Kena: Bridge of Spirits – full review

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Kena: Bridge of Spirits.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits has been out for three weeks now, and I finally got around to finishing the game the other day. I like to take my time with a game I’m enjoying, so I didn’t blitz through it at lightning speed! I’d been looking forward to Kena: Bridge of Spirits for months, and my first impressions of the game were fantastic. I already knew that I’d found something special in Kena: Bridge of Spirits, but having gone through the full experience I can now say with certainty that this is by far the best game I’ve played in all of 2021.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a rare offering: a visually beautiful game taking advantage of the best of modern graphics combined with an older style of gameplay that feels intuitive and uncomplicated. As silly as it may sound, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is unapologetically a video game – it doesn’t pretend to be an interactive movie. It also ignores many of the tropes of modern gaming: no “expansive open world,” no cluttered heads-up display with arrows pointing exactly where to go, no pop-up tips telling you precisely what combination of buttons to press to solve a puzzle. The game plays, in some respects, like a 3D action-platformer from the Nintendo 64 or PlayStation 1 era – and I’m absolutely there for that kind of classic gameplay style!

Promo artwork for Kena: Bridge of Spirits.

There are three main “levels” plus a brief tutorial, and with each stage the titular heroine Kena learns a new power that helps her navigate the game world, solve puzzles, and engage in some occasionally complex platforming. Each of the three sections is dedicated to helping track down relics and memories necessary to help a wayward spirit so that Kena can ultimately make her way to the mountain shrine. The story is mostly contained within cut-scenes that are seamlessly woven into gameplay, with Kena triggering a cut-scene upon beating a major boss or discovering a memory.

At first three levels broken down into a few different parts might not seem like a lot, and Kena: Bridge of Spirits isn’t the world’s longest game by any stretch. My playthrough, in which I completed the game and found as many hidden items and unlockables as reasonably possible, clocked in at 11 hours and 43 minutes. Anywhere from 9-12 hours seems to be a good guide based on online sources. For £30-35 (approx. $40) I felt that the game offered excellent value at that length.

Kena collecting one of the Rot.

Speaking of unlockables and collectibles, Kena: Bridge of Spirits didn’t go overboard in the way some titles do. Collecting the Rot – Kena’s adorable little companions – didn’t only feel like a natural part of gameplay, but having more Rot on your team allowed for more attacks and more powerful attacks which gave Kena an advantage particularly during boss fights. This made looking for hidden Rot feel worthwhile, and not just like typical open-world busywork in the way collect-a-thons in many modern games can.

There were also gems to collect, which were found hidden in chests, barrels, pots, and the like across the map. Gems can be spent on Rot hats, and while these aesthetic elements don’t have a gameplay impact, it was a lot of fun to collect the various hats and give different Rot different looks. By the end of the game, my 80+ Rot had dozens of different styles, including absolutely adorable ones like a dinosaur hat, a baseball cap, and even a cowboy hat. Anyone who loves animals or cute things will have a blast with the Rot and their hats, that’s for sure!

A Rot wearing the dinosaur hat – with examples of other available hats at the hat cart.

The Rot added a lot to gameplay as well. Kena could use the Rot to heal herself in combat, and the limited number of Rot Actions meant that timing became a consideration, particularly during long boss battles. Figuring out when to use the Rot and in what way added a much-needed extra dimension to combat. Otherwise, Kena had a light and heavy melee attack, a light and heavy ranged attack, and eventually a bomb as well. Each of these could be upgraded to deal more damage or to give Kena extra ammunition, and each could also be upgraded to give a Rot-powered attack.

The choice in some combat encounters was often between using a powerful Rot attack or using the Rot to heal, and it wasn’t always an easy decision to make! My personal favourite was the Rot-upgraded ranged attack, known in-game as the Rot Arrow, as this powerful attack was effective against many different enemies.

Kena using an upgraded Rot attack.

Kena was also equipped with a shield, which could also be upgraded, and a dodge/roll ability. By the end of the game she had also learned one final power: dash. In some boss fights, keeping out of range of a powerful boss who could do a huge amount of damage meant hitting the dodge button repeatedly! As the game progressed and Kena encountered a number of different enemy types, combat encounters became more varied. There were flying enemies, ghostly enemies that needed to be made corporeal before any attacks would harm them, and a range of different melee and ranged enemies, and they would appear in different combinations during combat.

If I were to make one criticism of the combat it would be that there were a couple of random difficulty spikes. At a relatively early point in the game I encountered a boss who, even on the easiest difficulty setting, could kill Kena in three hits. After he’d struck once, Kena was sent flying through the air and before she could recover had been hit a second time. This boss fight took a few attempts to complete, and while I admit I’m by no means the world’s best gamer, I felt that this spike in difficulty was noticeable. The boss was so much more difficult to defeat than any enemy before him, yet after beating him the game seemed to return to normal. It was odd – and frustrating!

This early boss fight was particularly difficult for some reason.

Aside from those couple of particularly difficult boss encounters, combat in Kena: Bridge of Spirits was outstanding. The relative simplicity of giving Kena one weapon – her magical staff – but allowing it to be used in three very different ways was interesting and fun. It also kept things uncomplicated, and I never felt like I had “forgotten” about some powerful attack or spell! Some games which offer a huge variety of weapons in a player’s arsenal can be overwhelming, and when the majority of players only use a handful of attacks at the most, there’s something to be said for keeping the options simple.

Despite that, there was still plenty of variety. Kena had light and heavy options for both melee attacks and ranged attacks, as well as a bomb – and then there were the aforementioned Rot-upgraded attacks that dealt more damage. There were enough options that I felt I had a choice of how to take out enemies and bosses, but not so many options that I felt overwhelmed or that combat was too complicated.

Kena using her ranged attack.

Kena’s magical staff and its different abilities also played a major role in traversing the game world. Arrows could be fired at targets that pulled Kena across long distances, and bombs could be used on certain highlighted areas to create new platforms for Kena to jump across. Arrows could also be fired to rotate platforms into the correct alignment, and later in the game Kena could use her dash ability to cross through portals and even jump across gaps too wide for her standard jump or double jump. Combining different powers and abilities led to plenty of variety when it came to exploring the game’s stunningly beautiful world.

There was a lot of platforming in Kena: Bridge of Spirits, and I loved that. When handled well, 3D platforming can be a huge amount of fun and offers incredibly rewarding gameplay, and Kena: Bridge of Spirits absolutely nailed that aspect of gameplay. Puzzles were complicated enough to not be incredibly obvious, yet simple enough that I never once needed to look up a solution online. I was always able to figure out what to do, where to go, and how to solve the platforming puzzles that the game presented based on what I’d learned through gameplay, and that’s a difficult balance for a game to get right!

Kena has to combine her powers and skills to traverse the game world.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits doesn’t hold your hand, though. After introducing you to a new power or attack that Kena can use, the game drops you into a new section of the map where that power can be used to its full effect. But there are no other hints pushing you in the right direction nor telling you how to solve a puzzle. It’s up to the player to use what they’ve learned and figure out how to get from point A to point B to keep the story moving, and I like that the game is bold enough not to offer too much help.

Many modern games across practically every genre hold players hands the whole time. I’ve played racing games that literally have an on-screen arrow the entire time, pointing exactly where to go, telling you when to slow down, speed up, etc. And games like Skyrim started the fad of having on-screen pointers guiding you to your precise destination. I’m a huge believer in accessibility features for disabled gamers, as I’m disabled myself, but even I consider that some of these features go too far for my personal taste. Kena: Bridge of Spirits was delightfully old-fashioned in that regard. It doesn’t drag you along the path it wants you to take, instead setting you down with all of the skills you need to walk the path alone and leaving you to do so.

Hanging from a ledge early in the game.

Fun combat and great platforming wouldn’t have been anywhere near as enjoyable, though, if Kena: Bridge of Spirits didn’t have an interesting and engaging story holding it all together. I was very keen during my playthrough to avoid spoilers, and the game was definitely much more enjoyable for experiencing the highs and lows of Kena’s journey first-hand.

Kena’s quest to reach the mountain shrine is motivated by the loss of her father, and this aspect of the story was quite emotional. Seeing Kena as a young child at one point really hammered home how this quest has been years in the making for her. At the same time, though, Kena was incredibly empathetic to the spirits she met along the way – even those she had to do battle with. Defeating one of the game’s three big bosses didn’t kill them – instead Kena, as a spirit guide, helped them overcome whatever was keeping them trapped in this world and make the transition to the spirit realm. She showed genuine empathy to everyone she encountered, and while she was on a mission of her own, she showed no hesitation when it came to getting side-tracked to help others.

Kena with her younger self in the spirit realm.

