My first few attempts at Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout didn't go so great. Each level of the battle royale party game is like a pinball machine, only you're the ball, and so are the 60 other players in the match with you. There's a lot of jostling and pushing and getting bounced off the walls. And plenty of falling.
But getting tripped and bumbling into an obstacle isn't always a bad thing. Starting off on a race level I'd been notoriously bad at, I led the pack for a brief moment but the mob of players caught up to me. I wound up falling on my face before walking directly into a spinning fan trap:
But the fan blade launched me into another player and I bounced back into the blade—which promptly knocked me into the next fan trap. Which immediately hit me and knocked me forward into the next one. Any of these traps could easily have shot me backwards through the course, but that's luck for you. Several rebounds later I'd been propelled to the front of the race with another unlucky (but actually lucky) player, leaving the rest of the mob far behind
Fall Guys is simple: You can run, jump, and grab, and that's it. The crowd of players is dumped into random levels—maybe one is a race through an obstacle course, another makes players keep their balance on massive, spinning rollers to avoid falling into slime, one has fake doors or fake floors that have to be navigated on the rush to the finish line or time limit. Each level eliminates a portion of the players, thinning out the crowd until there are maybe a dozen left who then compete in a final winner-take-all level for the crown. It's a fun and often frantic battle royale party game with a whole lot of shoving.
In some levels players are grouped into teams to jump through the most hoops, gather the most eggs, push a giant ball into a goal (or stop the other team from pushing in their ball), or in one mode that it's maybe not the best time for, to pass a communicable disease called a "Jinx" onto as many members of the opposing teams as possible. The members of the losing team face elimination all at once, putting your fate into the hands of random strangers. I've been very randomly lucky to get placed on great teams so far.
Rounds end pretty quickly so there's not much time to get bored with a particular level before you're onto something new, and if you're eliminated it's not a long wait until another lobby gets filled—even right now while it's only in a technical beta.
Learning the quirks of each level is important—where the gaps are, how the obstacles work, and so on, so each time you return to a level you've played before you're armed with a little more knowledge and strategy. There might be a bit of an over-reliance on footraces through obstacles courses, which are unfortunately the least interesting levels—the team-based levels have much more creative competitions.
Fall Guys is extremely cute and it's hard not to laugh even when something disastrous happens to you (most of the obstacles I've stumbled into haven't been quite as forgiving as that one set of fan traps). Probably just as importantly for its future, it's great fun to watch even if you're not playing yourself.
If you couldn't get into the beta, which ran last weekend and is going again this weekend, you won't have to wait long to start bumbling your way through Fall Guys: it's out next week on August 4.