I wasn’t planning on “reviewing” Fall Guys, but after finally hitting level 40, almost a month before the season ended, I felt that there were certain things about the game that I needed to say. So let’s not consider this a review as much as a progress report with the hope that improvements and changes are made for season 2 that help shape the game into a better, more accessible, and ultimately more sustainable long term game.
Let me start off by saying that I really like Fall Guys. I knew it would be successful from the very first E3 announcement back in like 2019. A lot of people don’t actually know much about the history behind the game. Or more importantly, the history behind the television show that inspired the game. Fall Guys was directly inspired by an old Japanese game show called Takeshi’s Castle. It aired from 1986 to 1990. Many people watched this, but even more people today probably watched a show called Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC), which ran from 2003 to 2007. This was a joke show that took footage from the original Takeshi’s Castle and dubbed over it with creative reedits and additional fake footage in order to fabricate a hilarious made up gameshow. It was a brilliant experiment that in many ways inspired most of the wacky real physical challenge game shows we see today. Shows like American Gladiator, Ninja Warrior, Wipeout, and so on were all directly inspired by Takeshi’s Castle and/or MXC.
I loved watching MXC, and shows that came after it like Ninja Warrior. Me, and many other children like me, used to dream of competing in these shows. Many people still do which is why shows like this still exist today. Takeshi’s Castle was the direct inspiration for Fall Guys. This has been stated multiple times by members of the development studio, Mediatonic. They even stated that gifs from the show were used in the pitch deck to Devolver Digital and PlayStation when trying to get the game published. I saw the Takeshi’s Castle influences in the very first announcement trailer and it was my own love of the show, or more accurately its dubbed variant, that made me want to play the game. Obviously I was not alone in this. The idea for Fall Guys seems fairly obvious now. People love platforming, competition, and gameshows. Making those concepts into a singular game should have been a no brainer. But now we have Fall Guys and that’s great. I have some issues with the game though.
One of my favorite games in Fall Guys is Door Dash. But that’s not really an accurate statement. A more accurate statement is that I’m really happy Door Dash is in the game because it’s a direct reference to the opening game of every episode of MXC. Every episode started with the real life version of Door Dash. That’s why it’s in Fall Guys. And even though I find many aspects of the game annoying from a gameplay standpoint, it’s without a doubt a perfect recreation of the experience of watching the real life version all those years ago. I’m extremely fond of its presence in the game for reasons of nostalgia and I absolutely don’t want it removed. The problem is the experience of Door Dash was then applied to just about every other game in Fall Guys and that is probably my main issue with the game.
Takeshi’s Castle was not a battle royale style competitive gameshow. Only the Door Dash game worked like that. All the other games were single contestant physical challenges. Each contestant waited their turn and lived or died based on their own performance. Basically like any other legitimate gameshow of this type. And that was why I wanted to be on the show. I wanted to know if I was physically capable enough to complete the obstacle courses. That’s also why I wanted to play Fall Guys. I wanted to know if I was capable of completing the obstacle courses. My main problem with Fall Guys is the multiplayer aspect.
The worst thing about Fall Guys is other players. More specifically the other players who aren’t trying to actively reach the finish line in an honest manner. The term commonly used for these players is griefers. I assume it’s because of all the grief they cause honest players. The intent of the game is to reach the finish line and claim the crown. That’s the point of every show. Get the crown. And the point of every round is to get to the finish line or objective completion in order to make your way towards the crown. But the purpose of the rounds is to weed out the weakest/least skilled players by measuring their ability. Griefers exploit this situation by working to remove players inorganically. It’s one thing to fall off an edge, say in Slime Climb, because too many people were jumping at the same time and you got boxed out. That is an unfortunate repercussion of not being able to build the game to host 60 different obstacle courses simultaneously in the way that the game should actually work to be authentic. The Tetris 99 model, minus the attacking, would be the proper way for Fall Guys to work. Every player would only have to tackle their own obstacle course and you would play until the group is whittled down to one final survivor. But that’s asking way too much of an indie studio with current server and bandwidth limitations to boot. That’s the only reason we’re playing this awkward battle royale version of the gameshow. And yes it is a gameshow. Mediatonic has stated outright that you are playing a gameshow when you play Fall Guys. Thus the logical conclusion is that the rules and etiquette of a gameshow should be applied.
