Some games take a while to grow on you. Maybe it takes an hour or two of playtime. Maybe its greatness only begins to reveal itself after a particular plot twist, or once a game-changing ability is unlocked. It takes all of 30 seconds to understand what makes Fall Guys so awesome. By subverting the still-blossoming battle royale genre with party game mechanics, Mediatonic's breakout game packs all of the tension of Call of Duty: Warzone (opens in new tab) or PUBG (opens in new tab) into an adorable Mario Party for the masses.
Release date: August 5, 2020
Platform: PC, PS4
Developer / Publisher: Mediatonic
Fall Guys is a battle royale like no other. Lobbies fill to a maximum of 60 players, each represented by cutesy bean-like avatars customized as owls, dinosaurs, pineapples, and more. Only one player can walk away with Fall Guys' coveted crown, and the stress of surviving until the end is just as riveting here as fighting to reach the final circle under a barrage of gunfire in your typical battle royale experience. Thankfully, Fall Guys eschews anything resembling guns or grenades. Instead you'll find a wide variety of colorful party games that are so fun and hilarious that your enduring failure to win never threatens to break your spirit.
A full match takes anywhere from 3-5 rounds, each of which are randomly selected from a field of 24 different levels at launch. Amazingly, there isn't a bad level in the bunch. Some are more exciting than others, like one that has the mass of bouncy players racing across giant seesaws to be among the qualifying few to advance, or another which pushes players to sprint up a steep hill as massive fruits spill out and attempt to halt their progress. You'll have favorites, no doubt, but I was stunned to make it through all of the levels at launch without dreading the return of any one of them in the rotation.
Regrettably, there are no private games right now – and given how the servers have been slammed, it's probably for the best – but you can invite friends to games. There are no squad-based modes, but it's fun to keep track of where your friends are, maybe even as the cause of their narrow triumphs or hilarious defeats.
On some levels, like a soccer mode called Fall Ball or the especially messy Egg Scramble, surviving players are split into momentary teams, which is about as close as the game comes to being infuriating given how some players refuse to follow the rules of the round. Still, I find myself genuinely looking forward to whichever level the randomizer lands on, regardless of whether I'm running rounds solo or working with a group to move another step closer to getting my hands on the crown.
The control scheme is simple and thus one of the game's greatest feats. It's difficult to imagine that anybody, whether a seasoned gamer or a first-timer, could misunderstand the premise of Fall Guys at a passing glance, and the controls are similarly welcoming. You can run, jump, dive, and grab – and that's it. This helps attract a wider audience.
If novice gamers hear about a new battle royale, they may turn the other way given the genre's history of sweaty-palmed showdowns. But imbued with silly mini-games, there's a lot more mass appeal here, and the controls are accommodating to that crowd. The grab mechanic can be used in dastardly ways too, like holding someone in place until they fall off a sinking platform, or dragging someone down to elimination with you. In time, the beginners who may have worried they couldn't compete may be responsible for others' untimely slips and falls.
Fall Guys' blend of battle royale and party games allows it to smartly dodge the early-game frustrations of the former. Here, you won't need to worry about loading into a game only to immediately fail if you can't quickly settle into the rhythm of it. Rounds play out in about two minutes apiece, so elimination comes early for many and often for most, but it's never punishing. With its bubble gum color palette and energetic soundtrack, Fall Guys is the party game of all party games. It's a brilliant spectator game too, and smartly throws you right into spectator mode when you finish a round earlier than others. Should you lose quickly, watching the rest of the chaos is almost as fun as jumping into a new round, which happens quickly should you choose to do it.
Though the high tension and self-explanatory levels make it an exhilarating game to watch or play at all times, there's a bit too much randomness to expect Fall Guys to attract a hyper-competitive crowd in the months ahead. Physics can get unpredictable at times, like when there are so many players descending on the same small area and bodies just start piling up. Some can even be seen crowd-surfing, much to their still humorous dismay. Each level begins with survivors huddled behind the starting line, but placement in that waiting area seems totally random, meaning those at the front or sides may have a slight edge through no efforts of their own.
There is an irresistible mix of skill and luck for friends and more lighthearted competitors, but Fall Guys favors good fortune in such a way that reveals a shorter tail than other games that have blown up at launch. No one can rely on skill forever in Fall Guys, which is a feeling some players surely won't enjoy. Then again, its first few days post-launch have been nothing short of meteoric, so maybe Fall Guys' penchant for chaos is enough to make up for the game's lesser commitment to a best-player-wins mentality shared by its genre counterparts in both battle royale or party games. Because defeat never feels crushing and you're only ever a few seconds from beginning anew with 59 other goofballs, the one-more-game urge is rarely so tantalizing as it is in Fall Guys
Cosmetics come in the form of costumes, emotes, and colorful patterns for your Minion-like avatars to show off. Some of these items can only be unlocked with Crowns, which you must earn with wins or by leveling up, but those seem to come quite slowly if you're not coming out on top every few hours.
The other currency, Kudos, can be earned through regular play or they can be purchased with real money, although I actually have less of a problem with this system as the prices seem fair. You can obtain several thousand Kudos for $10, and costumes, emotes, and color patterns in the store seem to go for about 800 Kudos or less. Everything is entirely cosmetic and you'll be able to unlock most without ever spending a penny if you're willing to trade your time. Mediatonic is calling this launch period Season 1, so there's an understanding that Fall Guys will be a living game with new levels, cosmetics, and much more to come, but even at launch, there's little standing in the way between Fall Guys and world domination. It is as tense as it is hilarious and as irresistible as it is colorful.
The team needs to quickly expand its operations to fix its congested servers, but this is, in the grand scheme, a better problem to have than most of what may ail a game studio, and it's representative of Fall Guys' immediate and endless charm. The battle royale genre has seen so many successes over the past three years, and by fusing it with a frenzy of party game elements, Fall Guys has rewritten the rule book like none before it.