Battle royales are intense — the premise of being cast into a battle arena filled with dozens of other players in a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek is enough to make every game an intense experience where no two matches are alike. After dropping in, you can spend anywhere between one to thirty minutes collecting weapons, ammo, and shields as you try to secure victory over 99 other players. These games are almost always exhilarating, except for when you die. In the blink of an eye, all of your weapons and resources vanish as you’re awarded a paltry sum of experience points.
Dying is rarely fun in games; failure is typically seen as a negative outcome — a bad ending of sorts. But not in Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Here, failure is part of the fun, and Fall Guys makes failing so much fun, that I’ve never been happier to be a fervent failure in an online video game.
What Is It?
Fall Guys puts you — a jellybean person — at the heart of a game show. Each round of the show features a different challenge for you to overcome; sometimes it’s a race through an obstacle course, other times it’s a matching game, and occasionally you might even have to team up with other players. Regardless of which one you’ve fallen into, the challenges all have one thing in common: they are pure, undistilled chaos.
Why Should I Care?
Part of the charm of Fall Guys is that there’s no pressure on you to actually play well. In fact, it’s kind of impossible. The ease at which you can stumble and fall is borderline absurd, and will doubtlessly serve as the catalyst for your many demises. At a glance, the platforming challenges appear effortless; they would be a cakewalk for a certain moustached plumber. But for our lovable, 6-foot-tall jellybeans, not so much. Trying to clear even the smallest gaps can easily be thwarted by players jumping into you, piling up around you, or even grabbing onto you to keep you from moving forward — an act that just might prevent you from moving on to the next round.
I liken Fall Guys to shows such as American Ninja Warrior and Wipeout. Both are shows about people navigating tough obstacle courses. It’s awe-inspiring to see contestants perform incredible feats of strength and agility, but some of the best moments of those shows are thanks to good old fashioned slip-ups. Similarly, I’ve only won a single game in Fall Guys, but it’s hardly the high point of my time so far; it doesn’t even make the list, which is filled with nothing but my shortcomings.
One round started with an explanation of how to play the featured minigame. I was distracted by something else, so I didn’t get the chance to read it. I simply shrugged my shoulders and assumed it was a race similar to the prior round. As soon as the starting countdown hit zero, I pushed forward on the analog stick, ran across the various spinning platforms, and when I hit the end of the stage, dove right off without thinking of what might come next. I then realized I had made a grave mistake. There was no platform for me to land on, and as I watched my poor Fall Guy hurdle towards whatever lies below, I realized what the objective of this minigame was. It wasn’t to complete a course, it was simply to stay on the platform — the one I just ambitiously jumped off. In any other game, I’d be a little upset at myself for such a lapse of judgement. But here, all I could do was let out a good, hearty laugh as I was eliminated from the game.
Another instance saw me taking on Fall Mountain — one of the minigames chosen for the game’s final round. It’s an all-out race to the top complete with spinning obstacles and balls speeding down the course that will surely knock you around. The first Fall Guy to grab the crown at the top isn’t just the winner of the round, but also the number one Fall Guy; this was my fourth time at Fall Mountain, and I was more than ready to be the victor. As I arrived at the top, there was only one other person ahead of me. Right before they jumped for the crown, I grabbed a hold of them in a fit of desperation to prevent them from getting the win; in an effort to escape my clutches, the player haphazardly jumped right off the platform. There was no way they could climb back up in time, leaving me as the closest one to the crown.
It was time. I made the jump, dove headfirst into the crown, and for a moment, I could taste victory — but only for a moment. My heart sank as my Fall Guy bounced right off of the crown and fell down the mountain. Confused, I noticed a button prompt in the upper-left-hand corner of the screen: “GRAB CROWN R2“. I forgot the most important part of “grasping victory” — actually grasping it.
The amount of minigames in Fall Guys, naturally, provide a plethora of ways to fail. There are your typical platforming challenges and some memory games included, but the team-based games are where every match devolves into a Fall Guy frenzy. Your objectives can vary between pushing a ball from one point to another, hoarding eggs, or even trying to win a game of soccer; one perfectly valid strategy in these games is to stick together, work as a team, and push through to victory. But the more fun, and arguably more effective option is to mess with the other teams so bad that they literally can’t.
One round saw each team racing to see who could push a different colored ball to the finish line first. While I pushed the ball, my fellow Fall Guys ganged up on another team, literally stealing their ball and pushing it away from the finish line as ours continued down the path. Another round saw teams battling it out to see who can hoard the most eggs. With a significant late-game deficit, my allies and I decided to start raiding another team’s stash. As about 13 jellybean-people crowded into this pit of eggs, all trying to wrestle away eggs from each other, and indirectly sending them flying, I couldn’t help but revel in the pandemonium that I helped create.
Adding to the absurdity of it all are the titular Fall Guys themselves, whose designs exude equal parts charm, humor, and chaotic energy. You can customize them with a variety of patterns, colors, and costumes that you can unlock either via the game’s progression system, or through purchases at the in-game store using Kudos — Fall Guys’ virtual currency. There are microtransactions to purchase more Kudos, but you can just as easily earn a pretty good amount by simply playing a few games.
What Makes it Worth My Time and Money?
I’ve already spent about ten hours playing Fall Guys, and I look forward to spending many more as I try to reach the max rank. But in those 10 hours, I’ve continuously encountered the number one problem this game faces right now — its servers. Connection errors occurred so frequently, that I grew to expect them. In its present state, the game occasionally struggles to even log me in, resulting in a wait ranging anywhere from five to twenty minutes before I’m able to actually play. It remains to be seen how future updates may address these concerns, but at this point in time, it’s a little rough.
But even in spite of that, I can’t say I had a bad time while actually playing Fall Guys. My gripes with have more to do with factors that prevented me from playing the game, as opposed to anything to do with its core design. It’s a clever, well-executed subversion of the battle royale genre that takes the genre’s most deflating aspect (failure) and converts it into fun. In a genre packed with shooters that all feature multi-tiered loot, metagames to master, and otherwise complex systems, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout feels like a nice detour from the main road.
Also, if you’re subscribed to PlayStation Plus, you’re in luck; if you haven’t heard, the game is free to redeem for the month of August, so you might as well download it. You literally have no reason not to.