Game Reviews

I Still Haven’t Won A Single Goddamn Crown In FALL GUYS


There’s a strong chance I exit 2020 without a single FALL GUYS win to my name, and it drives me absolutely up-the-wall mad. Inspired by Takeshi’s Castle, an obstacle course game show hosted by Yakuza existentialist Takeshi Kitano (because why not?), FALL GUYS: ULTIMATE KNOCKOUT is the latest massive multiplayer hit to dominate the lives of streamers, hardcores, and casuals. From London studio Mediatonic, it carries on the traditions of GOAT SIMULATOR and OCTODAD-type games where purposefully obfuscated controls and inherently inane concepts collide to form a brand of entertainment borne of disbelief, the types of games that make you ask “Is this really the right way to do this?” According to senior designer Joe Walsh, the initial pitch was “let’s make a game show with the biggest budget anyone has ever seen […] Let’s build the obstacle courses that no one’s had the money or the health and safety track record to actually do.” It’s such a breath of fresh, manic air. Their follow-up to a reviled GEARS OF WAR/Funko Pop tie-in mobile strategy game is the antithesis of branding, even if the primary character design is a barely congealed combination of a Minion and the Bugdroid. Inanimate objects with floppy builds and long arms crashing into each other like waves doing their best to toss one another into the toxic pink sludge below. It’s like ballet, really.

Fall Guys character

I want to chew him up like a Chiclet.

It’s a silly, dumb, goofy game of fascinating design dualities. I want the FALL GUYS of my mind to be more chaotic and freeform, but I also want the FALL GUYS that I frustratingly play at 1:15 AM in my 36th round attempt at a crown to be more playable. The ways I’ve screamed at my little player-nugget for taking too long to rise after a dive have scared the neighbors. I thought I was past my tween days screaming at TEAM FORTRESS 2 players, but uncontrollable prat falls resulting in non-qualifying race runs have resulted in many a shouted “DUMMY-ASS FUCK MOTHERFUCKER”s. I cannot recall another game that has had me this frustrated, yet so effortlessly charmed, returning nearly nightly to wreck more havoc in a field of 59 other costumed weirdos. There are split seconds where I hate FALL GUYS with all of my white-raged heart, but there are full minutes where I’m slack-jawed laughing at this little doughboy wiping out like a stupid ragdoll. I don’t even care that I’m not winning this round, man, look at these munchkins go!

The battle royale sub-genre has long intimidated me for embodying the spirit of two game modes (survival and free-for-all) I’m quite poor at, but the combination of newly enforced self-isolation and long-standing distaste for dealing with voice chatters has made it so much more appealing: I get to spend time interacting with people and not have to speak to a single one of them. Absolute bliss. The gamble on a massive player base adds to the scope, but detracts from its potential fluidity. For a game of such naturally conceived chaos, there’s an out-of-place stiffness to the course design. Soccer, king of the hill, and footraces a-plenty, the strict rules out-of-place in a game where logic should not reign. I have CALL OF DUTY: WARZONE if I want to keep close tabs on five different HUD displays at once or THE LAST OF US PART II to solve crushing conflicts with dynamic, ultra-responsive combat. I want a map in FALL GUYS where if I step on a kumquat, it randomly blows up another player. I want a map in FALL GUYS that plays at a CRASH BANDICOOT chase angle where all 60 players are chased by human hands. I want a map in FALL GUYS only lit by violent strobes like The Haunted Cavern in BANJO-TOOIE’s Witchyworld. Mediatonic has gifted us innocent inanity, but I want motherfucking bedlam.

Fall Guys Screenshot


A common level is a route of floating, weight-affected see-saws that can either be a breeze if you’re in first place or a legitimate death zone if you find yourself in the middle of the pack. It’s body-flailing insanity, but my favorite moment in this level is when a see-saw is made completely unusable thanks to a legion of Fall Guys teetering the platform to a 90-degree angle, bringing the race to a complete standstill until enough players sacrifice themselves to hopefully tilt it to a walkable position. This is the magic of FALL GUYS; nothing gets better than when the battle royale hilariously and inelegantly transforms into a team game where all the players silently turn to one another and give a “Can you believe we’re doing this?” glance. Or, as is the case with FALL GUYS, a grapple hug. Tip-Toe, a course based on the trial and error process of identifying a stable path amidst a field of faulty tiles, is another prime example of how the game forces you to rely on the wisdom of others just so you can locate the exact window to eternally fuck them.

Launching with 25 minigames, there’s a degree of hectic variance to each that makes them infinitely replayable. I find myself so certain that there’s a shortcut in Slime Climb, there has to be, but y’know, there may not be a better route. I know I keep trying to get past that ultra-fast windmill with a conveyor belt ramp-up in The Whirlygig, but to be honest, I have never seen a single player ever pull it off. It might be impossible! But it also… Maybe… Might be possible? The genius of FALL GUYS’ level design lies in its rotating sources of entertainment: the level might be categorically shit, but it’s fun to see how your opponents react to it. We’re all trying to figure out if this is really the hand we’re dealt, meanwhile the crown-winners sternly accept it from the jump and leave us in their dust.

I’ve made peace with the fact that I will likely not win a crown in FALL GUYS before 2021: if it’s not the Hex-A-Gone that’ll wreck me, then it’ll probably be a match of Royal Fumble where my sweaty palms make the already-shoddy grab mechanics that much more difficult to grasp a tail off a little fella’s ass. That’s okay. If I never win in 2020, then it means there’s a future ahead where I keep playing this for the thrill of the chase years to come. Like, I truly do not have faith that I can walk away a winner, it’s so rough in these servers, dude. FALL GUYS is the ultimate comedy of errors, where your losses are as splendid as they are insulting. RIP to the GANG BEASTS crew for not adding a Sony-partnered, MARIO PARTY mode first, but respect to the gang at Mediatonic for striking gold.

Kevin Cookman
Kevin Cookman is a Film Editor for Merry-Go-Round Magazine. Deserted in a video store as an infant, Kevin was raised on Fulci, Tarantino, Kubrick, and Whoppers. Now he's a graduate of Chapman University who acts as editor for Merry-Go-Round on the side: what a success story.

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