Have you been looking for a good online multiplayer game that is accessible to anyone who can use a joystick and three buttons? Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is that game. Imagine the minigame madness of Mario party combined with the simple, gentle operation of gang of beasts, and then remixed to deliver the kind of fun that won’t make you scream in sheer rage at your friends. (Meaning, much better than Mario party†
The biggest catch, as those equations indicate, is: autumn boys‘ weakness as a solo play. Every match you play in the launch version of the game is a battle against up to 59 online strangers, and the same design elements that make this a fun game with friends will leave you frustrated and furious when it’s just you versus the world.
autumn boys is a must play with friends in your online party, a more tiring slog when playing alone, and a party game that currently lacks any local multiplayer functionality. If that sales pitch hasn’t lost you, read on.
Tails, balls and whacking
Each autumn boys session takes place over five rounds of elimination matches, reducing the battle from 60 participants to a single winner. In each round, you control a slow, bean-shaped ‘fall’, probably named for his floppy balance problems. You run and jump through obstacle courses, between swinging pendulums and platforms, and through football-like arenas, and anything less than a smooth landing will see your colorful, squeaky character fall over, get up and try again.
The randomly selected minigames are divided into a number of categories. In races, you run as part of a pack of dozens of critters to reach a finish line, and each of the race types has a different notable obstacle. One of them has a series of walls and the crowd has to figure out which ones will break open and which ones are too sturdy to go through. Another has a Last Crusade-style series of fake ground tiles, which disintegrate at the slightest touch, leaving you and other participants to figure out the real solid walkway to the finish line (although you can usually start over if you fall through a false tile). Standard obstacle courses have their own crazy physics objects (swinging hammers, huge propellers) that can knock your character out of the running – or, with precise timing, forward to success.
“Tail” matches are all about seeing who has a glowing tail on their bum at the end of a match’s timer, and if you don’t have one, you can use a “grab” button to grab one from someone. otherwise wipe. A few matches revolve around huge footballs, and these often split the remaining players into teams to either play a simple football match – pushing massive balls into opposing targets with their tiny bodies – or to throw a series of balls into their own colored zone. push and control before time runs out.
The nice thing about each of these is that the game’s tacky collision physics plays well with what looks like solid in-game net code. Sometimes about 20 players try to squash or bounce through the same narrow passage, and while the resulting battle can range from hilarious to frustrating, you can’t blame anything but the buzz of fellow players. Without that performance you could write autumn boys off as a battle royale cash-in, but instead this has a seriously delicious, goofy feel – perhaps more like Super Mario Maker 2‘s online versus modes, without the horrendous lag.
PS4 vs PC
on playstation 4, autumn boys is the biggest no-brainer of the summer. It’s a PlayStation Plus giveaway for the month of August, and PS Plus must work on that platform (because it’s online only). So if you and your friends are using that console and are interested, your group will need to redeem any remaining PS Plus trials or vouchers to claim the game before the end of the month.
The PC side of things is a slightly hairier proposition, as the entry fee is a minimum of $20 – and I’ve recently complained about store-priced games with obvious free-to-play hooks. autumn boys chokes the interface with reminders that you can pay real money to change your blobby character’s “completely optional” cosmetics, and in the case of this game, the combination of impressive outfit designs and huge crowds of fellow players means you’ll always be smitten with the potentially FOMO of not having a cool outfit.
Good news: you can’t pay for the “season pass” of earnable outfits from the game. The Season Pass offers a solid array of wacky outfit options, along with enough in-game currency to purchase custom outfits from a store’s varying selection of outfits, pants, colors, and tattoo-esque patterns. Importantly, on all platforms, certain cosmetics can nothing but are purchased by taking first place in a 60-strong competition round, which gives winning players a single “crown” of currency. (Right now, rare outfit pieces cost up to five crowns per doll.)
As such, on PC you’re essentially buying the season pass content of an F2P game forever, rather than jumping in for free and deciding later if you want to buy those things. The game in question has to be good enough for me to recommend such an option, especially when it prompts players to potentially open their wallets and get involved in the insane outfit purchase. When played with a group of friends, autumn boys exceeds that threshold.
It’s dangerous to val only
If you’re partying with up to three other friends, you’ll join the same 60-person session and everyone in your party will be marked with a small icon. That means you can leave them alone or induce friendly hazing. Once someone in the party is knocked out of a round, they can either hang out and watch, or they can stop and play a separate session of their own. I wholeheartedly recommend friends to stick together as much as possible, even if that means forcing your entire match to a halt because someone loses in the first round. I recommend this because the game’s long rounds provide ample opportunities for pumped-up banter and holy grail of pleasure or frustration.
I haven’t had this much fun with friends in an online game in all of 2020, as long as everyone was connected to microphones (usually through a third-party app like Discord). autumn boys is even more fun if the whole group hangs around while a single group member survives the final round and everyone else is watching and cheering them on. Viewers can each switch camera angles to follow other competitors and comment game-by-game on the ensuing chaos as six to 10 people compete for that lucrative crown at the end of the match.
Solo is so-so
However, the same cannot be said of solo play. A lot of autumn boys‘ minigames revolve around the last second of BS, frankly, where the preceding two or three minutes of a round are completely meaningless thanks to a random, perfectly timed confluence of factors. I’ve come to call this minigame “F*** You: The Video Game” because of how a whole round of “good” play can go sideways thanks to someone sneaking in and stealing a tail or blocking your way to a ball. push to a target. Moments like these are bearable and even delightful when shared with friends. Playing alone – if it’s you, a crowd of silent opponents and a crazy physics engine – doesn’t make room for healthy, fun reactions.
That’s why I play alone Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout when at least one friend is available – and since the game’s retail launch, I’ve been lucky enough to have friends ping me quite regularly, asking if I can drop everything I’m doing and have a few rounds can earn. I’ve done that so many times this week that, if I’m being honest, writing this review was the only way not to get in trouble with Ars management. I haven’t been quick to respond to messages, emails, and phone calls in the past few days, boss, because I was, uh, working on this review. And love it.
verdict: A must-play if you’re already a PlayStation Plus subscriber. A solid recommendation for a party game if you can convince online friends to join. A tough sell for loners or couch co-op players.