Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions is definitely one of my favorite developers. They’ve created classics like Psychonauts, Grim Fandango and the underrated and under appreciated Brutal Legends. So when I heard they published a silly multiplayer brawler with similar physics to Human Fall Flat, which I also reviewed and loved, I was excited to see what its about. Gang Beasts was originally a Steam Early Access title, but it now got a full launch with ports to console so lets see if Double Fine has the artistic eye to publish as well as develop fun and unique games.
The description from their website reads: “Gang Beasts is a silly multiplayer party game with surly gelatinous characters, brutal melee fight sequences, and absurdly hazardous environments. Set in the fictional meatropolis of Beef City.” Sounds fun, right? Well, there just isn’t much else to Gang Beasts. No story mode, no arcade mode, you can’t even spawn NPC’s to fight against in single player.
Gang Beasts is strictly an online or couch co-op game, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it severely limits its play-ability. I don’t mind online only games if there is plenty of content to play through and it feels fully fleshed out. Unfortunately, this game is extremely bare boned. There is no progression, no rewards for winning a match, nothing that feels like playing well and winning that match was worth it. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, there are some very funny moments when the goofy inebriated looking fighters do something silly because of the physics, but that alone can’t be the only thing to base a game on. And that is only if you can even get into a match. I was disconnected more than 5 times in the span of an hour and even a handful of games I did get into were affected by large spikes of lag.
Following with the silly theme of the game, there are some outrageous outfits you can put your characters in, but again it would be nice to unlock extra outfits by winning matches or something to work towards. On the plus side, there’s a decent amount of stages that play well to manipulate the fun physics engine and some of the game modes. You have the classic Melee free-for-all mode, Gang mode pits teams against each other, Survival puts players against waves of AI, and Soccer which ends up just being a mosh pit around the ball. The thing that baffles me is they have AI for the survival mode, but they don’t allow you to do player vs. AI in the other modes. I was expecting to hop into some 1v1 with an AI to get used to the weird fighting system, but was sorely disappointed. I have to assume that feature is in the next update, but it’s strange it isn’t there for the PS4 launch.
Speaking of the fighting system, it is a strange one, mostly because of the wobbly physics. Like I mentioned before, if you ever played Human Fall Flat you’ll be used to the strange movement, but putting that into a brawler is sort of hit or miss for me. While the physics offer some funny situations, it can get frustrating when your character stumbles around trying to punch and just falls off a ledge. And then you’re done until next round. You use the L1 and R1 buttons for your left and right punches, Square is to kick, X is to jump and stand up if you’re knocked out and Circle is to headbutt. If you hold a punch button you will grab onto whatever is around you and if you hold Triangle you will lift it above your head. Essentially each match comes down to you drunk fighting until you knock out an enemy, grabbing their limp, unconscious body and throwing them out of the ring.
The graphics are very simple, but that sort of fits the style. I know I keep comparing it to Human Fall Flat, but that’s because it seems like Gang Beasts is just a mode or mod of it. It’s simple and clean, but still suffers from some lack of anti aliasing. Sound department is also very simple. The only voice work is in random grunts and and only a handful of actual item and world sound effects exist, and they aren’t the best quality. The main theme is catchy though, but I think it got stuck in my head because I kept getting kicked to the lobby due to all the disconnects.
Gang Beasts has a fun idea and the physics system’ usage is a great concept to create a fun brawler with, but unfortunately it still feels like just an idea. The PS4 title isn’t technically the Early Access version, but it still feels like it is. The lack of any story, arcade or even single player bots, no progression or match rewards, terrible servers with frequent drops and lag spikes makes this game feel very shallow and frustrating. Gang Beasts has a nice foundation, but now it needs to build upon that and make this a fully featured title, but as of now it’s a tough sell at $19.99.
Gang Beasts is available now on PC and PS4.
A copy of Gang Beasts was provided by publisher.