Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout Review
Just when everyone thought the Battle Royale format was dead, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout came into our lives and proved there are creative ways to make a winner-takes-all game. Rather than shooting or blowing up your opponents to win, you must outlast everyone in a series of contests reminiscent of classic game shows. As someone who grew up dreaming of participating in shows like Legends of the Hidden Temple, a game based around competing in obstacle courses and who-can-last-the-longest competitions is right up my alley. You can play it alone, but it really shines when you play with your friends. The gameplay is mostly a blast, but some game modes offer little and the mechanics will make you want to pull your hair out.
Fall Guys is accessible. The gameplay is simple enough that anyone can play for the first time and have a shot of making it far into the competition. The only actions you need to perform are moving, jumping, grabbing, and diving. It’s also easy to understand what players need to do to win the competitions. It keeps the games as simple as possible, and all of them begin the match with a few sentences that explain what the player needs to do. There are four matches that eliminate a few people at a time, then the fifth match determines the winner. Fall Guys has 25 different game modes as of right now. Developer Mediatonic claims it will add more game modes to keep Fall Guys fresh.
The level designers dreamed up the matches to be 50% skill and 50% luck. By adding so much randomness it prevents the game from becoming too competitive and more of a game you can play and enjoy even when you don’t do well. For example, in a game called Slime Climb, all the players must navigate up an obstacle course while a deadly pink slime rises behind you. Players that have better control of their character will more easily navigate the obstacles, but there is one part where you must jump over gaps onto two platforms where a block slowly extends out from the wall which will knock you down. The area is so crammed with people at this point that it becomes difficult to not constantly bump into each other. Ultimately, the ones that get by are the ones who get lucky by not running into someone while jumping or the ones who started the race at the front of the line, which is random. Not being able to get past this point is frustrating, but building the game this way allows for more people to have a chance of winning rather than the same few players winning every time. It keeps it a party game rather than a competitive one.
While the individual games, like Slime Climb, are maybe close to 50/50 between skill and luck, there are also team-based games that are not so even. With team games, individual players have less control over the outcome. I usually felt like a small boat in an ocean of bad teammates. I’m not the kind of person who yells at my screen while playing video games, but I couldn’t help myself when my own teammates kept grabbing me while I was trying to gather items to win the game. Every game with online gameplay will have bad teammates. The difference with Fall Guys is it makes it feel you wasted your time playing well in the individual matches leading up to the matches with bad teammates. The best way to counteract this issue is to play in a party with your friends. That way you will have at least a few competent comrades (assuming you have somewhat skilled friends). It also makes the overall experience more enjoyable when you have people rooting for you, or against you if your buddies are jerks. Another issue with team games is that they lack the creativity of the individual-focused ones. Team games mostly involve trying to collect more of an item than the opposing team. The fact that the most exciting team game mode is a faux soccer match where the balls move a few feet at a time speaks volumes.
The second biggest problem I experienced with Fall Guys is the mechanics. The actions players need to perform are minimal but still manage not to work a significant amount of the time. The grab fails the most. Several game modes require you to take the tail of an opponent, but countless times I would grab it without it registering. At first, I thought I was doing something wrong, but after some research, I found out I’m not alone in this struggle. It’s the most common complaint found online. The jump mechanic is also finicky, but it’s not as common. I eventually accepted that there would be times where I’d click jump and my character would refuse to comply. I still glare at the screen when it happens, but it’s comforting to know these issues happen for everyone.
Despite the frustration that comes with Fall Guys, it’s hard not to keep coming back. Any annoyance I felt when a random event knocked me out — like a giant banana landing on top of me — was more than made up for when I snagged a win. Besides the feeling of accomplishment, another bonus to winning is that you receive a Crown. Crowns are one of the two forms of currency along with Kudos. Both currencies are used to buy cosmetic items, but Crowns provide more rare loot. Awarding players with the ability to purchase more unique items based on winning is something more Battle Royales should implement.
For all its faults, Fall Guys is still an entertaining, addictive game that I could see myself playing for a long time — depending on how many new maps Mediatonic adds. At the risk of sounding generic, it’s fun for the whole family. I could see anyone from 5-year-olds to my grandparents playing a match. Best of all, it should make it clear to other game studios that making a new kind of Battle Royale can be an enormous success. Hopefully, this will lead to more innovative games like Fall Guys.
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