Rise of the Stumbling Chaps.
Updated: Jun 27, 2022
Fall Guys (finally!) landed on Xbox this week. It's one of those games that's been sat on my "oh yeah, I should probably give that a go at some point" list ever since it launched on PS4. That was... some time ago. Quite a while ago, in fact. At this point, a proper journalist or blogger would probably hit Google up for the exact date - but I'm not one. I've also got a sizeable rum and coke here with me, I've consumed a little over half of it and to be honest I can't be bothered. If you're reading this, you're likely a grown-up. You know how Google works just as well as I do - have at it.
Typically for a large-scale online multiplayer game, it landed with a whole host of server issues - matchmaking was apparently utterly broken for the first couple of hours, but logging in since then shows that the issues got resolved pretty quickly. I don't think I've had any problems with it at all since that first day, when my impatience quickly got the better of me - and I disappeared in the direction of Halo Infinite while the dev team steam-rollered the bumps out of the road. My son sat through endless cycles of connection and disconnection, while I shot people in the face with a battle rifle. Of the two of us, I definitely had the more rewarding evening.
There's an old adage that the simple ideas are best. These days, it doesn't feel like there are many simple ideas left. All the simple problems have been solved and the low-hanging fruit harvested - and all we have left in most aspects of life is enveloped in layer upon layer of complexity. In an era where games are becoming more and more complicated with ever more overlapping and interconnected systems, Fall Guys is - on the surface, at least - the antithesis of this. Conceptually, it's simple.
Take 60 people (each represented by a customisable jellybean), stick 'em on a brightly coloured digital assault course suspended a mile above some pink goop, fill it with a variety of spinning and popping obstacles... and then let the chaos ensue.
That chaos? It really ensues. The early sections of each round are the scenes of hilarious carnage, as 60 players from all over the world try to guide their beans to the finish line - all the time battling with the course, the physics engine and, of course, each other. The latter sections are akin to a jaw-clenching gauntlet run. Your palms will sweat, your language would make a pimp blush, and the moment of hurling yourself across the finish line is one of massive relief. Getting eliminated will have you hanging your head in shame while you laugh your ass off at the utter inanity of it all.
I'll admit, being a grumpy 40-something, I don't often go in for games that are as flat out fun as this one is. On the surface, I guess that might seem like a strange thing to say - after all, if a game isn't fun then what purpose does it serve? As I've gotten older, my tastes have gotten darker. These days, I play games less for the fun and more for the experience and the escapism. I like games that will make me think about a situation in a different way, or offer me a narrative that will give me something to feel; I limit my consumption of aggressively colourful games to the odd bash on Super Mario World. Fall Guys attempts to do nothing more than it does - provide a splash of colour and fun in a world that, frankly, needs all the cheering up it can possibly get.
Actually, that's not strictly true. It does attempt to do one other thing - and it tries phenomenally hard at it. It's to separate you from the cash in your wallet, of course. Like most other free-to-play online multiplayer games - especially those made by Epic Games (cough Fortnite cough), it offers you up the chance to splash cash at every opportunity. There's a battle pass, there are cosmetics - with all the coolest (and therefore most desirable) pieces of kit concealed behind the three inch thick glass of a paywall. It's hard to get upset by microtransactions in a free-to-play game; development is hard and no-one works for free as game developers are companies after all - so their presence isn't really anything to complain about... but for someone who rarely engages with games like this, I was surprised to see how many opportunities it offers up for players to spend money.
I dunno. While this kind of thing isn't usually my cup of tea, somehow Fall Guys succeeds in capturing my attention where so many others have failed. I mean, I have history with my general loathing of battle royale type games - and this shares so many tropes with them that they can't really be overlooked. It's certainly got a lot of the random aspects that BR's thrive on - from the position you start in out of the 59 other players on the course, to the course itself being randomly selected from what feels like a huge number of possibilities. The game's physics often feel like a roll of a dice in that you'll fall to your death in moments where you feel like you shouldn't have and, just as often, survive what feels like an impossible situation. It's so much fun though, and so damn chaotic that it just... doesn't matter. The disparate elements all tie together into a glorious pastel-coloured bubble-gum wad of a game - one that you can play and laugh at and come back to repeatedly. The kind of thing you can play for 20 minutes or sink an hours-long session into. Honestly, it's worth a look - whether it's the kind of thing you'd normally consider as being up your particular street or not.