Title: Gang Beasts
Publisher: Double Fine
Genre: Beat ’em up
Official Site: http://gangbeasts.game
Release Date: December 12, 2017 (Digital), December 3, 2019 (Physical)
Version Tested: PlayStation 4
Gang Beasts is a laugh-out-loud funny game. Originally a download-only game, the title has received a physical release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. From the trailer I watched, it looked like a pretty fun and zany game, with characters and movement like that of Human Fall Flat. I was pleased to find out that I was right: Gang Beasts does a great job of being what it’s supposed to be. However, its simplicity is a double-edged sword.
Gang Beasts: A Modern Game That Evokes Old Gaming Tropes
I felt nostalgic while playing Gang Beasts. As I moved around and tried throwing my enemies off the stage into oblivion, it reminded me of old-school games. It feels almost retro, with its simplistic control scheme and art style. That’s not to say that there are not little tricks and nuances to watch out for. Like any game, Gang Beasts has hidden layers that make mastering the game fairly tricky. But the difficulty is bearable because of how darn fun it is. Additionally, there are lots of customization options to make your character stand out.
The controls are pretty straightforward, with some button combinations added in for variety. Players can run, jump, and grab onto opponents and objects. If you fall off, you can grab onto the side of the wall, then begin hoisting yourself back up to the top. Your main goal is to beat up on an opponent, using punches, kicks, and headbutts to stun them. Then, you can pick up that player and throw them off the stage. While you do not have to stun your opponent to pick them up, doing so gives you a higher chance of defeating them. Some actions are require holding down different buttons, so it may be a little hard to memorize and get the hang of at first.
There’s a lot of strategies that come with Gang Beasts. You can always lead an enemy to the edge and then wallop them before throwing them off. Of course, your opponents will do the same to you. However, you can fight back and break out of their grasp. I found that often when I was stunned and almost thrown off the stage, I turned it around by breaking free and surprising my opponent with a counterattack. They were caught unawares and couldn’t react fast enough to save themselves.
Of course, I died a lot while playing Gang Beasts. However, I never really felt frustrated when I lost. Instead, I laughed at the way I lost. In one match, I fell off the top of a truck and tried to catch up to it again. The sight of my little character jumping and running had me cracking up. Another game saw me sliding down into a grinder. I found this more humorous than aggravating, as it made me think of a cartoon character slowly realizing he wasn’t going to make it.
Levels and Game Modes in Gang Beasts
The game has a reasonably wide variety of levels. Players go to vents, incinerators, roofs of buildings, a few ice platforms to walk on next to a buoy, and more. One stage even appeared to be a food vendor cart! All stages have an edge of throwing your opponents from, but others have additional hazards, such as the grinders mentioned above. Most, if not all, levels are available in every game mode except Soccer.
Speaking of game modes, Gang Beasts has four that can be played local or online. There’s Melee, where you try to be the last man standing and win after doing so three times. Gangs have the same rules, but you’re with a team. Waves is a PvE mode where you can team up with other players and fight against AI opponents. Again, the goal here is to throw them off the stage. Finally, Soccer lets you play in a small alley with up to four players. In this mode, you try and get the ball into the goal sign painted on the wall. Whichever team has the most goals when the timer runs out wins. However, this mode also lets you fight your opponent and stun or throw them around with zero penalties, keeping with the game’s central theme.
While Gang Beasts is a lot of fun, it is essential to note here that if you are playing local by yourself, the only mode where you can do anything is Waves. Melee and Gangs let you walk around on different stages, but there is nobody to fight. Likewise, Soccer mode has you as the lone player on the field with no opposition. Every mode aside from Waves is dependent upon friends or family sitting next to you and grabbing a controller. However, this game was always marketed as a party game, so this aspect didn’t really surprise me.
If you’re more of an online player, finding people to play with won’t be a problem. I did find that some players tend to leave matches when they go on for a long time in Melee. Also, I played three different matches of Soccer, and players disconnected each time, ending the game early. Beware of other teammates in Gangs and Waves that like to throw you off the stage for fun. Ultimately, none of these aspects have to do with game performance, but it is useful to know, nonetheless.
One area where I found Gang Beasts lacking was the soundtrack. There are a couple of catchy tunes (especially the one where singers spell out B-E-A-S-T-S), but the rest is very generic. There wasn’t any music that stood out while I was playing. Chances are you’ll be focusing on the gameplay anyway, but I would have liked something that caught my attention and added to the craziness of the game.
My final issue with the game is one that I’ve also praised it for. While the game nails the fighting/wrestling mechanics that are its focus, I found it almost too simplistic. I would like for more game modes like Soccer that incorporate the beat ’em up factor with another objective. The game is fun to play in spurts, but for a party game, I don’t see myself coming back to it every week like titles such as Mario Party. Maybe more of a bimonthly, trimonthly basis.
Verdict: Gang Beasts is a simple game that is difficult to master. While there are some drawbacks, the game knows what it is and does not stretch itself thin, trying to encompass multiple genres. With quick matches and a multiplayer focus, Gang Beasts is a game that you will likely come back to. However, its lack of variety means that you probably won’t come back as frequently as you might think for a party game.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
- Variety of stages
- Lots of laughter
- Didn't care if I lost
- Lack of variety in game modes
- Difficult to master
- Generic music