their servers have struggled to keep up with demand, which isn’t terribly surprising when the game has been dropped into the laps of millions of PlayStation 4 players as part of PlayStation Plus. When it works though, we’ve found it to be pretty solid and robust.
There’s a little bit of lag at times, most noticeable in the football team game and a degree of imprecision when grabbing another player in other modes, but the bounciness of the game’s visuals and physics help diminish that factor. Unless, that is, you’re on the receiving end of a last gasp defeat, as someone grabs your tail to knock you out with seconds to go, or you think you’ve managed to leap and grab the game winning crown, only to smack your head and watch someone else take the win.