Reviewed by Will Schulz
I have always been a huge fan of game shows with bizarre physical challenges and games. Growing up, that meant classics like Legends of the Hidden Temple, Double Dare, and Nickelodeon GUTS. I still watch downloaded episodes of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge from time to time. Mediatonic’s Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout looks to meld the charm of those old game shows with modern battle royale mechanics. The results are a charming, but slightly flawed, online experience.
A game of Fall Guys takes place across a series of minigames. After every minigame, players are eliminated and a new minigame is selected for the next round. This process is repeated until only one player remains and is declared the winner. If you are eliminated at any point, you have the option to spectate the rest of the current game or quit to the menu so you can try again. It’s a simple concept executed in relatively quick fashion, with most games lasting between 10 and 15 minutes.
The mini-games themselves are varied and, for the most part, a blast to play. The “race” courses are my personal favorites, they are Fall Guys at its best. Races are filled with chances for players to knock each other around or get knocked around themselves. The physics are blast, and even when they work against you they’re worth a chuckle. “Survival” courses are generally slower paced and more cutthroat in nature, ending after a certain number of players have been eliminated. The “final” games are, with one exception I will address later, absolutely fantastic. Team games are, unfortunately, more of a mixed bag.
Team games are among the longest rounds in Fall Guys, and that is almost never a good thing. Most team events turn into runaway victories before the half of the time is up. It can feel hopeless to be getting blown out of the water only to see over a minute left on the clock, but it doesn’t feel any better to just bunker down and defend a lead for most of a round. There is a lone exception to these issues, a game where teams roll balls down mostly-divided lanes in a race to the end. The game is over quickly, and unless your team just quits en masse, you rarely feel like things are hopeless.
Gameplay can only get a game like Fall Guys so far, it needs a good presentation to keep it from feeling disjointed. Fortunately, Fall Guys has absolutely nailed its visuals and sound design. Colors are bright and vibrant, with tons of yellow, blue, and pink across nearly every screen of the game, but excellent level design keeps stages from looking too similar. The music is appropriately playful and upbeat, with slightly more intense music for mini-games that call for it. The sound effects are simply adorable, everything from players bumping into each other to being swatted around by swinging obstacles result in squeaks and “oof”s that remind me of toys.
Now that I’ve praised (most of) Fall Guys, it’s time to address the biggest issues: connectivity and lag. Network issues have plagued Fall Guys since launch as tens or even hundreds of thousands of players attempted to play at once. Things have greatly improved recently, but it can still be difficult to find a lobby or stay connected during busier times. Lag is another major issue, especially when it comes to “tag” minigames. I have experienced numerous instances of getting tagged by players that looked to me to be too far away to be tagging me or times when I full-on grab another player and am not credited with a successful tag. Remember that exception I mentioned when I was talking about final rounds? I was talking about a tag game, and it is so uniquely frustrating to lose a final because lag has messed with tag detection. Tagging is only in four minigames, but it is a pretty severe issue.
Fall Guys is certainly the flavor of the month, and I feel the game deserves it. I have a blast every time I pop on to play a few rounds. Some games are more fun than others, but games are typically quick enough that I never feel overly frustrated. I adore the visuals and sound effects. The network issues are still present, but are improving every week. Mediatonic has delivered a fun multiplayer experience with a long lifespan in front of it.
You can check out other features from Will by visiting OnPause.org