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The battle royale genre is a crowded, often achingly dull one. As much as I will always appreciate and respect the success of games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Call Of Duty: Warzone, they've never really grabbed me. These games, as accomplished as they are, don't really do much for people who are either coming into it fresh, or simply don't give a toss about shooters.
Battles royales such as these are obviously great fun for the people who know what they're doing - and more power to 'em - but I struggle to find the fun when I'm surrounded by gamers who have the skill, knowledge, and loadouts to kick my arse all around the battlefield. The many, many, many battle royale shooters that have attempted to emulate the success of these titles suffer from the same issues, and plenty more besides.
Thank heavens for Fall Guys, then. For in developer Mediatonic's instantly accessible and brightly coloured indie gem, we finally have a battle royale that makes equals - and fools - of us all. The best thing about it? Anyone can pick up and play it instantly.
The premise of Fall Guys is simple enough. You step into the shiny vinyl boots of a small, bumbling jelly bean-like figure (the titular Fall Guys) and then compete in a series of brutal challenges not unlike the ones you might be familiar with from game shows like Takeshi's Castle and Total Wipeout. Each game kicks off with 60 players - a number that's slowly whittled down over numerous obstacle courses, puzzles, and races, until a small handful are left standing to compete in the final and claim the crown.
It's constantly exhilarating, infuriating, and downright hilarious. As with most battle royales, the idea of coming out on top of everything else and claiming that final victory is the most intoxicating thought of all. The major difference is that in Fall Guys, victory is actually possible for everybody. It really is that rarest of modern games: one that you can pick up and instantly understand what it is you have to do without lengthy tutorials or explanations. I'm not saying your gran will take to it as deftly as she did Wii Sports, but I'm willing to bet she'd much prefer this over a game of Warzone.
That's not to say there isn't an element of skill involved. Your jellybean avatar will have to navigate precarious platforms, avoid falling into pits, and find ways to out-wit and out-match opponents as games progress. This isn't quite as easy as it sounds, however.
The Fall Guys move around like toddlers who have just learned to walk, careering unpredictably across the colourful plastic battlefields, occasionally bumping into each other and falling over, rolling around before scrambling back up again to rejoin the fray. It's like watching my nephew run around the garden, but there's 60 of them all doing it at the same time.
This can work in your favour as much as it can completely obliterate your chances. The sight of 60 players all scrambling to get through one tiny door and race to the finish line is quite a sight, and if you don't try and get out ahead of the pack or fall back to play it safe, you can end up getting trampled by the merciless horde.
Like Mario Kart, a knowledge of the courses and the way Fall Guys flows will absolutely give you an edge... but a well-placed lead can fall apart in an instant, due to the tiniest blunder or stroke of bad luck. I've had first place snatched out from under me all too many times at this point because a jump or stray projectile has sent me falling over and tumbling into the abyss.
By the same token, you can occasionally end up stumbling and somehow get knocked all the way to the finish line. I've seen it happen, and it's wild. That might not sound fair to you, but Fall Guys isn't always supposed to be. It's unpredictable, chaotic, and all the better for it.
Not all rounds are created equal. The obstacle course-style races and elimination rounds are by far the best of the bunch, and I'm hoping to see much more of these types of assault courses as Mediatonic supports the game post-launch. Some of the team-based games can be the wrong kind of frustrating, especially when you can't communicate with your temporary allies and your progression to the final is dependent on working together.
But in all honesty, that's probably my only real reservation about Fall Guys right now... and even then, utterly failing with your team as you all scramble over each other with no clue what to do and no chance of winning can be genuinely funny. And that alluring promise of victory - and the crown - is more than enough to keep pulling you back in for game after game.
I'm convinced Fall Guys is going on to be absolutely massive. The game has been out for a matter of days, and already seems to have cultivated a massive community of players who, even as I write this, are rushing to social media to share their own hilarious blunders and last-minute victories. Mediatonic have created a party game that's equal parts unpredictable, accessible, maddening, and laugh-out-loud funny. The most thrilling thing about it all? I suspect things are only going to get bigger, better, and infinitely more bananas from here on out.
Pros: Infinitely repayable, genuinely funny, instantly accessible, properly unique soft play area-style aesthetic
Cons: Some rounds are a little dull after the first few times, team-based games can be a little annoying, a few rough edges
For Fans Of: Mario Party, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Crash Bash, losing friends in an instant
Fall Guys was tested on PlayStation 4. The game is available now on PlayStation 4 and PC. Read a guide to our review scores here.
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