Approximately 17 years ago at the last E3, the folks over at Devolver Digital had their annual conference(?) in which they revealed among other things, Fall Guys. Looking at that initial trailer, I had no idea what to expect and immediately shrugged it off as some sort of Mario Party clone. Fast forward to just last week when it finally released on Steam and as a “free” PlayStation Plus offering, and it’s completely blown up to the point where the servers couldn’t handle the amount of people trying to play it. It turns out Fall Guys isn’t a clone of a bad game from a bad franchise.
In Fall Guys, you take control of a little marshmallow looking creature who can only run, dive and grab onto things. Using the few moves at your disposal, you wade through several rounds of platforming challenges and obstacles with up to 59 other people in order to qualify for the next round. It can be a chaotic mess at times, but I mean that in the best way possible.
All of the levels I saw were very clearly inspired from shows like Wipeout, Ninja Warrior and Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, all of which are filled with plenty of hazards and obstacles that you need to overcome. I feel it’s important to remind you once more that you are doing this alongside 59 other people, which intentionally leads to some comical physics-based shenanigans. Succeed at enough of these challenges before your opponents and you’ll end up at an equally obstacle-filled level that has a crown at the end of it. Latch onto that crown and congratulations, you’re the big winner.
I’ll be completely honest here and say that I broke my own rule with Gut Check and played less than an hour of Fall Guys, but not because I disliked it. I actually really dig what Fall Guys is doing, catering to both my love of wacky physics and marshmallows. Yet despite being extremely in my wheelhouse, it just feels like a game without legs. Some games blow up in popularity and get to enjoy a long lifespan because of it like Rocket League or even Overwatch, but Fall Guys doesn’t seem like it has the depth or variation to keep things fresh and interesting for very long. It’s simply a game that was fun to play through until I won… which I did… the first time I played it.
I don’t say that in an attempt to brag or anything because I was genuinely shocked it happened as well. I never really excelled at any level to the point where I felt like I was deserving of the coveted crown, but I just kind of lucked my way into it regardless. Two key things happened to me during my one-shot championship run that made all the difference.
The first thing felt a lot like I was cheating. Not every level in Fall Guys is based around individual success, with some levels grouping folks into teams and squaring off against one another. During one of these team levels we were tasked with essentially playing keep-away where we had to grab a tail off the back of an opponent and don it ourselves. With that tuft of fur firmly above my ass, I had to avoid my other competitors till the end of the round to score a point. That’s when the wacky physics of Fall Guys broke, and a spinning baton caught me in just the right position to clip me through the boundary of the map with no way back inside. So there I was in a white void, donning a beautiful tail and a slight amount of guilt attributed to the fact that I had inadvertently cheated in a competitive multiplayer game. Time eventually ran out, my team won under dubious conditions and we all progressed onward.
The next thing that happened came at the very end of the final level. After navigating through falling rocks, spinning batons, swinging hammers and more, I followed the path and several other marshmallow people up towards the golden crown. The crown hovered between two platforms that you’d have to jump from in order to snag it in mid air. It also bobbed up and down to make it a little dicier for everyone involved. I watched about a dozen people in front of me mistime that jump and fall into the chasm below. So instead of leaping frantically like dope I just kind of stood there for a bit, unhampered until the crown was in my reach and I was able to snag it.
I won my first match of Fall Guys and I felt like I really shouldn’t have. It felt like a fluke from top to bottom, but I won the whole damn thing and in return I was granted some cosmetic items and the feeling that I had beaten the entirety of Fall Guys. With a little bit of patience and a ton of luck however I got to feel the “thrill” of winning, which was less of a feeling of accomplishment and more a feeling of suspicion, like I was going to get in trouble for winning it all by accident.
I can’t see a lot of people sticking with Fall Guys because it just doesn’t seem like the kind of game you can really get better at. No matter how good at platforming you are, you’re still vulnerable to the obstacles in the level as well as the other players themselves. I’m not trying to diminish the fun I had with Fall Guys because it left me with a sense of fondness towards it, but failed to hook me in a way that would make me want to break my undefeated streak. I bet they’ll hang my jersey in the rafters for this victory someday.