At the same time, going off in different directions didn’t feel like Kena was being sent on some disconnected side-mission. Helping Taro, the game’s first spirit, and Adira, the second spirit, were both presented as the next step to reaching the mountain shrine, and Kena was happy to help both of those spirits along with helping herself and moving her quest forward. The story thus flowed smoothly from point to point with nothing feeling unnecessary or like time-wasting fluff.

The third spirit Kena had to help was Toshi, and he was directly in the way of Kena’s progress to the mountain shrine, so once again this felt like a natural progression of the story.

That being said, I think the way the game was structured meant that coming to the aid of three spirits was probably the maximum the story could’ve gotten away with. Adding in any more might well have made them feel like unnecessary hurdles, and the fact that each spirit had three relics to collect before engaging in a boss fight would have risked becoming repetitive had it been repeated many more times. Three spirits was a good number, then, based on the way the game chose to handle each of them.

Kena helped several spirits while on her journey.

As well as learning of Kena’s father, the game had a number of emotional moments. Each of the spirits genuinely wanted to help their families or the people of their village, and letting go of what was anchoring them made all three cut-scenes after the big boss battles feel genuinely emotional. I may have shed a tear on more than one occasion!

Toward the end of the game, having collected many Rot (and many Rot hats) in different places and in different ways, Toshi stole all of the Rot from Kena after the first of two epic climactic battles. Seeing her lose her companions was heart-breaking – and definitely got me riled up for the next phase of the fight! After saving the Rot and defeating Toshi, allowing his spirit to achieve peace, the Rot were transformed back into their true form, a form which resembled a giant panther or cat. As a cat lover myself, this was an incredibly sweet moment; the high point of the game’s final story.

The Rot – restored to their true form.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits does seem to have left things open-ended, though. We didn’t get to see what happened after Kena achieved her goal and meditated at the mountain shrine, with the credits rolling after she settled down to meditate having saved and restored the Rot. Did she find her father, or information about him? Did she find something else that she didn’t know she was seeking?

Perhaps the game is teasing an expansion or sequel in future, and if that’s the case I’m absolutely going to be there! As it is, though, after the emotional loss of the Rot, the big battle to save them, and ultimately letting them go to restore their true form and bring balance back to the forest, for Kena to just plop down and close her eyes risks feeling like a bit of an anticlimactic ending. We saw her reach the goal she’d been working towards for the entire game, but we didn’t get to see what, if anything, that moment meant to her.

Kena made it to the mountain shrine… but what will happen next?

This could certainly be setting up a continuation of Kena’s story, and I’m okay with that. As things sit, her story doesn’t yet feel complete. I’m wondering what the future might hold for her! At the same time, developers Ember Lab did such a fantastic job on what is their debut game that I’d love to see them tackle a different project in future. Kena: Bridge of Spirits has been a huge success, topping the charts here in the UK and elsewhere, so the studio has the world at its feet. Should they simply move on to a sequel right away, or might they want to turn their attention to other projects?

Overall, I had a wonderful time playing Kena: Bridge of Spirits. It’s by far the best game I’ve played all year, and I don’t think it will be surpassed in the next couple of months before 2022 rolls around! It was one of those games where I didn’t want to rush through it too quickly; I wanted to preserve this moment in time and keep enjoying it for as long as I possibly could.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a visual masterpiece, a uniquely-styled game pushing modern-day graphics to their limit. It’s also a wonderful return to a style of gameplay that has fallen out of favour in recent years. Every element has clearly been lovingly crafted and honed to near-perfection, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is out now for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the copyright of Ember Lab. Some promotional artwork courtesy of Ember Lab. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits – First Impressions

Don’t worry, there aren’t going to be any big spoilers for the story of Kena: Bridge of Spirits this time. I just wanted to take a moment to share my first impressions of one of the games I’d been looking forward to all year!

Unfortunately, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an Epic Games exclusive on PC, meaning I had to finally break my year-long streak of avoiding the company. Long story short, I had a falling-out with Epic Games last year due to getting locked out of my account, and I had hoped to avoid spending money with them again. But Kena: Bridge of Spirits proved just too tempting, so I succumbed and bought the game. It had been one of my most-anticipated games of the year, so I was content to make an exception.

Promotional artwork for Kena: Bridge of Spirits.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the debut game from Ember Lab, a studio which originally worked on animation and CGI for film and television. Considering this is their first ever game, and that they’re a small studio, I’m absolutely blown away. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is incredible, and I’d be impressed if it had come from a major developer with the backing of a huge publisher. But knowing that the title is the culmination of years of hard work by a small, independent team working on their first ever interactive project leaves me speechless.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the debut game from Ember Lab.

In the couple of hours I’ve spent with Kena: Bridge of Spirits so far, the game plays beautifully. There aren’t any loading screens getting in the way of gameplay, platforming is intuitive and smooth, combat is fast-paced and exciting, the transitions from gameplay to cut-scenes and back again are well-integrated, and I haven’t found so much as a single bug, glitch, or visual goof.

Kena hangs from a ledge during an early platforming section.

Sticking with gameplay, Kena: Bridge of Spirits offers some incredibly fun adventuring. Kena has all the moves you would expect for this kind of game: she can run, jump, double-jump, and climb ledges. The Rot – Kena’s adorable companions – have a range of abilities, the most useful of which include being able to move objects and obstacles to clear a path or open up a new area for Kena, as well as occasionally pointing the way so she doesn’t get lost.

The Rot moving a platform for Kena to jump on.

Gameplay is all very intuitive, with the default controls and buttons doing everything you’d expect. The design of the game’s early levels shows a lot of thought and planning; it was always clear which path to take and I never felt like Kena was lost. There were some paths that led to dead-ends, but these seem to be areas that can be unlocked or expanded later in the game, so I should be able to return to them later.

Kena in the game’s opening level.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits isn’t heavy on dialogue, and while it was certainly pretty clear what to do and where to go, I didn’t feel the game was holding my hand and dragging me down a narrow path. To give one example, at an early point in the game the camera panned wordlessly over three vulnerable spots that Kena had to take out before she could defeat the main boss during a fight. It was obvious that these three spots needed to be hit first, but the game didn’t say so explicitly, it merely pointed me in the right direction then left me to fight the battle.

Kena takes damage in an early fight.

Combat feels great in Kena: Bridge of Spirits. Kena has a couple of primary attacks and one defensive shield. Using her shield at just the right moment can lead to a defensive parry, and she has a light and heavy attack. The Rot can also play a role in combat, but I won’t spoil exactly what they can do. Combat is fast-paced, but not so blindingly fast as to feel overwhelming. I also felt that the number of enemies present at each encounter was about right as well.

Kena performs a heavy attack on a monster.

The game offers three difficulty options at first, with a fourth “master” difficulty that unlocks after completion. For players who like a very tough challenge, this adds replayability. I’m categorically not a “hard mode” gamer by any stretch, so I’ve been playing on the easiest difficulty setting. I found that to be quite enough for my skill level! Difficulty settings change the recharge rate of Kena’s Rot companions, which will affect their ability to participate in combat encounters, and also ramps up the aggressiveness and damage of enemies. Increasing the difficulty doesn’t add additional enemies into the game.

Kena is hit by a monster and flies backwards!

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is without a doubt the most visually stunning game I’ve played all year. After traversing the game’s opening area, Kena climbed a staircase overlooking a mountain and valley, and I was blown away. I literally put down the control pad and said “woah” out loud! How many games – ever – have made me say “woah?”

I had to stop for a moment when I saw this incredibly beautiful vista so I could take it all in.

The animation and visual effects work are absolutely beautiful. Kena: Bridge of Spirits has a bright colour palette, with sunlit areas that are positively glowing. Shades of blue, yellow, white, and particularly green present a striking contrast with the “corrupted” areas of the map, which feel depressingly dark with faded greys and browns and flashes of an evil, glowing red. Ember Lab’s past as an animation studio absolutely shines through, and the animators’ work with the game’s colours is pitch-perfect.

The contrast between the verdant green living areas and the grey-brown corrupted areas is striking, and the game uses colour to great effect.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits has an aesthetic that wouldn’t be out of place in a big budget animated film from the likes of Pixar or Dreamworks. The game doesn’t prioritise gritty realism over beauty, and what results is an astonishingly pretty animated look to both its characters and environments. Kena herself is a lovingly-crafted protagonist, and everything from her hair and outfit to her magic staff just looks fantastic.

Kena – the game’s protagonist and player character.

Other characters and Kena’s Rot companions also look visually impressive. The Rot – despite their somewhat offputting name – are utterly adorable critters. Their big eyes and cute faces make them incredibly sympathetic, which is important! Their fearful nature means they tend to scatter and hide at the beginning of combat encounters, and in another game I feel like that mechanic could become annoying. But because of just how darn cute the Rot are I actually found it spurring me on! How dare those evil monsters scare my poor little Rot!

Kena is accompanied on her adventure by the Rot. And they’re adorable!

