Party games are pretty common nowadays, whether you like beating up your friends in Super Smash Bros. or testing your trivia mettle with the likes of any given Jackbox Party Pack. But it takes a lot of hard work to stand out with something that’s equally addictive and original – and that’s exactly where Double Fine’s Gang Beasts come in.
You might’ve seen the game at any given trade show over the past few years, with a huge crowd gathered around as some nameless blobs go at it in grabbing and punching competition, all for the sake of trying to get a victory across many rounds. Well, it finally released earlier this month, and while there are some technical hiccups that get in the way of its complete dominance, there’s no question it’s a surprising hit – if you’ve got the right friends to play it with.
So here’s how the game works – Smash Bros. it isn’t. You’re essentially a blob-ish character in a number of different outfits (there are some even inspired by pop culture here – I swear I saw a Rick and Morty get-up), and your job is to clear the ring of your opponents. They can vary in count, from four all the way to eight, and you can dispatch of them in different ways, whether it’s throwing them off the edge of the stage, or into an obstacle, like one of many grinders.
Now, it’s a lot tougher than it looks, mainly because of how the controls are set up. This isn’t a matter of “press a button and attack,” but making sure your blob is in the right striking range to knock your opponent down. It’s a bit frustrating that the game doesn’t have a tutorial to walk new players through it, as they’re likely to get lost and scream out, “How the hell do you throw?” (Hint: check the controller guide within the game.)
It’s also not really built with single player in mind. Sure, you can hop online and see what the competition has to offer, but that can be a crapshoot. Half the time, the servers are kind of a hodgepodge, with “will it connect or won’t it” being the guessing game part of the time. And even then, some players are a little too good in the game, making us wonder why there wasn’t an offline mode to take on AI opponents of varying difficulty. I know some players that could’ve certainly benefitted from practice.
However, there is a saving grace here, and that’s local multiplayer. This is easily one of the best – and most hilarious – couch-gathering games out there. Get four friends together, grab a controller for each one, and go to town in a match in the wrestling ring (or, hell, a freeway overpass), and you’re bound to have a lot of laughs as you struggle to win a match. Gang Beasts is equally just as much fun to watch, which might explain why it’s become such a favorite on Twitch.
The game benefits from a simple yet enjoyable presentation, with a variety of backgrounds to battle in (the room with the grinders is my favorite, because insanity reasons) and some greatly designed characters. The music’s kinda fun, with goofy little tunes playing while you beat your friends senseless. And kudos to the devs for avoiding the pratfall of giving these characters annoying voices. They just aren’t needed.
It’s nice to know that Double Fine is looking to add more content to the game, with new modes on the way, as well as some new characters. For now, there are a few variations to play around with here, although variety isn’t really Gang Beasts’ strong suit -- at least, not just yet.
For now, the question really comes down to whether the game is worth $20 or not. If you’re a solo gamer or you just aren’t into these competitive games, I’m going to say no, because it doesn’t offer enough to suit your tastes. However, if it’s a party game you’re after, or you just want a couch co-op experience that’s unlike any other, these Beasts will be just your speed.
Besides, this is bound to be an essential favorite this holiday season. How could it not be when you’re throwing relatives off the roof? (In the game, that is – no need to go crazy in the real world.)
WWG’s Score: 3.5 out of 5
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.