It was only a matter of time until someone combined the battle royale video game format with a game show theme (technically a game show theme pioneered the battle royale format in 1 vs. 100 on the Xbox 360, but no one remembers that). Fall Guys, developed by Mediatonic and published by Devolver Digital, is the first title since the battle royale explosion to truly lean into the game show concept. It replaces guns and sneaking with obstacle courses and running, creating a surprisingly addictive PC game for all ages.
Fall Guys’ premise is straight out of Wipeout, Ninja Warrior, and Takeshi’s Castle (Most Extreme Elimination Challenge in the United States). You and 59 other players compete against each other in a series of events, such as running through obstacle courses, rolling a giant ball, and playing tag by grabbing raccoon tails from each other. Each round, a number of players are eliminated until the final round leaves only one winner standing.
Fall Guys oozes the aesthetics of a televised game show, with bright, colorful figures bouncing around bright, colorful courses while bubbly music plays. Interludes between rounds show player-characters being pushed out of alcoves and falling off the screen, while large text declares how many folks have been eliminated and how many remain. Even system messages look like broadcast chyrons, appearing in stylized boxes that slide onto screen like the captions identifying different players in a game show.
Choose Your Look
The playable characters are a bit different from the usual game show contestants, though. Instead of realistic humans, Fall Guys’ characters resemble big jelly beans with only eyes, arms, and legs. This stylized, cartoonish character design enables extensive customization, with multiple patterns and color palettes available for the jelly bean bodies. Additional costume components, such as dinosaur heads, milkshake tops, and even game publisher-themed costumes (like Jacket from Hotline Miami, with a chicken head of its own) fill out the inventory. When a crowd of 60 players gathers at the start of the first round, each in their own colorful outfits, it looks like an army of eager game show players wrapped in wacky foam rubber costumes.
battle royale fashion, you gain experience points that let you gain levels over a season, with each level giving you a new item or more resources. You also win Kudos, the game’s currency, that you can spend on other costume items in an in-game store with a small, rotating selection. Winning games also give you gold crowns, which are an even more limited currency for buying even more special cosmetic options like the aforementioned publisher-themed costumes.
The better you do in a game, the more experience points and kudos you earn. If you’re eliminated in the first round, you only get a handful of each. If you win the game, you can get over a thousand. And if you win multiple rounds, but don’t win the game (the most likely scenario), you get a couple hundred. It’s a rewarding format that gives tangible rewards for doing well even if you don’t win the full game, rather than simply providing amorphous experience rewards and otherwise not acknowledging your progress if you aren’t number one, like in most other battle royale games.
Round and Round
Each game is divided into rounds, each of which is a randomly chosen event from a selection of about two dozen. Events like Hit Parade, Dizzy Heights, and The Whirlygig are obstacle courses where you run from the start to the end, avoiding moving objects and trying not to get knocked off platforms (falling in these events generally take you back to a checkpoint in the course, though in Slime Climb, falling into the rising slime is an instant elimination). In these events, it’s a rush of every player for themselves to get to the end. After a certain number of players (based on the round and the number of starting players) cross the finish line, everyone else is eliminated.
Easy to Move
Controls are the same regardless of the event. The left analog stick moves your character, the right analog stick controls the camera, one face button jumps, one face button dives forward, and the right trigger grabs onto the nearest player or object. Almost everything can be accomplished with running and jumping; grabbing is only really necessary when playing tag to grab tails or in Egg Scramble to pick up eggs. You can also grab onto the edge of a platform and slowly pull yourself up, but that move is very inconsistent, especially when the platform is moving. They’re simple controls that are easy to learn for all of the events.
Because the action is so simple, so fast, and so varied, it feels quite fun and accessible. You can jump in, play a few games, and jump out as you feel like it, and the progressive rewards for each round in a game make even close calls and narrow losses feel worthwhile.
Fall Guys depends on getting dozens of players together to compete against each other for each game, like other battle royale games. Fortunately, at launch, it’s proven so popular that the servers had trouble keeping up, and became congested. This is a short-term frustration as Mediatonic expands server capacity and fixes network issues, but it’s a good sign for a game that relies on its community to function.
You can put together squads in the game with up to three of your friends, but this doesn’t make the game cooperative. It’s still every jelly bean person for themselves, but at least you can stay together in competitions instead of strewn across the internet in different games.
Fortnite or Apex Legends.
I played the Steam version of Fall Guys, which, at a minimum, requires an Intel Core i5 or equivalent CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 or equivalent GPU, and at least 8GB of RAM. The game runs well on my PowerSpec 1510, a gaming laptop that contains an Intel Core i7 CPU, Nvidia GeForce 1070 GPU, and 16GB of RAM. At 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, Fall Guys had no problem moving at a smooth 75 frames per second. As a Steam game, Fall Guys supports more than 30 Steam Achievements. It also offers full game controller support.
Fall Guys is unique among battle royale games, with a friendly, non-violent design and addictive gameplay loop that make it feel more at home alongside Tetris 99 than PUBG. Like all battle royale games, it relies entirely on a healthy online community playing at any given time, but its early popularity is a promising sign for long-term players. This is a fun, friendly game show of a battle royale that’s safe for kids, with no violence to be found. It earns our Editors’ Choice.
For more Steam game reviews and previews, check out PCMag’s Steam Curator page.