It would not be acceptable conduct if you were watching Ninja Warrior and someone pushed another contestant off a ledge. Because that’s not a measurement of who the best contestant is. It’s a measurement of who the most dishonest contestant is. No one wants to see that. Griefers take away from the game because they are objectively playing the game outside of its intended practice. The fact that they are allowed to do so shouldn’t be viewed as license or encouragement to exercise such poor sportsmanship. It’s simply the result of a technological limitation. The crown should always go to the person who is best at completing the challenges in the show in an honest manner.
There are ways to correct the griefing issues, but they would also take away from the game. Griefing is accomplished in two main ways in Fall Guys. The first is by grabbing people unnecessarily and the second is by standing in the way of others trying to make it to the finish line. The second tactic really only happens in a few specific games in specific locations. The yellow cylinders in Slime Climb being the most common example. Griefers just stand on those cylinders preventing people from moving forward towards the goal. This is bad conduct because all players should be constantly moving towards the goal at all times. Any time you are not progressing, or at least trying to progress, towards the goal, you are objectively playing the game incorrectly because it goes against the game’s intended conduct. An easy fix for this would be to institute an AFK type system that eliminates players who don’t move a specific distance for an extended period of time. Say you didn’t move more than whatever the length of one to two cylinders was for a period of five seconds in a race game as an example. Griefers would just be eliminated for not actively pursuing the goal. This is a solution, but it’s not the best solution because it makes assumptions about the movement of noobs. Some players are moving that slowly unintentionally. They’re just bad at that game. They’re never going to win the crown at that point, but they shouldn’t be knocked out prematurely when not intentionally trying to play incorrectly. Something does need to be done to combat this issue though.
Wrongfully grabbing other players is a much bigger issue, but in my opinion it’s actually way easier to solve. Grabbing shouldn’t be in the game at all. We don’t know how season 2 will be yet, but in season one there are a number of games that involve grabbing. Literally none of them need grabbing except one. That one is Egg Scramble. All the other games that involve grabbing in any way include the tail games, the cooties game, and Fall Mountain. Literally none of those games require grabbing to work. In fact, I’d argue all of them would play better if they were contact based rather than grabbing based because the grabbing is inconsistent, glitchy trash in Fall Guys. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed the crown first and not gotten credit for it in Fall Mountain. And we’ve all had our tail grabbed from a mile away. The grabbing mechanics don’t work. They can also be used for climbing but, in season 1 at least, not a single game actually requires climbing to reach the finish line. The only game that absolutely requires grabbing to work is Egg Scramble. Now they could just turn off grabbing for all games except Egg Scramble. But honestly I don’t think anyone would mind if they just got rid of it altogether. It’s a terrible game. Really all team games in Fall Guys are terrible and I wish there was a single player events only mode, but that’s a different issue. Removing grabbing would reduce griefing by probably 75% or more and the only consequence would be losing a game that maybe an infinitesimal number of players would actually miss. What I truly want is a proper Fall Guys experience where everyone’s only concern was/is reaching the goal. This is how it was in the beta and it was great.