Oh, and the Rot get to wear hats. Cute, adorable little hats. The hats can be purchased using gems that are found throughout the game world – something that should be familiar to anyone who’s ever played a game like this one. One thing I liked about the way Kena: Bridge of Spirits handles collecting these gems, though, is that Kena never destroys or damages property – even in abandoned houses or ruins. She carefully opens a chest or barrel, collects the gems, and then closes it again. No need to smash or break any pots!

Kena collecting gems from a chest.

There’s also a map, as you might expect. The map was easy to navigate and seems to highlight significant points and quest-relevant locations but without being overwhelmed. Some games have maps that you can barely read for all the pins and markers, but Kena: Bridge of Spirits has a well-designed map that’s legible, useable, and fits right in with the rest of the game from an aesthetic point of view.

The in-game map is useful.

When Kena puts on a spirit mask the game enters a static first-person view. This mode allows you to spot Rot, as well as certain quest-specific items. It’s a riff on the “detective mode” present in several other games, but it’s handled in such a way as to feel like a unique experience for Kena: Bridge of Spirits.

Kena putting on a spirit mask.

And that last sentence could summarise my thoughts on the game. Kena: Bridge of Spirits takes established tropes of the adventure genre but gives them its own presentation and sets them up in a brand-new world. The gameplay is fantastic, and anyone who’s played these kinds of games in the past will feel right at home. Where it truly excels is its art style and aesthetic. The designers have to get much of the credit for the unique feel of Kena and the world she inhabits.

I’m having a great time with Kena: Bridge of Spirits! The game has met all of the expectations I could’ve had going in, and at least in terms of visuals it even exceeded them. I would have been impressed if this game had been produced by an established team of developers backed up by the resources of a huge publisher, but to know that it’s the first ever game by an independent studio is truly mind-blowing. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is fantastic – and I can’t wait to jump back in!

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is out now for PlayStation 4/5 and PC. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is the copyright of Ember Lab. Some promotional artwork courtesy of Ember Lab. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Fall Guys round ranking update!

Since I last ranked all of the rounds in Fall Guys, two new seasons have arrived and added fifteen additional ones! The total number now stands at a whopping fifty-five rounds, and there are promises of more to come. Hopefully developer Mediatonic and publisher Epic Games will soon launch a Nintendo Switch version of the game, because if there’s one thing stopping Fall Guys hitting its full potential its the lack of availability on that platform!

But we aren’t here to talk about that today, and a Switch version is still on the agenda for 2021 – at least according to Nintendo. This time I’m going to take a look at the fifteen newly-added rounds, giving my thoughts and impressions on each of them. We’ll start at the bottom with my least-favourites and work up to the rounds I consider to be the best and most interesting. So let’s get started, shall we?

Number 15: Lily Leapers

I don’t hate Lily Leapers, and after a few attempts I managed to get the hang of bouncing on the trampoline-like drums. But as I’ve said in the past about a few other rounds (like Door Dash, for example) the fact that there’s literally only one type of obstacle or item across the entire round naturally makes it less interesting. The trampoline-drums are fine, but the round itself is one-dimensional because that’s all there is to do.

Bouncing on the drums causes them to make a very bass-heavy noise. When playing the game using a setup that includes speakers and a subwoofer, this bass noise is incredibly loud, disproportionately so when compared to the rest of the music and sound effects. So I think a bit of tweaking might be necessary there!

Number 14 (tie): Basketfall and Power Trip

I’m not a big fan of team rounds. Your ability to progress is entirely dependent on who you find yourself teamed up with, and some rounds can see one or two players dominate proceedings. Power Trip is perhaps the better of the two team rounds introduced in Season 4, but even so it’s possible to play very well and lose simply because the other players on your team weren’t very good. Randomness is all part of the fun – sometimes. But it can be frustrating to be on a good run and be brought crashing down because of factors beyond your control!

All that being said, I haven’t seen anywhere near as many team games in recent weeks. I’m not sure if that’s pure luck or if the frequency of team games has been adjusted in one of the updates. As a result I scarcely play either Power Trip or Basketfall any more.

Number 12: Big Shots

The only reason Big Shots isn’t higher up the list is that it’s relatively easy. I’ve seen this round eliminate literally only one or two players sometimes, simply because most folks have got the hang of it. The concept is interesting – balancing on a see-saw while dodging flying obstacles – but something needs to happen to shake it up in order to make it a more useful round once again!

Despite that, I like Big Shots. I like the way it’s a riff on other concepts from elsewhere in the game, feeling familiar yet different at the same time. Its only problem is that it doesn’t always feel like a useful round given that practically everyone can qualify!

Number 11: Lost Temple

I mentioned on a recent episode of the DenPod (my unscripted podcast) that I really like Lost Temple. The maze-like layout manages to make the drab Door Dash concept actually worthwhile, and I like the way each chamber in the maze contains a different obstacle to overcome. It’s a very fun, well-designed round that’s constantly changing and keeps you on your toes!

Why isn’t it higher up the list? A valid question! And here’s the answer: because it only appears as a finale! Lost Temple would make a fantastic round earlier in the game, and restricting it to be only a finale feels almost like a waste of a great concept.

Number 10: Short Circuit

Short Circuit is fun, and the concept of racing multiple laps of a track instead of just running from one end of a course to the other is neat. I also like the way Short Circuit has a varied mix of different obstacles, as this keeps things interesting throughout the race.

The only problem with Short Circuit is – somewhat ironically – that it can be a long round. Two laps of what is a fairly long obstacle course by the standards of Fall Guys makes for a round that’s longer than many others. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does keep Short Circuit from climbing any further up this list.

Number 9: Button Bashers

Button Bashers is unique in that it separates players into groups of two, and pits each pair against one another in the only one-on-one round in the whole game. Its arena is compact, with ten or so buttons to jump on to score points. I like the concept and I think it works well. In fact, Button Bashers could be a template for other one-against-one rounds or round variants in future.

This round doesn’t seem to come up as often as some of the others from Season 4 – as it’s dependent on there being an even number of players – so I’ve only played it a handful of times. But I recently recorded my first win, so that’s something!

Number 8: Roll On

The third round introduced using rolling cylinders, Roll On is perhaps the most interesting riff on the concept so far. Both of the other rounds are about survival; Roll On is a race to the finish line. It’s deceptively tricky, even after you think you’ve got the hang of it!

I was a little surprised to see that Roll On doesn’t use the futuristic sci-fi aesthetic of other Season 4 rounds, instead retaining the original look of the game from its launch. Was that an oversight? Did the developers run out of time or not have the resources to re-skin all of the different obstacles? Or was it a conscious choice to keep the visual style the same with Roll Off? Not sure, but it’s notable at least.

Number 7: Pegwin Pool Party

The Pegwins – robotic penguins that can be seen on many different courses – are adorable, and Season 5 added a water park-themed level where the Pegwins are the stars! It’s a cute concept, one which makes for a surprisingly chaotic round as players struggle in a relatively compact area to control the limited number of Pegwins.

The relatively small space is well-used, with different areas and obstacles adding to the challenge. When 25+ players are dumped in, the pool party really gets going and, as I said, can be very chaotic with players jumping and grabbing each other left, right, and centre! It’s wild and a lot of fun.

Number 6: The Slimescraper

As with Slime Climb before it, I’m atrocious at the Slimescraper. In fact, this round is my Fall Guys nemesis as it’s the only round I’ve never been able to qualify from! Not even once. But despite that, I love it. It’s a challenging obstacle course with plenty of different things going on, all the while the slowly-rising slime adds an additional threat.

One day – if I cross my fingers and hope for the best – I’ll finally defeat the Slimescraper!

Number 5: Bubble Trouble

Bubble Trouble is a neat round. The course is divided into four parts, with each quadrant having different jungle-themed obstacles to climb on as players pop bubbles to score enough points to qualify. The abundance of bubbles to pop makes it easy to get on the scoreboard even for newbies, and when compared to other hunt rounds like Hoopsie Legends I think it’s more enjoyable as a result.

Get lucky and be in the right area of the map at the right time and you can quickly claim plenty of bubbles – and points – all for yourself!

Number 4: Stompin’ Ground

Stompin’ Ground uses a similar concept to Snowball Survival from Season 3, but replaces the rolling snowballs with out-of-control rhinos! Because the rhinos can charge at anyone in any direction at any time, Stompin’ Ground is a round that keeps you on your toes the whole time.

Sometimes in Snowball Survival it’s possible to stand to one side and stay still until the round is over; nothing of the sort in Stompin’ Ground unless you want to be ejected from the arena!

Number 3: Skyline Stumble

Skyline Stumble is a great sci-fi themed obstacle course with a variety of different obstacles to defeat en route to the finish line. It’s tricky to get the hang of each of the different aspects, and even after playing it dozens of times I still find myself getting caught out sometimes!

