Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout – Review (2020)

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Every so often there comes a game that completely surprises you; whether due to said game being a genre you do not usually interact with or a game that you booted up on a whim and and ended up being pleasantly surprised. For myself as someone who prefers the single player experience; that game is the now incredibly popular Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout – or Fall Guys as it is often shortened to.

Fall Guys developed by Mediatonic and published by Devolver Digital takes what you know about the battle royale genre and turns it on its head. Fall Guys is a colourful, family friendly game in the genre wherein the player participates -alongside sixty other players- in a game show where each episode consists of five rounds which include unique races, survival stages and teamwork. These rounds are randomly chosen and with twenty-five in total (as of the latest update) there is no telling what the player will face next – will it be giant fruit flung towards your head or a race against slime. In the end there can only be one lone winner.

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The race subset of mini-games are quite straight forward as the player has to avoid obstacles through a set-course and reach the end before a predetermined amount of players to qualify for the next round. This includes running through speedy fans, successfully manipulating see-saws to allow travel over multiple in a row, finding the hidden path to the finish line and more. Due to the length of the courses, there are check points that upon allow you to restart from that point in case the player is flung off the course at any point which is quite generous as one does not have to return to the beginning.  The courses themselves do not change and after a few attempts to learn the best route to take they are often quite easy to qualify in.

The survival subset of mini-games put the player in precarious situations where one has to survive in situations which require them to complete tasks such as; beat the slime through an obstacle course, stay balanced whilst their platform rolls in multiple directions under their feet and avoid fit through gaps in a never-ending onslaught of blocks. The longer you hold out; the greater chance of victory that you have. Slime Climb in particular is very good at reducing the number of players left and on completion of the round there are often so few players left that the game skips to the final round as opposed to completing the full five round cycle.

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The teamwork subset of mini-games are the most divisive of all of the mini-games in Fall Guys. There is just something frustrating about needing to rely on complete strangers to qualify for the next round. This is amplified further by existing online communities that work together to defeat a certain team consistently in levels that allow more than one team to qualify. This means that often if you are put on this team you are more than likely going to lose – due to no fault of your own. This can be incredibly frustrating when you have easily completed the previous rounds and despite your  best efforts your team is disqualified. I personally feel this is where the game is weakest. It seems unfair to rely on others to effectively get through to the final. If every mini-game was solo then it would be less frustrating as failure would be self-inflicted for the most part. That being said; the variety of teamwork games mean that it is usually something different during the game. From collecting eggs, to playing soccer, to scoring points via diving through hoops. I do not necessarily think that these should be removed as they bring  variety to the game but I do think that they should at least be tweaked in a way that makes it a better experience for all.

Fall Guys rewards you with two different forms of currencies – kudos and crowns. Kudos are obtained from participating in various rounds – with the amount you receive increasing for how many rounds you complete as well as how good you do in each round. You are also able to buy kudos with real-world currency. On the other hand, crowns are incredibly prestigious and hard to collect. You are awarded a singular crown for winning a game. That means out of sixty people who compete – only one will ever receive a crown each time. The game does gift you crowns for hitting certain ranks during the season. These are ranks 5, 20, and 32 respectively. The shop includes a mix of items that are bought using both kudos and crowns. Frustratingly but to be expected, the more exciting items are locked behind needing crowns to buy and are often 2-3 crowns a piece. That said, there is still a good assortment of items that can be purchased with kudos which results in a fun range of beans during the rounds.

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I feel that Fall Guys deserves some leeway for how the servers performed on launch due to them not expecting the game to become as popular as it has. It is an exciting success story but at the same time the servers have left a lot to be desired. At the beginning it was common to experience the servers crashing midway through a game which would force you back to the main screen and you would lose any progress that you have made which included earned kudos. Oftentimes, it would fail to find other players or connect to the server at all. The game would often lag in parts and this was most noticeable in the rounds where you had to steal tails off another player. The worst thing about this is that there is a final round which includes this mechanic – Royal Fumble. The mechanic is just off – sometimes a player could steal your tail from far away and other times you would be on top of someone and it still didn’t register. This is frustrating as it feels as if you are not only versing other people but also the game itself. Otherwise, there has been occasional lag in other areas such as in a race level where suddenly you would teleport slightly forward with other players as the game stopped lagging but that has been tolerable in comparison to the tail levels. The social media presence on Twitter has been really forthcoming with all of these issues and fixes they have been working on and as of the time of writing they have released a patch to rectify numerous issues and compensate players for the wonky server performance by gifting them a legendary costume and kudos. It is clear that the developers are committed to the constant improvement of the game and ironing out all of the launch issues that it has had.

All in all, Fall Guys has been a breath of fresh air in the battle royale scene. It does not take itself seriously with its wacky concept, bean-like characters and range of incredulous levels. Though not perfect with the less than desirable team rounds and wonky server issues; the game as a whole is still a delight to play that often results in hysterical laughter from both player and onlooker alike. In times such as these I think it is important to have a game that can provide comfort through enjoyment. The game does not take itself seriously and there is no barrier to entry. You can boot it up and know that no matter what; you’re going to have a smile on your face.

Final score: 8/10

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