Game: “Gang Beasts”
Have you ever taken two jelly babies out of the packet and smashed them against one-another, acting out a fight between the gelatinous warriors until the loser is sacrificed to eternal slumber in your belly as a punishment for his ineptitude? Of course you have, because it’s an entirely normal thing to do, and in 2017 British indie studio Boneloaf released a digital alternative in the form of wibbly-wobbly party beat-’em-up, Gang Beasts. Fast-forward to late-2021 and the team brought the zaniness to the Nintendo Switch to allow for foolishness on the go!
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Loads of character customisation options|
+ Silly, laid back fun
+ Zero requirements of players to be especially good at the game
|Negatives||– Pretty limited – there’s not a lot of game here|
– Loses some fun factor away from local play
– Eye-watering price point on Switch
|Price (When Reviewed)||£24.99|
|Our Playtime||3 hours|
|Available On||PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PC|
The idea behind Gang Beasts is a pretty simple one – players each control one of up to eight gelatinous characters and battle against one-another in a variety of outrageous stages, each trying to eject all of their enemies from the arena until they’re the only player left standing. What’s not so simple is actually achieving those goals however, as the controls for your wobbly little dude have been made intentionally spongy, leading to some rather foolish shenanigans as you go about trying to win each round.
Firing up the game you’re treated to a very stylish splash screen and an excellent intro theme that I found incredibly catchy; the child’s crowd vocals are really on brand for the silliness of the premise and I always find myself muttering the theme tune for a few hours after each play session, “🎵G-A-N-G-B-E-A-S-T-S, GANG BEASTS!🎵” It’s genuinely adorable. Once you select whether you’d like to play in Local, Wireless (exclusive to Switch), or Online mode, it’s as simple as selecting which of the four game styles you’d like to play and you’re on your way to wacky town – or more accurately, Beef City, where all of the action takes place.
But honestly, before you even consider wading into battle you’ve absolutely got to head to the character customisation screen, which is absolutely chock full of choices to make your little gummy fighter your own. You can select from one of 12 colours for your jelly, as well as all manner of headgear, eye wear, facial hair, jackets, trousers and even general accessories, and there are loads of choices in each category. I found making my little dude a lot of fun and really worthwhile too, as it’s really unlikely that you’ll ever run into your doppelganger, even when you’re playing against the masses online. (I opted for a red fella with goldfish bowl head, breathing mask and back-slung air tank, a cool guy letterman jacket and pants. I really like him and have come to know him as Bubbles McGee – take from that what you will.)
Jelly folk all dressed for the big dance, it’s time to get down to business and select which battle mode you want to try out first. There’s Melee, which is an every man for himself affair; Gang, which splits players into two teams battling against one-another; Football, which is exactly what you’d expect, and Waves, which sees all the players band together to overcome a recurring onslaught of AI enemies.
The visuals look great without being especially flashy, which makes Gang Beasts perfect for the Switch. The colour palette is bright and punchy, and really emphasises that this game is not to be taken seriously at all – it’s about the funsies. The levels are tonnes of fun to look at, with chunky, well textured environments that host all manner of hazards to make your squishy battles more amusing. I was a particular fan of the (incredibly) bitey sharks that leap from the water on the cruise ship level, dragging any unsuspecting jelly lads into the watery deep and out of the game.
Part of the fun of Gang Beasts is how ridiculous both the controls and the physics are, with Boneloaf going out of their way to make things intentionally ropey. You can punch, headbutt and kick your enemies, but the key mechanic to victory tends to be grabbing onto your foes and attempting to launch them off the stage. It all gets a little crazy though, with your opponent able to keep a hold of you while you’re carrying them and it can often lead to you taking a tumble instead of them! It’s all incredibly silly, and watching the characters wobble around the screen slapping and chucking each other around definitely makes for a few giggles. There’s no expectation that anyone will be particularly good at battling -especially if you’re picking this up as a group for the first time- and you’ll have as much fun laughing at your friends failings as you will trying to actually win.
While these intentionally derpy controls do make for some laughs in local play where everyone can giggle at each other’s ineptitude, this fun-factor is almost entirely lost in online play – especially as there’s no in-game chat function. Those spongy controls suddenly feel less amusing when simple things like steering and jumping become obstacles to winning a battle while you’re at home and playing on your own, and they’re definitely more annoying than enjoyable without your friends egging you on.
Sadly, beyond the daft controls and exaggerated physics there isn’t a lot of game on offer, with the various game modes only offering minimal differentiation on the original idea. Yes, the variety of stages means that every match you play will be slightly different, but with core gameplay that can be experienced in its entirety in just a few minutes, this is a very limited affair. The best party games (see: Mario Party, Overcooked) offer longevity by offering a broad variety of mechanics for players to master, or by steadily building on the core gameplay and the increasing difficulty; Gang Beasts does neither of those things on any level, meaning there isn’t a lot to return to after a few games.
What’s more galling than the limited gameplay though, is the price players are asked to pay for what is essentially a four rounds of Mario Party on repeat. While the Switch often sees its captive audience paying over the odds for ports, a price hike of 60% for a 5 year old game with so little longevity is really tough to swallow. As enjoyable as Gang Beasts is with a crowd of friends, there’s no way I could recommend it at the current price point, and that rings especially true on Switch.
All-in-all, Gang Beasts is a fun multiplayer romp that’s best enjoyed with a few friends after a couple of beers, but doesn’t hold up nearly as well once you try to take the party online. The derpy characters, intentionally awkward controls, and daft physics will bring plenty of laughs in a room full of pals, but become more frustrating as a solo experience. Ultimately, once you’ve played a few rounds in each mode there isn’t an awful lot of meat on the bone; Gang Beasts is an admittedly tasty morsel, it just carries the price tag of a prime cut.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.