This round was a great introduction to Season 4, and the futuristic visual style present for all of the Season 4 rounds is really neat. Skyline Stumble also offers different ways to make it to the finish line.

Number 2: Hoverboard Heroes

Hoverboard Heroes has a clever concept at its core. The continuously-moving platform draws inspiration from classic side-scrolling platformers, and the round has plenty of different obstacles for players to overcome. It’s not an easy round by any means, and can often result in relatively few survivors!

What I like most about Hoverboard Heroes is that it reminds me of those older platform games. The moving platform adds a lot of pressure to get past obstacles in a timely fashion lest you be left behind and unable to progress, and overall it’s a fun, challenging round.

Number 1: Treetop Tumble

So we made it to the best of the best! Treetop Tumble is everything an obstacle course should aim to be. There are different paths to the finish line. There’s a wide variety of static and moving obstacles. There are slippery slides. Cannons shooting balls. Drums to bounce on. And much more besides!

Treetop Tumble epitomises all of the things I like about Fall Guys, and is unquestionably one of my favourite rounds in the entire game as a result.

So that’s it! We’ve added the new rounds from Season 4 and Season 5 to the rankings.

Check out my earlier list (linked above and below) for my thoughts on rounds from Seasons 1-3!

With only a couple of exceptions really, all of the rounds added since Season 3 debuted last winter have been great. I’m not wild about the team rounds particularly, but there’s no denying that the developers of Fall Guys are still on the ball when it comes to improving and adding to the game.

The only thing missing is a Switch version, really. Now that Season 5 has launched and the game now boasts well over fifty rounds, perhaps it’s time for Mediatonic to refocus their efforts to getting the Switch version ready and out the door. Fall Guys is the perfect game for Nintendo’s platform, and the fact that it’s been absent for an entire year has meant that the Switch’s 85+ million players haven’t had a chance to try the game for themselves. Rectifying that has to be the next objective for Fall Guys, surely!

Getting the game on Nintendo Switch needs to be a priority now.

Fall Guys continues to be a lot of fun. The game just passed its first anniversary, and though a cheating problem last year saw a lot of players abandon it, those problems have long since been resolved and in its current state it’s the perfect kind of casual game to dip in and out of. I don’t play every single day, but if I have down time and I feel like picking up a controller for a few minutes, Fall Guys is my current go-to game.

I hope this list was a bit of fun! If you disagree or feel like I’ve been too harsh on some rounds (or too lenient on others) that’s great. We all have our own opinions, and something like this is always going to be wholly subjective. Perhaps I’ll see you out there on the obstacle course, pushing you out of the way as I bid to win my next crown!

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is out now for PC and PlayStation 4/5, with Xbox and Nintendo Switch versions in development. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and all associated properties mentioned above are the copyright of Mediatonic and/or Epic Games. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

All Fall Guys rounds re-ranked!

Back in August, when Fall Guys was the party hit of the summer, I put all of the rounds (i.e. levels) into a ranked list. Since then, a number of new rounds have been added to the game as part of the Season 2 and Season 3 updates. In addition, most rounds now have at least one variant, with alterations to obstacles to keep players on their toes.

I’m hopeful that Fall Guys will have a strong future. With releases planned for Xbox and Switch this summer, and a fourth season coming between now and then, developers Mediatonic are still working hard. But as we noted last time, player numbers have dropped significantly – by as much as 95% on PC – in a little over half a year, so new owners Epic Games have their work cut out to revitalise Fall Guys in 2021.

Fall Guys is coming to Nintendo Switch this summer.

There are presently 38 rounds in the game, and we’ll look at each of them in turn from worst to best. Some rounds have been greatly improved since I last ranked them, whereas others are now overshadowed by newer rounds that are better! So there will certainly be some changes when compared to my previous list.

Before we go any further, a note about team rounds. In order to avoid being too repetitive, let’s get this out of the way first: success or failure in team rounds is inherently dependent on who you’re teamed up with. Lopsided or unbalanced teams (i.e. 5 against 7) have largely been eliminated from the game via updates – which is great news – but if you’re teamed up with people who aren’t great at the round, who aren’t paying attention, who drop out, etc. it’s going to be much harder to qualify. That’s just the nature of team rounds in a game like Fall Guys, and while it can be incredibly frustrating, it’s also something that can’t be avoided. The reverse can also be true – you can play atrociously only to end up qualifying thanks to being on a strong team. So rather than repeat myself with every single team round, I thought I’d just make this clear at the beginning!

Without any further caveats, let’s jump and dive headfirst into the list.

Number 38: Snowy Scrap (Team)

I appreciate what Snowy Scrap was trying to do, and how the developers clearly hoped to create a round that bypassed some of the issues with Rock N Roll – another round which tasks teams of players to push a large ball. The problem with Snowy Scrap is that the physics engine in use in Fall Guys, as well as the deliberately clumsy characters, are not well-suited to a game which requires precision. In Rock N Roll, the large goal at the end doesn’t require this, but in Snowy Scrap the snowballs need to be aimed at small patches of snow on the ground. The clunky balls are difficult to control so delicately, and it’s just a very difficult round as a result.

Number 37: Door Dash (Race)

Last time I ranked Door Dash as the worst round in the game… and nothing has been done to address any of its issues in the patches and updates since. Its combination of being fast-paced yet random means that a single unavoidable mistake – because which doors are real and which are fake is completely random and unknowable – can often mean failure to qualify. It’s a round where, if luck is on your side, you’ll breeze through. If not, however, you’re in trouble. A lot of the rounds in Fall Guys require at least a modicum of skill; Door Dash doesn’t. If you can run and jump, you can play this round just as well as the best players in the world.

Number 36: Fruit Chute (Race)

There’s nothing wrong with the premise of Fruit Chute, which sees players run on a treadmill while obstacles are being fired at them. But it’s an incredibly unforgiving round, and in most cases a single collision can be enough to knock you right out of contention. It’s also a round where not much has been changed, and the variant which added mallets (to sling players forward up the track) doesn’t really seem to help, as landing awkwardly can still mean qualification is out of reach. A fun round, for sure, but horribly unforgiving.

Number 35: Royal Fumble (Finale)

Royal Fumble has slipped way down my list compared to last time for one simple reason: it hardly ever shows up any more. It’s hard to say anything about a round that seems to have dropped off the face of the earth, and I almost took it entirely out of contention. The premise is fine – whoever is in possession of the one single tail when the timer runs out wins the crown – but if, for whatever reason, it’s no longer being used very often, then it can’t be ranked any higher on the list.

Number 34: Tip Toe (Race)

Another round that hasn’t seen any improvement since last time, Tip Toe is another that can be very unforgiving and random. It’s impossible to tell which tiles are fake and which are real without jumping on them, and if you’re unlucky enough to fall near the end, by the time you’ve respawned the round can be over. Because Tip Toe shows up later (usually it’s at least the third round) players are cautious, wanting to qualify for the finale, so it can drag out if no one is willing to try stepping on the next tile. The addition of a mallet in one variant does basically nothing, because even if you jumped perfectly and got hit by it, chances are you’d still land on a tile that will fall away.

Number 33: See Saw (Race)

See Saw sees perhaps the biggest fall from grace since I wrote my first list. Back then I said that it was “a ton of fun, and deceptively tricky.” And that’s true – See Saw can be fun, but one thing I’ve come to realise is just how unfair it is. Players who spawn in at the front of the pack have a far bigger advantage than I realised, and it’s often the case in See Saw that two or three players manage to qualify way before everyone else simply because they had a straight shot to the finish line. However, See Saw is usually a forgiving round, meaning a fall or two doesn’t usually knock you right out of contention. I still like it and have fun with it, but the unfairness is definitely noteworthy!

Number 32: Jump Showdown (Finale)

Jump Showdown is – I think – the finale where I’ve won the most crowns! But it’s quite random when compared to all of the other finales, and it’s possible to lose simply because of where you spawned in at the beginning. When a couple of platforms have fallen away, you can end up in the wrong place simply by chance, and thus I stand by what I said last time: that’s poor for a finale.

Number 31: Rock N Roll (Team)

Rock N Roll usually sees all three teams make identical progress pushing their giant ball through a short obstacle course, and that’s the part of the round that could really use some attention and improvement. Once the balls drop it’s a short run to the goal at the bottom, and this round invariably descends into which team can hold up the others better. I also feel that there’s a disadvantage to being in the middle lane, simply because you have players from both sides who could jump in the way and hold you up. It’s preferable to Snowy Scrap, though!

Number 30: Jinxed (Team)

I hadn’t played many rounds of Jinxed when I ranked it last time, but it seems to come up more often now. It’s okay, and the level is well-designed. It’s a very fast-paced round, better suited to larger teams, but because of the way it starts – with one “jinxed” player per team – it can get lopsided fast if one of the jinxed players isn’t paying attention (or just isn’t very good!) It’s okay, though, and we’re getting into the part of the list where none of the rounds are all that bad, just overshadowed by some that are better!

