OK, so you kinda understand your kid’s attraction to those massively multiplayer, battle royale-type games packed with free-flowing action and interactive competition. But you’re not so happy about all the trigger-pulling stuff. Hey, even the most cartoony games of that stripe tend to have you blasting somebody repetitively while looking down a gun sight.
Well, the gamemakers at Mediatonic think there’s a better way. They’re replacing guns, bombs, bows and arrows with crumbling hexagonal floors and hillsides full of giant tumbling fruit. Gone are the battle gear couture and bloody khakis, all replaced by glowing pink gummy-bear skins and hotdog suits. And they’ve wrapped it all up in a bouncing, jumping, whirlygigging chaos called Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout.
But is this a winner for your family room or yet another younger-gamer low blow?
This new battle royale contest crams 60 online players into a series of matches that feel like large bouncy balloon versions of the obstacle course TV show Wipeout. Players compete as a little jelly bean-looking avatar and can only choose from four actions: running, jumping, grabbing at something nearby or diving face-first at the ground. And round by round, that initial cattle-call is whittled down further and further until one cute little champion stands tall and wins the day.
Sounds easy. But it ain’t.
What makes the game a real challenge is the silly physics of it all. When you’re bobbling along in the midst of a herd of beans, trying to make your way past spinning platforms or twirling sponge hammers, things such as finesse and ballet-like moves are something you only dream of. Instead you simply hope you can time your jump and be sent spinning in the approximate direction of your goal. And if you’re really lucky (which I liked to label as being stealthy and nuanced, ahem) and hit the right creases or break through the correct crumbling door while five other beanies bounce off a solid one, then you get to move on to the next round.
There are currently 26 different challenges—randomly dialed up, of course—in which players compete during each round. (And more are reportedly coming.) Some games are team battles where you’re placed in a same-color group and have to do things like collectively sink a huge ball into a goal or gather together the most eggs while raiding other teams’ nests. Others are solo affairs where you have to grab and keep a tail to rack up a keep-the-tail time score or some such silly objective.
And as the opponents are eliminated when slipping off the edges of platforms or falling into an ocean of pink goop, you work toward a last-man-standing finale round—a match that might be comprised of multiple decks of hexagon tiles that disappear as you run over them, for example.
The end result is, quite frankly, a hoot. And it’s equally fun to watch a friend tumbling and bumbling her way through a course, or jumping over the finish line at the last second, as it is to play it yourself.
That, however, brings up one shortfall of this cute game: There’s no offline area to practice levels or the ability to play co-op or communicate with gaming friends here. The gamemakers have said they might add a co-op later, but right now it’s just a matter of jumping online separately and trying to keep track of each other.
The only other element that might make parents raise an eyebrow is the fact that there are microtransactions baked into the game. You earn in-game credits as you finish challenges. But you can also pull out your credit card and buy them. There are no game boosts involved, it’s simple a matter of trading earned or purchased credits (“kudos”) for specialized cosmetics (for those who just have to have a multicolored pirate’s outfit for their bean).
Oh, and I should mention that this isn’t just a game that the littles will enjoy. The fun and silly competition is doled out in equal measure to young and old alike. Watching Dad’s bean get hit by a 20-foot high banana is quite a pleasure, too.
So, is this a good game for the family room?
Only if you like to laugh and snort. (Drinking milk while watching Dad is not recommended.)
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.