My other main issue with Fall Guys is motivation. Fall Guys is fun. But you can’t really keep a game running on fun alone in 2020. There are just too many games to play. And let’s be completely honest. Unless you just love something specific about Fall Guys that you can’t get anywhere else, there are objectively better games to play and pretty much everyone has a backlog as well. The only reason to keep playing any game, Fall Guys or other, is some sort of motivation which goes past fun. I don’t really know what that is for Fall Guys in its current form. It has trophies but most people will never get them all because one of them is nearly impossible for more than 95% of players. No matter how good you are, the amount of luck you need to win five rounds in a row is just too high. A team game can screw you over and then all your progress is lost. I think it’s a bad trophy to begin with. It should have been combined with the total wins trophy so that either win x number of times total or winning five shows in a row got the trophy. That’s considerably more accessible and fair to demand from players. So assume you get all the trophies you want and then what’s your motivation? You can get every trophy in a single season. I have all the ones I care about except the 20 wins one. But that comes back to the same issue. Winning is difficult and not accessible to every player. Some players just never will be winners. I’ve only won six times and I’m a fairly advanced player. I get to the final round more than 80% of the time. But a bad placement in Fall Mountain or a bad camera angle in Jump Showdown, not to mention server errors and glitches, can screw you over again and again. But even without those issues, some players will just never get good enough to win in a competitive game of this nature. And that’s fine. What’s not fine is locking cosmetic items behind multiple wins.
The only real motivating factor currently in the game, other than trophies most people probably don’t care about, is cosmetics. The game has a vast collection of cool cosmetics. The problem is that all the best ones require you to win up to 10 times in a limited period of time. This is a bad system. A game is supposed to reward players for the time they put in. That’s standard fare in 2020. That’s why so many games/franchises have taken on RPG elements. No matter how trash you are at a game, you can slowly but surely build up enough XP to get the things you ultimately want. Whether it’s better armor in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, new skills in Ghost of Tsushima, or more damage in God of War (2018), any player can over time build towards that goal no matter how rubbish they are. If you can kill just one enemy, run away, save, and repeat that process, then eventually you can get whatever you want from all those games and most others in 2020. Fall Guys doesn’t have this. Fall Guys doesn’t reward players for their time. It only rewards them for winning or for having real world currency to spend in the DLC Store. There are of course rewards you can buy with kudos, but the bulk of them are fairly boring. It’s the crown rewards that players actually want. And most players, as in a majority of the several million people playing on Steam and PS4,simply won’t ever get enough wins to get all the cosmetics they want.
In my opinion, exclusivity is harmful to a player base of casuals. People who aren’t hardcore don’t like seeing stuff they can’t eventually get as a result of time put in. Performance based rewards are not appealing in a game that relies so heavily on luck. In the long run, I think this will turn a lot of people off Fall Guys if not changed. A simple solution would be to make kudos exchangeable for crowns. Say 500 or 1000 kudos to 1 crown. Allowing this conversion would still require players to put in a large amount of effort or time but would reward them with things they actually want in the long run. No matter how garbage you are at the game, knowing you can eventually unlock the Portal costume would motivate many players to keep playing. Currently no such motivation exists. Once a player accepts that they simply won’t win 10 games, they have no reason to keep playing once fun stops being enough of a draw. The way it should work, in order to preserve a level of exclusivity, is that items are locked behind a single win wall. Meaning that all special cosmetic items should only be available to users that have won at least one show. But once this condition is met, they should be able to convert kudos to crowns and buy whatever they want regardless of how many times, above the required one, they’ve won. Initiating a system like this works to the advantage of all players while still requiring a minimum level of accomplishment. It’s the perfect compromise.
In its current form, Fall Guys appears to be a causal game but was clearly built for the top players. That’s the second worst way to build and manage an online multiplayer game. You don’t build for the top of the player base. You build for the middle. The bottom of the player base requires no attention. They will either stop playing because they can’t get better or keep playing because they just enjoy the game with no need for motivation. The top will keep playing because they’re the top and their vanity will keep them plugged in. People like excelling and rarely choose to leave something they’re already good at as long as it keeps feeling rewarding to win. But the middle of the player base, which also happens to be the biggest, requires actual management to keep their attention. If things are too easy, they get bored and leave. If things are too hard, they get irritated and leave. If rewards aren’t accessible, they get irritated and leave. But a game needs them. The top players are nothing without the middle players, because they need someone to dominate. The opposite is not true though. The middle players don’t need top players. They want to win so they can become those top players. The fewer top players present, the more motivated the middle players are to take that spot. Keeping the middle tier players happy and motivated to keep playing is the only way a game like Fall Guys remains successful in the long term. Currently it doesn’t have that.