Number 29: Perfect Match (Logic)

I ranked Perfect Match much higher up the list last time. I enjoy it a lot, and in a game that can be very hectic it’s a refreshingly different offering. However, it’s also a round that invariably ends up eliminating practically nobody. I don’t want to attach the label “too easy,” but it’s hard to know what else to say about a round where 30 out of 31 players qualify. A variant has been added that randomly shoots obstacles at the course, and that helps a little, but right now Perfect Match is an outlier. If it remains the case that it doesn’t eliminate many players, including it is going to end up feeling like a waste of time when it appears. That’s a shame, because in theory I like Perfect Match – it just doesn’t work so well at the moment.

Number 28:Pegwin Pursuit (Team)

The robo-penguins that you have to catch in this game are cute, and the concept is fun. You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m not wild about a lot of the team rounds, and in a way I’d like to see a solo variant of this round as I think that could be fun. If there were, for example, five fewer penguins than players (10 penguins in a 15-player round, and so on) maybe that would work. It’s fine, though, and worked well during the winter-themed Season 3.

Number 27: Team Tail Tag (Team)

Team Tail Tag has one of the best-designed levels, and it’s one that could work well for a whole range of different games. It has ramps, conveyors, slippery slime ramps, mallets… lots of different “terrains” and obstacles. It’s also the only round where I’ve seen four teams instead of two or three! The tail tag concept is fun, and pretty easy to get to grips with. A fun middle-of-the-road round that I don’t really have anything else to say about.

Number 26: Tail Tag (Hunt)

As I said in my previous list, the non-team version of Tail Tag works ever-so-slightly better, in my opinion, because victory or defeat is in your own hands. The map is perhaps slightly less fun, though it has spawned at least one variant with large fans that does mix things up a little. Tail Tag is the one round where what you do at the beginning does not matter in the slightest; it’s won or lost in the last few seconds. That keeps it exciting all the way along, and I appreciate that about it. It’s also on a fixed timer so there’s no waiting around!

Number 25: Hex-A-Gone (Finale)

Hex-A-Gone is fine. It’s a solid finale that does what it says it’s going to do! I’ve seen some players who seem to have very elaborate Hex-A-Gone tactics, including dropping way down to the final layer to make holes in the hopes that other players will fall straight through! I like that it’s a round that inspires some degree of tactical thinking; you can’t just run around and hope for the best.

Number 24: Fall Ball (Team)

I mentioned above that the physics of Fall Guys makes controlling large balls difficult, and while that was frustrating in Snowy Scrap it’s a big part of the fun of Fall Ball. Even after playing many times, I’m still crap at it. But it’s fun, and it’s a change of pace when compared to a lot of the other team rounds. It actually requires a degree of teamwork to qualify – just running around only considering yourself can leave your goal exposed or leave teammates without support, so it’s another round that can be played tactically.

Number 23: Hoarders (Team)

Hoarders is a pretty hectic round, and another that requires players to control large balls. Luckily in this case the objective is just to keep as many as possible in an entire third of the map, which is much easier than scoring a goal or rolling in a specific area! As with Tail Tag, who’s winning at the start doesn’t matter; there are only a few balls so it’s possible to pull off a recovery even at the last second. In that sense it’s a round that never lets up.

Number 21 (tie): Egg Scramble & Egg Siege (Team)

I’m putting these two together because for all intents and purposes they’re the same round. The level design is slightly different – with Egg Siege adding a medieval theme and drawbridges, as well as deeper “nests,” but the changes aren’t substantial enough to make the rounds play any differently from one another. I like both, and the addition of golden eggs alongside regular eggs adds an extra dimension to the rounds. They’re fun and often fast-paced – the only time either are less fun would be when there are only a few players per team. One round I played only had four players on each team, and I think that’s too few!

Number 20: Hoopsie Daisy (Team)

I think we’ve come to my favourite team round! I just love the jumping and diving, and the hoops are just large enough to make a good target without being too big or making it too easy. The addition of golden hoops, and mixing up some of the obstacles on the map, gives Hoopsie Daisy an additional dimension, and I always smile when it crops up. Unless your team falls way behind and stays there, it’s usually competitive right up to the last second, too.

Number 19: Jump Club (Survival)

I prefer Jump Club to its finale cousin for the simple reason that it’s less random. It’s still possible to screw up and fail to qualify, but usually that’s because of a self-inflicted mistake, and not because of the way the round was designed. Otherwise it’s a pretty simple concept – jump over the spinning beam without getting caught by the larger one above it. Hang on long enough while other players get knocked into the slime and you qualify! It’s a round that usually doesn’t drag on too long, either because a lot of players get caught out, or because the beams speed up!

Number 18: Roll Out (Survival)

If there were only the original version of Roll Out it would surely rank lower down the list. That’s because, as I noted last time, that version of Roll Out can take a long time to play out because most people have got the hang of it! But there are two new variants that completely mix it up. In one, two of the five rotating cylinders are gone, meaning there are more players packed into a smaller space. In the other, fruit obstacles are fired at random, knocking players down. These new variants massively improve the round.

Number 17: Wall Guys (Race)

Among the racing rounds, there really isn’t anything quite like Wall Guys. In a way it’s partly a game of logic, trying to piece together the best route across the platforms to scale the walls. But it’s also a round that requires good jumping, diving, and aiming reflexes. A second variant adds in giant fans, which certainly mixes things up. It’s not an easy round by any means, and sometimes positioning a platform in just the right place can mean someone else jumps on it first – but that’s part of the game!

Number 16: Freezy Peak (Race)

Freezy Peak is a fun obstacle course with several sections offering a variety of challenges. The hardest part (at least for me) is getting the timing right to jump across the fans, using the updraft to cross a gap. It’s not easy, but it’s a cleverly-designed round and I appreciate that it offers a lot of variety. It could easily be repurposed to become a finale, with the first person reaching the summit winning a crown!

Number 15: Hoopsie Legends (Hunt)

Hoopsie Legends is the solo variant of Hoopsie Daisy, and it’s great fun. The challenge doesn’t only lie in jumping through the hoops, but also in getting to them ahead of other players, and in moving platforms to just the right place. The map itself is perhaps a little bland, with only the central drawbridge area offering any variety. My only real point of criticism, though, is that in a round where the objective is to score six points, having a few golden hoops that are worth five points each can make it quick and easy for some players to reach the target. It might be better if these were only worth two points.

Number 14: Thin Ice (Finale)

Thin Ice is a slightly better variant of Hex-A-Gone, and that’s really all there is to say. After standing on the hexagon-shaped ice tiles for a couple of seconds, they crack and disappear, dropping players down to the next layer of ice. It’s possible to do well at Thin Ice by taking it slow and focusing on one section of the level. When it gets down to the final layer and a lot of holes, well that’s when it gets hectic! It’s also the finale where I’ve seen the most players – 18 on one occasion, and 15-16 several times.

Number 13: Snowball Survival (Survival)

This is a fun round, and a well-designed level. Two giant snowballs roll across the bowl-shaped map at random, sometimes bouncing off one another. There are patches of ice that crack and fall away, and patches of solid ground. Getting hit by a snowball sends players flying in all directions, and the challenge is in jumping out of the way in time! It’s also a round that can, on occasion, eliminate a large number of players.

Number 12: Fall Mountain (Finale)

Fall Mountain makes for a great finale because it’s fast-paced. It’s a race to the top – while giant balls are being shot down the mountain at you – and whoever makes it and grabs the crown wins. Victory or defeat is entirely in your own hands – quick reflexes are needed to avoid the balls and swinging mallets, and to jump at the right moment to grab the crown. Though it’s kind of basic as far as obstacle courses go, it’s great fun.

Number 11: Slime Climb (Race)

I’m still awful at Slime Climb! More often than not I wind up eliminated through a mistimed jump or by getting knocked over by one of the many different types of obstacle! But as a pure obstacle course it has everything: rolling balls, swinging mallets, slippery slopes, pushing platforms… the lot. And a few different variants have been added, changing up some of the obstacles to keep players on their toes. In terms of the way the level is designed it has to be one of the best in the game – even though I absolutely suck at it.

Number 10: The Whirlygig (Race)

I like what The Whirlygig has to offer, and the fact that a couple of different variants have sprung up keeps it fresh and interesting. I’ve pretty much nailed my tactics for this round, and even on my worst days I can still expect to make it to the finish line! The rotating fans offer a different kind of obstacle, and getting the timing right to avoid getting hit is the key.

