It's hardly a secret that the gaming space has been inundated with battle royales over the past couple of years. So when a different kind of battle royale game comes along, it feels like a novel concept. But Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout feels like more than a novelty. In the bigger picture of what gaming is, it's the kind of game you play as an escape. It's the kind of game you introduce children to. It's the kind of game you can play with everyone. (Well, sort of, we'll get to that shortly.) It's gaming in its purest essence, the type of fun that reminds people of why they took up this hobby in the first place. Fall Guys is pure video games.
The premise for Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is a simple one. Sixty players enter, only one emerges victorious. Players all compete in wholesome obstacle course competitions, all set in giant, colorful outdoor areas. The setup is reminiscent of TV shows like American Gladiators and American Ninja Warrior if those shows were all brightly-colored with a bubblegum aesthetic. The opening contests consist of giant footraces, later sprinkling in team contests and survival games. Each one eliminates more and more competitors until one final game leaves one player standing.
The best thing Fall Guys has going for it is that it's incredibly easy to play. You could pass a controller off to a small child or your elderly grandparent and they'll grasp the controls in seconds. The only functions in Fall Guys are running, jumping, and occasionally grabbing or diving. There are no complex movements or button combinations. It's the height of simplicity, the kind that anybody can understand. As a bonus, there's no voice chat, so you don't have to worry about anybody throwing profanities at your kids or your grandparents.
The other key to the Fall Guys formula is that just about all of the minigames are fun to play. Yes, even Slime Climb has its moments. Each game is so delightfully chaotic, made so much better by the number of players. The number of players and the number of those who can qualify from the early games makes success feel attainable.
But for as easy as the games are to learn, they take real effort to master. For example, Gate Crash has a final jump that's really tricky at first. More often than not, you'll make the jump, slam into a wall, and fall down before respawning, by which point the game is likely lost. But after repeated attempts, you start to learn that there's a sense of timing in place for the rising gates, a safe spot to aim for, and after enough time passes, the jump starts to become second nature. (It is, as long as you account for the input lag on PS4, which is a bit of an issue.) The same is true for games like See Saw, Slime Climb, and Hit Parade. You start to learn more and more how the gimmicks work and you gradually improve as a player. It's fundamental and basic, but it works.
More is more
Fall Guys has all of the ingredients to be a perfect battle royale game. Unfortunately, there are a few areas where it doesn't quite pull down the crown.
This is the kind of game where you want as many people as possible. If they're in your circle of friends, that's even better. And look at us, we're Shacknews! Imagine the Chatty community all getting in on the fun. That's why it's so disappointing that parties are only restricted to four players. If more than four people want to get in on a game, they have to hope they get lucky with the matchmaking draw.
Similarly, there are no private servers for the PC version, which feels like a huge oversight. Imagine being able to assemble a private server where you can determine which games are played and, more importantly, which games are cut. I might like Slime Climb, but there's more than one person out there who does not.
The party system has a few other issues. If you're part of a party and you get eliminated from the game early, there's not a lot for you to do while you wait for the rest of your party to finish up. If there was a way to cheer on your party, that'd be great, but as it is, there's nothing to do except check on your turnip prices.
Outside of that, it's hard to find a lot wrong with Fall Guys. The games are so much fun, both addicting enough to keep you hooked for hours while also short enough to fit into small gaming sessions. If Devolver Digital and Mediatonic can keep this game updated regularly, there will be even more reason to come back beyond the free season pass content, which offers really fun ways to customize your jellybean-like character. As much fun as it is to deck my character out with a pineapple or a pigeon head, I'm excited by the potential that cosmetics have down the road.
If you ever need a reminder of the pure joy that video games can introduce into your daily life, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is here to remind you of why you play. It's joy distilled to its purest essence, placed in a colorful world that feels like it was pulled out of Disney's Wreck-It Ralph, filled with portly, expressionless jellybean people, all to the beats of a soundtrack that feels like it would fit like a glove with Nintendo's Splatoon franchise.
It's never ceased to bring me smiles. It's consistent happiness. Fall Guys is why I play games, and if my biggest complaint is that I can't get more people in on the fun, that's a pretty good sign for its future.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy purchased by the reviewer. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is available now on Steam and the PlayStation Store for $19.99. The game is rated E.
Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout
- Simple controls that anybody of any skill level can pick up and understand
- Fun variety of games
- Games are short and don't overstay their welcome
- Bright and colorful setting
- Multiple customization options
- No voice chat to poison the family-friendly well
- Party system doesn't go beyond four players
- No private servers on PC
- Noticeable input lag on PS4
- No split-screen/couch co-op option