The battle royale genre has been around for a few years now. From PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, to Fortnite, to Apex Legends; the genre has been inundated with first person shooters with little variation. In comes Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout like a breath of fresh air, mixing up the battle royale genre.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is the new breakaway success from Mediatonic that fully capitalizes on the current gaming climate. A climate of easily digestible multiplayer games that are almost as interesting to watch as they are to play.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Windows PC (via Steam) (Reviewed), PlayStation 4
Release Date: August 4th, 2020
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is the logical conclusion of Mario Party mini-games and the battle royale genre. Players control little jelly bean avatars called “fall guys” which can be decorated with all sorts of cosmetics from coloring, to patterns, to accessories.
Each game of Fall Guys consists of a handful of rounds with only one winner at the end from 60 starting contestants. The amount of rounds in a game is highly variable as “Survival” rounds can end without a single elimination with enough skilled players, thus warranting more contests to narrow it down enough for a final.
There are multiple challenges, but every match starts off with a simple “Race”. Only around 45 of the starting contestants will be allowed to qualify by making it to the end of an obstacle course.
Obstacle courses range from “Whirlygig”, a course with spinning propellers and sweeping bars, to “Gate Crash”, a race through walls with multiple doors with only some of them being real. Fans of the series Takeshi’s Castle or MXC might find the obstacles to be more than a little familiar.
Other types of challenges include “Survival” challenges, where players are simply tasked to survive until time runs out or a maximum number of players are eliminated (to prevent a game from ending prematurely from too many eliminations in a single round).
“Team” games are varying in nature, but all share the same rule that the lowest scoring team is eliminated. The game could be to have the most raccoon tails at the end of the timer, a headbutting soccer match, or even a game of zombies.
The “Final” rounds are also incredibly diverse. Despite the fact that only one person can win, one team game is even repurposed for a final showdown.
Players might have to grab the crown at the end of “Fall Mountain”, be the last one with the tail in “Royal Fumble”, or be the last bean standing on the infamous “Hex-A-Gone” course, where players have to carefully manage hex platforms that disappear shortly after being stood on.
The first thing that stands out about the graphics of Fall Guys is its striking aesthetic. The game is plastered with pastels, rubber bouncers, and fruit all over. The commitment to a cute aesthetic serves the game well, and players who found Splatoon to be a fun change of pace from gritty shooters will probably like the stylish trappings of Fall Guys.
Fall Guys makes every effort to keep the user interface as minimalistic as possible. There’s no health or meters to keep track of, just a screen full of little jelly bean guys and the stage (and maybe a scoreboard at the top if it’s a team game). Which with 59 other players on the screen, a full field of view is a blessing.
With its hectic matches, the game conveniently lets you see your bean’s silhouette through terrain and other players. Which helps because early on when there’s a full 60 players, one trap can turn into a bottle neck with a pile of writhing little jelly beans tripping over each other.
Hazards and terrain are clearly identified by the game. Rich pink slime is deadly, shiny pink surfaces are slippery, and inflatable rubber bouncers make barricades that are easily identifiable. Color differences between moving and non-moving platforms help with identifying hazards, particularly in stages with round spinning platforms or seesaws.
Though despite the care taken into making the game’s graphics and design clear and concise, part of it is spoiled by the game’s physics. While the way the avatars collapse, fall, and bounce around is funny, it can be frustrating to get knocked around.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and is an acceptable part of how the game plays. It’s fun even if you get shoved in a corner by a dogpile of players who all got hit by the same windmill which can knock you out early.
The real issue with the physics is that some terrain will act unpredictably with the player. Most notably on the challenge “Hex-A-Gone”, standing in just the right spot between two tiles and getting launched across the map happened more than once. Not to mention it feels random whether your player bean will break their knees when falling or land with grace.
This is especially true on the map “Fruit Chute” which places everyone on a conveyor belt after a small drop. It’s a very real possibility to just collapse when dropping onto the belt, and fall behind everyone who was lucky enough to land properly. But despite funny and potentially frustrating physics moments, the game handles pretty well even with mouse and keyboard.
Players have three actions; grabbing, diving, and jumping. Grabbing is mostly used in challenges like “Tail Tag,” where you have to steal raccoon tails for your team. It can also be used to grab some ledges, and most frequently used to troll your fellow players by trying to knock them off the stage.
But there’s the rub in Fall Guys. It’s addictively fun and simple, but it ultimately feels like it’s more luck than anything. But this is actually to its benefit. First person shooter battle royales can have high skill caps, and an element of luck to an all-ages title like Fall Guys is fitting. It’s difficult to begrudge the game for it.
The music in Fall Guys is catchy and reminiscent of the gibberish Inkling speak in Splatoon. Although unlike Splatoon, Fall Guys only really has one track, and doesn’t emphasize music as part of the game’s aesthetic. But like any game show jingle, it’s a difficult song to really get sick of, and makes a serviceable underscore to the gameplay.
Audio cues for the timer on timed stages could stand to be improved. Team games that can potentially go into overtime only play little countdown ticks, but there’s no noticeable notification when going into overtime. You can repeatedly hear the same dramatic countdown in rapid succession.
With the current trend of “games as a service”, it’s easy to be critical of the cash shop in Fall Guys. But to put it in context, it is innocent enough.
Asides from the outfits in the Collector’s Edition of the game and the “Fast Food Costume Pack,” everything can be earned with in-game currency. Players earn “Kudos” for simply playing the game and performing well, but “Crowns” which are used for the most exclusive cosmetics are earned only by being the last bean standing.
Kudos can be bought with real money, but at present Crowns cannot. With a lack of real money exclusive items with only a few exceptions, Fall Guys can be forgiven for its microtransactions when compared with other more predatory cash shop ecosystems. Particularly since cash skins are bought directly with cash, and there’s no premium currency to manage.
Cosmetics are also able to be earned by leveling up on a season reward track. Since it is only the first season, it’s unknown if the cosmetics available this way will be limited edition and otherwise lost, or if they’ll make a reappearance on the game’s shop after the season ends.
Ultimately, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout manages to be a refreshing and whimsical take on the battle royale genre. While it might be a stretch to consider it a battle royale game, it’s not difficult to imagine that the success of such titles may have spawned the concept of the game.
Players will easily enjoy its quick matches, colorful cosmetics, and fun and frantic gameplay. There’s nothing quite like Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout out there right now, or at least not anything as popular, and its popularity seems to be well-deserved.
Though as a final warning, the game’s unprecedented popularity has left it ill-equipped to handle so many players. But the issue is being addressed, and as Mediatonic phrases it on the game’s Steam page: “We underestimated the number of jellybeans in the jar. We’re working hard to increase server capacity but please be aware that matchmaking may be up and down during the launch window.”
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout was reviewed on Windows PC using a personal copy. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.