Number 9: Gate Crash (Race)

I’m not doing individual awards, but if I were, Gate Crash would win “most improved!” Last time I said that it was too unforgiving, but maybe I’ve just got better at it since then. Regardless, the addition of moving obstacles seems to have helped, and Gate Crash has one of the best final stretches of any round – with a slippery slope leading to a jump. Getting that right requires a bit of skill and the right timing, something that can be tricky!

Number 8: Dizzy Heights

Dizzy Heights now has several different variants to spice things up, including one where its signature spinning platforms have been removed in the middle section! These variants keep it fresh and interesting, as you’re never sure which version will be selected. It’s a fun round, and one which can be difficult, especially toward the end. Those three rotating discs spinning in opposite directions – with balls being shot at you – are difficult to navigate!

Number 7: Big Fans (Race)

I utterly detested Big Fans the first few times I played it! That was because I couldn’t get the timing right to successfully jump between the spinning platforms! But the more I’ve continued to play it I’ve come to appreciate what it has to offer, and while there really isn’t much variety – except on the variant that introduces spinning beams – it’s nevertheless a fantastic, cleverly-designed round that’s incredibly tricky to get to grips with.

Number 6: Roll Off (Finale)

Roll Off is what Roll Out should have been! Where the original version of Roll Out can take a long time to eliminate players, Roll Off speeds up, and the rising slime leaves less and less solid ground available. It’s a truly fun take on Roll Out, massively improving on that round’s gameplay. I just wish, in a way, that it wasn’t a finale so that it would crop up more often!

Number 5: Ski Fall (Race)

The concept of Ski Fall is just fantastic. Jumping and diving through small target rings while slipping down an icy slope makes for a deceptively challenging round, and it’s easy to mistime a jump or bounce off an obstacle and completely mess up! However, it’s also forgiving enough that a mistake or two won’t knock you out of contention altogether most of the time, which is great. Tricky but great fun is how I’d describe Ski Fall.

Number 4: Hit Parade (Race)

Last time, Hit Parade was my winner. It’s slipped down a few places this time, and if I’m being really honest the reason why is that I’ve played it so many times. There are some great variations that have been introduced that have kept Hit Parade fresh, and I still feel that, when considering pure obstacle courses, it beats out many other rounds – especially those which only consist of one type of obstacle! And it’s still great fun, don’t get me wrong… but a couple of newcomers have arrived to topple its crown.

Number 3: Block Party (Survival)

I still absolutely adore Block Party. This timed round sees players standing on a short platform having to run out of the way of walls that come racing toward them. There are some beams to jump over, too. It’s a tricky round that keeps you engaged until the very last second, and it gets progressively difficult as the timer ticks toward zero. My only criticism would be to say that, of all the rounds in the game, Block Party is perhaps the easiest in theory to mix up with new variants, as changing which beams and blocks come and at what time shouldn’t be too difficult. Yet there aren’t many variants that I’ve seen – perhaps two or three.

Number 2: Knight Fever (Race)

So now we come to the top two, and just missing out on the top spot is Knight Fever. This amazing obstacle course has so much going on that I hardly know where to start. There are platforms with holes in, cylindrical platforms with fast-moving spikes that knock you off, crushing cylinders and blocks, and drawbridges. There are several variants, too, which introduce see-saws, fans, and change the timings of the drawbridges. There’s just so much going on that Knight Fever is a wild ride from start to finish, and always keeps me on my toes!

Number 1: Tundra Run (Race)

My number one pick this time is Tundra Run. It was a close call between this and Knight Fever, because both are excellent, varied obstacle courses. But as I thought about it some more, Tundra Run has to take the top spot. As above, it offers a range of different obstacles and terrains, with the icy sections being slippery and difficult to navigate. But it’s so much fun, and incredibly hectic. There’s so much variety that each section feels almost like a new level, and it’s not easy to make it to the finish line!

So that’s it! We’ve put all of the rounds into a list again… one that will be out-of-date as soon as Season 4 rolls around!

I took a break from Fall Guys over the holidays, but after picking it up again last month I’ve been having a whale of a time. I often say that, when it comes to video games, I prefer something with a good story that I can play alone. Fall Guys has reminded me that enjoyable gameplay matters too, and that there’s still value in something unique, silly, and fun. There aren’t that many games like Fall Guys where I sit down to play simply for the enjoyment of playing – not because I’m chasing achievements or following a story.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Season 4 being fun with its futuristic theme, as well as for successful launches on Xbox and in particular on the Switch later in the year. Fall Guys deserves to have a great future with many more updates and more content to come – and I’m still hopeful that it can, despite the significant drop in player numbers since launch.

If you haven’t tried Fall Guys yet… well I guess this list won’t have made a lot of sense! But the game is available on Steam and on PlayStation 4, and as mentioned, Xbox and Switch releases are coming. It was suggested – or at least hinted at – that it may go free-to-play in future, so watch this space. But if you ask me, it’s a steal at £15.

I won’t immediately re-rank the rounds when Season 4 arrives, but stay tuned for more Fall Guys-related articles and posts, especially if we get any significant news regarding the game’s future. Perhaps I’ll see you out there, pushing you out of the way to grab a crown!

Fall Guys is out now on PC and PlayStation 4. Fall Guys is the copyright of Mediatonic, Devolver Digital, and Epic Games. This list contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Can Epic Games reinvigorate Fall Guys?

This article was originally going to be titled “Can Season 4 reinvigorate Fall Guys” – but that was before the announcement that Epic Games had bought developer Mediatonic! However, many of the points I planned to make still apply in some form, and in addition we have the buyout and its associated effects to consider. So settle in as we talk about the hit party game of the summer – last summer, that is – Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout!

A few days ago I put Fall Guys on my list of games that deserve a second look in Spring 2021, and despite some of the criticisms I have of the game, I stand by that. Fall Guys is plenty of fun, and the addition of new rounds and changes to existing rounds has extended the game’s longevity. I recently got back into playing after taking a break over the holidays, and I’ve been having fun with it all over again. There is a lot to love about Fall Guys, but there’s also no denying that right now, the game’s survival hangs in the balance.

Is Fall Guys going to survive, or did Epic Games waste their money?

This is nothing to do with the Epic Games acquisition. Fall Guys was struggling long before that was announced, and my original plan for writing this article was to look at the possibility of Season 4 bringing players back. That’s something Fall Guys needs to address urgently. They have a good social media team, being active on Twitter and elsewhere every day, churning out memes and one-liners of the sort that a modern social media manager for an online game should. But it doesn’t seem to be having much effect.

Fall Guys blew up when it was launched last August, but almost as quickly as it arrived on the gaming scene, most of its players abandoned it. On Steam, Fall Guys peaked at around 125,000 concurrent players in August last year, and sold over 2,000,000 copies within a few weeks of launch. But as of yesterday, when I checked its progress on Steam, it had fallen to fewer than 6,000 concurrent players, with a maximum for the day of fewer than 10,000, and was barely clinging on to the top 100 most-played games on the platform, occupying the 100th slot.

Fall Guys was the 100th-most played game on Steam at time of writing.

To put that into context, Fall Guys had fewer players than titles like Civilization V, The Sims 4, Skyrim, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and even a title I’d never heard of called Geometry Dash, which is a port of a mobile game that originally launched in 2013. Ouch.

As a player, this has become noticeable. Though most games I play are usually fully-populated (with 55-60 out of a maximum of 60 players) it can take several minutes of waiting just to begin a game, with long loading times in the queue as the game struggles to assemble enough players. With no cross-platform play between PC and PlayStation, this is obviously beginning to become an issue. One of the highlights of Fall Guys – something I praised it for back in August – is that because rounds are so short, losing or failing to qualify doesn’t feel so bad. All you had to do was jump immediately into the next one! But if you have to wait several minutes at a time to even just begin a game, one of the absolutely vital components of Fall Guys is lost, making it significantly less enjoyable. Not only are the waits themselves frustrating, but losing at a round risks becoming frustrating too – because you know if you don’t qualify it’ll take a while to start a new game.

So what caused Fall Guys to lose much of its playerbase? That’s the key point, because addressing it – if indeed that’s even possible – is the key challenge facing Mediatonic and Epic Games.

Jump Club, one of the better rounds.

As much as I hate to say this about a game I’ve come to greatly enjoy, the fundamental problem is that Fall Guys was a “release now, fix later” title. I’ve talked at length here on the website about the live service business model, and how the ubiquity of internet connections has led developers and publishers to push out games that weren’t quite ready with a view to improving them later. It almost never works, and Fall Guys, as much as I love the cute little title, is an example of that phenomenon too.

Firstly, Fall Guys launched with no anti-cheat software. I know that it’s scummy and pretty disgusting for a basement-dwelling low-life to cheat at a fun little game like this, but realistically, developers Mediatonic and original publisher Devolver Digital should have anticipated it. Cheating happens in any online game, and if you give players even the tiniest opportunity, some will cheat. Playing Fall Guys before the addition of anti-cheat was not fun, because what was the point in progressing through the rounds only to lose in the finale to an invincible cheater or a cheater who can simply fly above the course?