Fall Guys has literally millions of players. I don’t know the exact number, but let’s say it has 15 million players. It sold 7 million copies on Steam and it was free for PS+ owners on PS4, topping the charts as the most downloaded free game. So I don’t think 15 million is an inflated number. If anything it’s too low. If I had to make an estimate, I’d say maybe 5% of players have won 5 times. I based this on the fact that the PSN trophy called “Top Tier” requires 7 wins and only has a 4% completion rate. So if only 5% of players have won 5 times, that’s a measly 750,000 of 15 million players. And 5 wins is only half a special cosmetic set. You need 10 wins to get both pieces. Not even 4% of players have gotten more than 7 wins. It’s likely that maybe only 3% of players have won enough times to buy a full special cosmetic set. Let’s also not forget that there have been multiple high demand special cosmetic sets. Yet only 1.1% of players have achieved the “Golden Guy” trophy, meaning they won a total of at least 20 times. So few players have actually been able to get the cosmetic items they want in a game that has no motivations to keep playing other than cosmetics. That is not a sustainable model in the long term. People will soon tire of the idea of seeing a few players, many of which are also griefers, wearing the cosmetics they want with absolutely no chance of ever unlocking them for themselves. People will only put up with that for so long. A time based work around for this issue would do wonders for millions of players desperate to get costumes referencing other games they like, such as the My Friend Pedro skin.
There are a number of other things I’d personally like to see added to the game, but I wouldn’t argue that they are necessary to make the game more appealing and sustainable for a majority of players. For instance, I’d like a single player mode with challenges. Like imagine a version of the game that actually runs like the TV show. You play the courses solo and get rewarded in crowns for completing certain tasks like “finish Slime Climb in under 60 seconds”. That kind of thing would be way more appealing to me than the battle royale experience the game currently offers. I’d probably stop playing the multiplayer mode completely unless my friends were online. I’d also love a speed mode where there is only 1 round and all 60 players go for the crown in a single game. I imagine something like a 360 degree Fall Mountain map where all 60 players start equidistant from the crown and rush towards the center. Or you could just do Fall Mountain and other regular final games in lobbies of only 5 to 10 people. I think this mode would be very popular for people and would be an additional method of making crowns and by extension special cosmetics more accessible to a majority of players. You could even set a limit on it like you can only win 5 – 10 crowns a day in that mode. It would definitely help with that “Infallible” trophy as well.
As I said early on in this post, I like Fall Guys. I’ve played it for way too many hours. At the time of writing this, I’m one of only 1.3% of players to reach level 40 in the first season. I want to see the game continue and thrive for many seasons. But in its current form I can’t see this happening. Severe changes need to be made in order to keep the average players motivated. Most of them will probably return for season 2, but if things go much the same then I predict the player base will decline significantly for season 3. I can say personally that once I hit level 40 I was done. My win percentage was simply too low to motivate me want to keep playing these same games with no time contingent rewards that actually mattered to me. I have more than 20K kudos and nothing I actually want to spend them on. But if I could convert them to crowns then that would change instantly. I’ll definitely return for season 2, but if the games aren’t super fun and I can’t see myself winning shows consistently, then there’s really no reason to keep playing. I definitely don’t see myself hitting level 40 again.
Mediatonic has done something great here. They should be proud of the success and I’m sure it has been very profitable. But now is the time to decide what type of game this will be. Is Fall Guys going to be a long term project that lasts for years and becomes a cultural staple like Fortnite, to my disappointment, has become. Or will it just be something that happened in 2020 that we all remember fondly but move past to the next trend just as quickly as the last thing we all tried and got bored with. I hope for the former, but that won’t happen organically or accidentally. The game needs to be managed and altered properly in order for that to happen. Only time will tell.