Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout isn’t the typical battle royale experience in a lot of ways; it’s soft, brightly colored, goofy, and silly. Players run through elaborate obstacle courses with little bean bodies, getting knocked aside by spinning rails or smashing their bodies against fake doors. In order to get to the goal and beat out the rest of the players, winners need to learn how to dodge, run, jump, dive, and grab.
Grabbing is super potent in certain contexts. Players can grab an enemy and haul them in front of an obstacle, while avoiding it themselves. Some maps ask the contestants to grapple over a finite amount of items, and you have to grab a ball to throw in your net, or grab the guy in your net who’s trying to snatch your hard-earned balls away. Players have quickly discovered that grabbing can mean the difference between a win and a loss.
But there are times when grabbing is actually a hindrance to both players. If I am at the start of a race, or near the finish line, and I grab a rival with my chubby little ball hands, we are both locked away from the goal. They have to deal with me, and I have seized so much momentum out of their hands. On social media, Fall Guys players are readily sharing clips of grabbing fails where both fans ultimately lose:
Pro Tip - Grab the Crown in Fall Mountain!— Richard Saji Curtis (@DarkLordCookie) August 1, 2020
Don't grab someone else who is also trying to grab the Crown!
So close to victory, even closer in defeat...LET'S PLAY AGAIN!#FallGuysgame #FallGuys pic.twitter.com/gDs3T5DdU1
meanwhile, whenever i try to grab onto people to mess them up: pic.twitter.com/DpFoKucthF— pusoko (@vPusoKo) August 2, 2020
Grabbing someone makes the game briefly but immediately personal. The entire game, in that moment, becomes about escaping that person’s grubby little hands. If I escape, and see that player in the next game, I become immediately focused on exacting my revenge upon them. That’s a common instinct, especially as the group of players narrows.
In the above clip, I saw a guy I had grappled with on a see-saw scramble to get his own tail. Claiming that tail would help me win the round, but I mostly targeted him due to revenge. I moved onto the next round, and he did not. That was the real victory, even if I couldn’t ultimately claim the crown.
My colleague Julia Lee has similar experiences with her regular group of Fall Guys players. One pal in particular will go after grabbers with a vengeance. “Johnny is the friend in our group with, like, a dummy amount of confidence, because he wins a lot,” Julia tells me over Slack. “So if somebody grabs him at the start of a round or at the end of the round, he’ll fight back. I can literally hear him grumbling, ‘C’mere, you fucker,’ in call as he does this. He’ll remember the person’s name and target them in coming rounds. He’s a monster, but he has like 10 wins under his belt, so…”
Clearly, these tactics are justified, both ethically and competitively.
Grabbing is so infuriating, so effective, that it immediately sears itself into the player’s memory. It’s enough to transform the usual flat, unimpressed resting face I usually sport while I play multiplayer games into an actively delighted smile. As time goes by, the competition will undoubtedly get fiercer — but until then, we’ll all continue our little bean-wrestling tango across the battlefield.