Cheerful music plays. A quick pan across the map lays out the territory in play, full of bouncy shapes, bright colors, and semi-devious traps. And then the whistle sounds, and 60 goofy Minions wannabes start trying to climb, fall, and bonk their way to their collective goal. It’s not Spain’s famed Running Of The Doofuses: It’s Mediatronic’s Fall Guys, the battle royale game for everyone who’s ever been too intimidated by those uber-cool Fortnite kids to try a battle royale game.
The premise itself is “Aw jeez, why didn’t I think of that?” simple: 60-ish pill-shaped, stubby-limbed competitors are brought into an online game show, then winnowed down through a series of rounds that see them climb mountains of goo, dodge falling fruit, and throw themselves into various scenarios of non-harmful bodily harm. Every round knocks out another few competitors, until a final race determines the winner. Repeat until your retinas burn out from all the neon pastels, or your dopamine drip dries up, whichever comes first.
The brilliance of Fall Guys, then, is in taking a concept—in this case, the battle royale phenomenon that’s made Fortnite one of the biggest video game success stories on the planet—and moving it from a genre with a high bar to entry to one with virtually none at all. First-person shooters like Fortnite (or Apex Legends, PUBG, CS: Danger Zone, COD: Blackout, H1Z1, insert your preferred mishmash of letters and wordshapes here) all require a level of familiarity with the mechanics of aiming and shooting in order to thrive. If you haven’t spent years teaching your hands how to draw a bead on another digital human being who’s busy trying to murder you, too, you’re probably never going to crack the upper echelons of games of that type. But the challenges presented by Fall Guys are intuitive: Run. Jump. Don’t fall in the goo.
Like Tetris 99 before it—but without even the fear of self-inflicted failure from a mis-laid block baked in—Fall Guys lets people who’d never pick up a virtual firearm experience the joys of battle royale. Which remain myriad: The invigorating tension of watching the roster of your fellow competitors get whittled down. The gentleness of losing—because, what, were you really going to beat 59 other people? And the rare, incredibly invigorating feeling when you do, in fact, take home the crown.
All that, and Fall Guys is also purely fun in its own right: The colors are bright, the physics are goofy without feeling impossible to manage, and the games you play—obstacle courses, team tag battles, virtual Wipeout, and more—are legitimately enjoyable, like long-form versions of Mario Party minigames. (And without the need to get four friends around the TV to get the appropriate levels of chaos.) The most important element, though is that accessibility: Fall Guys is a game anyone can play, pretty much regardless of their familiarity with games, with the softness of the visuals, the looseness of the controls, really everything about it re-assuring its players that, win or lose, they’ll be okay. The fact that it’s free for the taking this month for anyone with a PlayStation 4 and a PS Plus subscription only sweetens an already adorable pot.