Cheating was a problem in Fall Guys on PC for a while.

The cheating problem pushed players away, just as I said it would when I discussed Fall Guys’ impending Season 2 update back in September. When I’ve spoken to people about the game or seen comments on social media, aside from the “dead game” memes the one thing that seems to come up most often is that people remember how Fall Guys had a cheating problem. Folks don’t know that’s been solved because most didn’t stick around, preferring to move on to games that weren’t plagued by cheating. The game should never have been released without anti-cheat software, and that’s perhaps its biggest mistake.

The rise of Among Us stole Fall Guys’ thunder in some ways, even though the two titles aren’t really comparable from a gameplay perspective. But there is a vague aesthetic similarity between the crewmates in Among Us and the jelly beans in Fall Guys, so it’s worth considering why Among Us is doing so well while Fall Guys appears to be in decline.

Among Us is one quarter the price of Fall Guys, at least on PC. On mobile or tablet, the game is free. Among Us is available everywhere, compared to Fall Guys which is currently only on PlayStation 4/5 and PC. Among Us has never had a cheating problem.

Among Us came from nowhere to overtake Fall Guys.

Both games had the potential to break into the mainstream and become ongoing successes, but only Among Us really has. The biggest factor in its favour is its ubiquity, particularly its availability on mobile devices and tablets, which are the platform of choice for many younger players. This enabled the game – which was originally released in 2018 – to become so popular. The fact that it’s free-to-play helps immensely too; younger gamers in particular are always on the lookout for free titles, which goes a long way to explaining the success of Epic Games’ mainstay: Fortnite.

When considering Fall Guys’ release, one huge factor preventing it growing was the natural ceiling on its playerbase caused by not being available on every platform. There was no Xbox or Switch release, and while those platforms are now scheduled for this summer, that’s a year too late. Without knowing more about the technical side of the game I can’t say for sure whether it would be possible to port it to mobile devices, but if that were possible then obviously that would open up the game still further.

Fall Guys is finally coming to Switch – but not till the summer.

Nintendo Switch is the platform I would have chosen to prioritise if I were in charge of Fall Guys’ development and release. PlayStation 4 has a larger install base, but Switch players are, I would suggest, more interested in this kind of fun pick-up-and-play party game on the whole. With over 60 million Nintendo Switch consoles having been sold, that’s a massive potential playerbase that Fall Guys missed at launch – and will continue to miss until this summer. By then it could be too late.

An online game that barely breaks 10,000 concurrent players is not doing well, and while that doesn’t account for PlayStation 4 players, it’s hard to imagine the game is doing significantly better on its only other platform. There are still people interested in Fall Guys, and there are still new players jumping on board, but the big challenge facing Epic Games and Mediatonic as they begin their partnership is shoring up the playerbase and bringing in as many new players as possible. Fall Guys was a hit last summer. Whether it can be a hit again is up to its new owners.

Season 4 is coming soon, promising new rounds and new cosmetics with a futuristic theme.

So what needs to happen to bring players back? The launch of Season 4, with new cosmetics and new rounds will be a good start. But there needs to be more of that, with the game basically being continuously updated. New rounds and new round variants are good, but there could also be timed events, such as the recent double-kudos offer, competitions focusing on one aspect of the game (like a fixed set of rounds, for example) and other such things that will incentivise players to keep coming back.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the polar opposite of Fall Guys in so many ways, but one thing New Horizons gets absolutely spot-on is the incentives it offers players to log in at least once per day. Fall Guys needs to find some kind of hook, some way to keep its players checking in often. Once they’ve sorted that – which is no small task – bringing in new players is priority #2.

Ski Fall, another of the rounds in the game.

Releasing the game on Switch and Xbox is a good start, but I’d love to see mobile devices too if at all possible. Then there absolutely needs to be cross-platform play. If Sony remains intransigent about this – as they often are – then cross-play could be between Xbox, Switch, and PC only. But it has to be in there somehow, because splitting up the already small playerbase into walled gardens by platform makes those wait times mentioned above more noticeable. If PC players could join PlayStation 4 players right now, today, I bet those wait times would be cut at least in half. And that in itself would make the experience more enjoyable, keeping existing players around for longer.

One thing that Mediatonic teased in their announcement of their deal with Epic Games was a possible free-to-play model. To me, this is a double-edged sword for a game like Fall Guys. While it would undoubtedly bring in more players, it would mean the game would have to find an alternative way of making money, and in the games industry that only means one thing: microtransactions.

Fortnite is a free-to-play game that makes all its money via microtransactions.

Fall Guys has always offered the ability to buy in-game currency, yet it’s never felt intrusive or obligatory. The game is very generous with in-game rewards and items earned through basic gameplay, and I would hate to see that disappear or for cosmetics to be locked behind a paywall in future. Part of the fun of Fall Guys has been earning cosmetic items through gameplay, or earning in-game currency through gameplay and trading that for cool items in the in-game store. Going free-to-play would mean all of that would change, and while it would unquestionably attract more players, I’m not sure the change would be a good one.

With all of the controversy that lootboxes and randomised rewards generate these days, I would hope that even Epic Games wouldn’t try to force them into Fall Guys, but that remains a risk. From a PC player’s perspective, I’m also concerned that Fall Guys may eventually be withdrawn from Steam – Epic Games has its own store and PC client, after all, so why would they leave Fall Guys on their competitor’s platform? This may seem extreme, but it’s exactly what happened to Rocket League. That game used to be available on Steam, but following an acquisition by Epic Games it was withdrawn. The game technically still exists on Steam for players who already owned it prior to its withdrawal, but an Epic Games account is required to play, and new players can’t add it to their Steam libraries. While Mediatonic promised in their statement that this isn’t part of the plan for Fall Guys, it’s hard to see that being sustainable if the game survives into the longer term. Sooner or later, Epic Games is going to want to monopolise its purchase, just as they do with other games that they own.

Time will tell if this was a good idea for Epic, Fall Guys, and the players.

Removing Fall Guys from Steam would run counter to everything we’ve discussed about trying to retain players and expand the playerbase, so the game may be safe in the short term. But watch this space, because it feels inevitable that Fall Guys’ presence on Steam is doomed!

So to answer my original question: can Epic Games reinvigorate Fall Guys? The short answer is “maybe.” The game is a huge amount of fun, and bringing it to the Switch in particular feels like a natural fit, one which should bring in new players who are well-suited to enjoy this kind of cute, fun little title. But the game’s longer-term prospects are murky at best, and I’m surprised that a company like Epic Games would take a risk on a game which appears to be in a serious decline. Hopefully their involvement can stop the rot and turn things around. Fall Guys is such a fun game that it deserves to last longer than a few measly months.

Fall Guys is available now on PC and PlayStation 4/5, with launches on Xbox and Nintendo Switch planned for this summer. Fall Guys is the copyright of Mediatonic, Devolver Digital, and Epic Games. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Steam is going to have to address its Epic Games Store problem

Steam is the biggest digital shop in the PC gaming world. Many PC players – myself included – have built up Steam libraries over a number of years that are irreplaceable. But Steam is not the invincible juggernaut it once was. Not only is the growth of Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service something that has the potential to be a major disruption, the Epic Games Store has been aggressively elbowing its way onto Steam’s turf.

I had an Epic Games account until recently. However, when their crappy customer support caused me a problem that should have been easily resolved and cost me money, I vowed not to shop with them again. But that’s not always easy, because the way Epic has been competing with Steam has been to buy up the rights to as many games as it can, making them exclusives or timed exclusives to the Epic Games Store. Players like myself who only use Steam thus can’t access the titles – and Epic hopes that will bring more players into its marketplace.

The Epic Games Store is proving to be a major competitor to Steam.

To be fair to Epic, despite this policy being anti-consumer it has worked. And again, to be fair to Epic, asking PC players to install a second launcher for games isn’t a huge request. The Epic Games Launcher isn’t particularly cumbersome and works as intended. It’s a minor annoyance, but one players are willing to put up with to play the games that they want to. I may have my own reasons for disliking Epic Games considering they cost me money, but most players – even those who were initially opposed to Epic’s policy of buying up exclusive rights – have softened their tone and signed up. After all, for those titles it’s the only way to play if you’re a PC gamer.

Watch Dogs Legion and the remaster of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 are two of the latest titles to be snapped up by Epic, and at this point the exclusivity problem is beginning to bite. Watch Dogs Legion looks moderately interesting, but I was definitely excited to play the remaster of a skating game I remember with fondness from the Dreamcast era. Alas, the only way to do so is to subscribe to Epic.

The upcoming game Watch Dogs Legion isn’t coming to Steam.

