Platform: Xbox One, PC (Reviewed)
Publisher: Double Fine
What is Gang Beasts? It’s like if you filled wacky inflatable arm-flailing tube men full of mashed potatoes and made them fight. Seriously, the game lets you choose from various costumed dumb guys that flail their arms, legs, and body at each other instead of having any sort of combat skills. And that is precisely what makes it fun.
Gang Beasts has been on Steam Early Access for a few years now, but it just recently had a full release of consoles as well. It’s a multiplayer 3D brawler where up to four friends can play together or against each other as silly, floppy fighters that fight like drunk toddlers.
Usually, when you hear the phrase fighting game, you probably think of a game with precise controls, awesome combos, and cool characters. Gang Beasts has none of those. But that isn’t a bad thing, it makes the game what it is.
The controls are intuitive, but that doesn’t make them easy.
One shoulder button punches with one arm, the other punches with the other arm. Holding either one grabs with that hand. On a Steam Controller (or Xbox One), A is jump, B is kick, X is headbutt and Y is lift. Easy right?
These aren’t Kung Fu masters. Tapping B doesn’t really make you kick, so much as it does make you shimmy your foot at the ground. Holding it down makes you flip backward like your legs gave out on you, with the same concept for the headbutt. The toddler comparison comes with the punches which really come across more like wimpy slaps.
A typical match isn’t played out with well-timed punches, they’re usually won by one player grappling one and stumbling around the stage while the other player repeatedly tries to kick and punch their way out of their grasp while making mildly displeased sounds from the player themselves. If this happens to sound hilarious, it is.
Occasionally, a lucky (and it is pretty much 100% luck) punch in the head can knock a fighter out, making them stop squirming long enough for the other player to try and control themselves long enough to pick them up and toss them out of the ring. (Un)fortunately, it’s like the developers perfected the time it takes to figure out how to pick a person up and get halfway towards the edge, because the victim tends to wake up at the last second, usually bringing the assaulter down in the hell pit with them. You can even save yourself if you’re lucky by grabbing walls and very awkwardly trying to climb up them.
However, the controls are mushy, and it makes the game fun.
Mushy is probably a good word to describe them. They’re slow, sluggish, and more times than not, they don’t do what you want them to do. But your friend who kicks your butt in Street Fighter with Ryu will have an equally hard time. You’ll probably end up laughing at yourself/each other instead of trying to win a match.
These fighters definitely don’t pick regulation style arenas either. They all happen pretty much in places where people shouldn’t be stumbling around. One stage has you fighting in a factory with a giant incinerator at the bottom. Another level has you slip and sliding on ice, trying to make it to the only solid ground in the form of a buoy that not everyone can fit on. There’s also a stage where you have to jump between two different 18-wheelers. You can’t just wait out your opponent either, as billboards periodically pass overhead, pasting anyone who’s still on that side of the road.
As mentioned before, the characters are floppy, rubbery looking people of various color varieties, but they can be given different outfits with the option to customize your very own. These can be shared with your friends in couch co-op and they can even make their own to flail around with. But the best mode of the game is versus. While playing the others, the flaws of the game start to show.
The flop fest falls apart when you look past the mindless fun.
Do yourself a favor. If you play Gang Beasts, don’t buy it for online play. If you have some friends you want to invite over to have a silly good time, Gang Beast’s local versus mode is a hilarious time, but the online mode is quite honestly a miss. Matchmaking doesn’t connect have the time, and the intentional mushy controls aren’t nearly as fun without a friend next to you laughing along with you about how drunkenly the meatmen control. With unengaged random people online, it’s just a frustrating control scheme and not much more. It’s definitely meant for friends in the same room.
Other local modes are also not the best presentation of the game. The football mini-game is somewhat fun, although that fun only lasts so long until you just start beating each other up on a field. The waves mode is completely ridiculous. Throughout this review, it’s been said that the silly controls are what sells the game, but waves mode sends crazy smart AI to fight you and they actually know how to fight. Take the drunk flailing rubber man analogy and put Bruce Lee inside the suit. Add three of them and try to fight them. That’s this mode. It’s impossible and not nearly as fun as the rest of the game.
Overall, Boneloaf seems to know that couch play was going to be the favorite mode and it shows in the level of care they give it. It’s a game to show off to friends and play while possibly drinking with the gang, but the game knows that and caters to it. It’s easy to pass around if you have more than four players too, as matches can carry over to new levels each time someone wins.
Play Gang Beasts with your friends for some mindless fun. If you’re not into that, then it isn’t for you. For those it’s for, you really can’t beat the price.