For Steam, this is a growing problem. One or two titles here and there can be written off. Shenmue III may have generated a lot of controversy amongst its Kickstarter backers, but since hardly anyone bought the title the actual loss to Steam is negligible. Watch Dogs Legion, however, is a pretty big release – the kind the games industry refers to as “AAA” or “triple-A.” Its loss to Steam is going to be significant, with revenue easily into the hundreds of thousands of dollars simply disappearing.

One way or another, Steam is going to have to get a handle on this. Their recent partnership with Electronic Arts has brought some popular titles – like the FIFA series – to Steam, but that’s a distraction rather than addressing the problem. Steam has never faced such stiff competition; the platform had the PC gaming realm almost all to itself for a long time. I’m not sure that, at a basic level, they even know how to deal with a problem like competition from Epic Games.

Steam will need to tackle Epic Games somehow.

Epic Games has been throwing its wallet around to nab as many exclusives as possible. Not only has it worked for them, but that practice shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, we’re likely to see more games go Epic-exclusive, not fewer. In addition, the backlash games could expect to receive online for announcing a deal with Epic gets smaller and smaller every time. In the cases of Watch Dogs Legion and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2, I don’t recall seeing any criticism at all – no one even mentioned it. It wasn’t until I looked up the titles for myself that I learned they’re Epic exclusives, so from a developer or publisher’s perspective, there’s a lot to be gained and almost nothing to lose by signing on with Epic Games. Why wouldn’t they do it?

Competition in a marketplace is usually a positive thing. It forces all participants to be better in order to remain competitive – at least, that’s the theory. It doesn’t always work, and there are times where competing companies have done some pretty crappy and shady things in order to get a leg-up on their adversaries. But broadly speaking, competition can force companies to do better and to ditch bad practices. Epic Games should be a wake-up call for Steam. After years where they’ve had an effective monopoly, there’s finally some real competition. They need to step up, because Epic won’t give up and go away. Not when they’ve found a model that works, and one that’s becoming more palatable to players by the day.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 (the 2020 remastered version) is another Epic exclusive.

Even though I’m still stinging from Epic’s refusal to help me a few weeks ago, I have to admit it’s probably only a matter of time before I give in and sign up for an account again. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 almost pushed me into doing so; it’s only anger at this point that’s keeping me from jumping back in. As a single person, it’s easy to feel like any such protest against a large company is meaningless. Epic doesn’t care in the slightest that I don’t have an account. They already have the money I spent on the few titles I owned, and any lost revenue from me – especially given that I’m not someone who buys games every day of the week – is negligible to a huge company like that. Regardless, I continue my one-person protest simply out of spite!

Steam has a real problem on its hands. And they need to start looking for creative solutions. The more Epic Games’ presence in the PC gaming realm grows, the harder they will be to dislodge. Steam can no longer afford to wait it out – Epic is clearly not going away. Fighting fire with fire is one option; Steam could use its considerable resources to buy up exclusive rights for a lot of upcoming titles, beating Epic at their own game. Or they could undercut Epic on every shared title, even if that means selling some games at a loss. The point is they have options, but right now they seem to think they can coast. Steam seems to think that their position as the current number-one in the PC gaming space is unassailable, and that they can ignore Epic’s presence altogether. That is simply not viable.

The Epic Games Store homepage.

This article may have been prompted by a couple of recent games, but there are dozens of big Epic Games Store exclusives. Here’s a short list of some of the big ones that Epic has successfully kept away from Steam:

Anno 1800, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, The Division 2, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, Hitman 3, Industries of Titan, Magic: The Gathering Arena, Maneater, Rocket League (free-to-play version), The Outer Worlds, Saints Row The Third Remastered, Shenmue III, The Settlers, SnowRunner, Super Meat Boy Forever, Tetris Effect, Total War Saga: Troy, Twin Mirror, and The Wolf Among Us 2.

That’s by no means an exhaustive list; there are many more titles that Epic has snapped up. In some cases the games are available elsewhere, such as on Uplay or Game Pass, but Epic has still been willing to open its wallet purely to stop the title also being released on Steam. And Steam quite happily lets them do it, offering no protest and no rebuttal.

Something’s got to change over at Steam, because if they don’t get a handle on this – and soon – their days as the number-one PC gaming shop will be over.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Watch Dogs Legion promo art courtesy of the press kit on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The Epic Games Store’s awful customer support

Epic Games has been in the news recently for their argument with Apple regarding Fortnite on iOS devices. This article isn’t about that, though, because much like Apple, I have my own beef with Epic Games, specifically regarding the Epic Games Store and their shockingly bad customer support.

Earlier in the year I had a problem with my old internet service provider. To make a long story short, I used to have an email account from my ISP, but after they migrated their email hosting from one company to another, I was locked out of my email account – the primary one I used. Among other accounts I’d set up with it were shops like Steam and the Epic Games Store. My ISP was utterly useless when it came to getting me back into my email, and as a result I ended up making a new email address. Most accounts were easily switched over, but one of the outliers was the Epic Games Store.

I don’t have that many games in my Epic account; I think there are eight or nine at time of writing. But some, like Control and The Outer Worlds weren’t exactly cheap, and because of Epic’s policy of throwing its money around, aren’t available anywhere else. So I might’ve spent somewhere between £50-75 in total on games in my Epic account, as well as picking up a couple of freebies along the way. That may not be a huge investment by some people’s standards, but it’s not a small amount of money either, especially for someone on a low income.

Three of the games in my Epic Games Store library.

After logging in to my account on the Epic Games website, I navigated to my account details and hoped that the process to change my email would be smooth. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Epic insisted that they send me a code to confirm my identity before they’d allow me to change the associated email address. Okay, I thought. No big deal. I had already set up two-factor authentication – something I’d encourage everyone to do for any such account – so I assumed they’d text me a code or use an authenticator app. But I was wrong – the only way Epic would allow me to change my email address was by sending a code to my old email address.

The help section of the Epic Games website was useless, but I did eventually manage to open a “support ticket”. I included as much information as I could about who I was and why I needed to make the change and submitted the ticket – at which point I was told to check my old email address for updates! This was nonsense – Epic’s own website was telling me to create a support ticket for this issue, then the support ticket was being sent to the email account that they know I couldn’t access!

There was no way to log in to the Epic website to access support tickets, either. I tried this three times, and each time received no response – or if I did receive a response it went to the email address that they knew I couldn’t access.

My fourth attempt – several weeks later – initially seemed to be going better. Epic’s website had been updated, and a new form complete with captchas asked for a lot of information including my old email address, my new email address, information about me, information about my Epic account, etc. I gave them the IP address of my PC, which is the only place I ever log in to Epic. I gave them receipt numbers for games I’d bought. I gave them screenshots of my account logged into the Epic Launcher. I gave them the unique alphanumeric code of my account. And as much additional information as I thought I could find. I was thrilled when my new email address received a reply!

But this was the reply:

They refused to change my account email address despite having ample proof that it was me – the genuine account holder – requesting this change. The customer service agent told me point-blank that this was “Epic Games security policy”. So that was that. They wouldn’t make the change.

Every other company I’ve dealt with allowed me to change my email address. Some wanted to text me a security code, some wanted me to jump through other hoops, but every single company I’ve dealt with over the last few months allowed me to make this simple change. But not Epic Games. Their customer service stinks, and their policy – if it is indeed policy to refuse this kind of request – is nonsensical. I can’t be the only person who has had to make a change of this nature, can I? It must be a common enough occurrence, or Epic Games wouldn’t have a page on their website telling you how to do it. Every other company I had an account with easily let me change my email address, so there’s no legal requirement or other such issue standing in the way. It’s purely the intransigence of one company.

When we hit the wall and it was clear the customer support staff weren’t going to be able to help, I asked them to refund my purchased games and close the account. But they couldn’t do that either, so I’m left with a useless, inaccessible account with games I can’t play, money they won’t refund, and my personal details still held by the company.

I don’t think anything will ever convince me to shop with Epic Games again. I bit the bullet and made an account because I wanted to play a few titles that weren’t going to be available elsewhere. But Epic has done nothing to ingratiate itself with the wider gaming community, and issues like this, with stupidly bad policies and poor customer support, erode the tiny amount of goodwill that they’re trying to create.

Obviously this was a rant because I’m annoyed and disappointed, but I think it’s worth making people aware that Epic Games is hardly the “freedom fighter” that they’re pretending to be in their tussle with Apple. Like any other big corporation, Epic Games couldn’t give a fuck about any of us. Its lawsuit against Apple, which it filed after knowingly and wilfully violating the terms of service every other developer using Apple’s ecosystem agrees to, is purely about making more money and more profit for itself. And its treatment of customers like me is proof positive that Epic Games doesn’t give a shit.

This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence. Except to Epic Games.