STAFF REVIEW of Gang Beasts (Xbox One)

Saturday, May 4, 2019.
by Josh Morgan

Gang Beasts Box art Gang Beasts is a beat ‘em up party game by developer Bone Loaf and published by Double Fine. Like drunken toddlers in a bounce house, your objective is to knock your opponent to the ground and push or throw them out of the arena to be the last one standing. You can punch, kick and head butt your way to victory, but do you ever really have full control of your character? Let’s find out!

What you see is what you get as far as graphics are concerned. Gang Beasts has a texture-less yet colorful look to it and I think it works well with the simple game design. The character models look and move like the Pillsbury Dough Boy and there are many customizable items (hair, hats, glasses, clothes) you can use to make a character you like, and more importantly, stand out from the others, because with up to 8 players on screen it can be confusing. The arenas are colorful and texture-less just like the characters, but there’s no mistaking what they are. In total, there are 19 arenas in Beef City to choose from, and most of them have some sort of interactive mechanic to it.

Containers is a fun one. You are standing on shipping containers being held up by 4 metal wires. Head butt or kick the wires enough and they break, and the shipping containers, along with any of your opponents on them, fall to their doom. Trucks is another favorite of mine that can be super hectic and fun. You are on two moving trucks speeding down a highway. You must jump back and forth between the trucks to avoid the road signs, all while trying to throw, punch and kick your opponents off the trucks. There are a lot of achievements tied to the interactive parts of the arenas, so make sure to take a look at those. Most of them can be completed while you are battling your buddies and don’t take too much extra work to complete. Some of them however, might take some cooperation and a truce from your opponents so you can complete the environment action for those coveted gamerscore increases.

Audio was something of a mixed bag, as I found that some of the sound effects worked, but at times it was hard to tell if my attacks landed based on sound cues. This gives you a sense of confusion as you are playing because you never get the feeling that you are doing any damage. Climbing on objects has the same problem; I heard no audio cue that my character was gripping a wall or cable, and since the camera is pulled back a bit to show all the action of the arena, it was hard to tell if my character was gripping the wall or if his hand was just hovering inches from it. The score is a fun mixture of pop beats that will have you humming along as you are dive kicking your opponents off of a buoy into the water in the Arctic arena. The title song refrain G-A-N-G BEA-S—T—S will get stuck in your head. I guarantee it.

There is no story or campaign and no rich history of Beef City to explore, just a pure brawler to play with your friends or online with people that have had relations with your mother or are blindly disapproving of your gender or ethnicity. There are four game types to play: “Melee”, which is a free for all where the last person standing is the winner, “Waves” is a co-op waved based mode that gets increasingly difficult as you progress, “Gang” is a team based melee mode and finally there is “Football”, or Soccer for us more dignified Americans.

Gang Beasts has a simple design and a premise. I would have thought that would carry over into a simple control scheme but that is not the case. As of this review, the controller layout screen did not show how to grip walls or hold and pick up opponents. It only shows the face buttons for kick, head butt and jump. I had to Google how to complete some of the most important actions of the game. The loading screen tells you that you should grip walls and pull yourself up, but it does not say how to do so. The game tells you to hold on to your opponent, knock them out, pick them up and throw them, but it does not tell you which buttons to push to complete these actions.

After some Googling and a YouTube video, I finally found out that the bumpers act as your hands and you can hold them independently or together to grip things. This works for walls and opponents. You can grab an opponent with your left hand and then punch or head butt them. With walls you can grip them with one or two hands and then hold 'A' to pull yourself up. This all sounds great, but it never feels right. As I said above, there is no audio cue to show that you are gripping, and with the simple character design, you have spheres for hands, so you're unable to see individual fingers gripping an opponent or wall. So most of the time you really have no clue if you are gripping or not unless you try to walk away from the object or person and your hand sticks to it. By then, the opponent you are trying to grab has punched you several times and is now trying to hold on to you and failing the same way you were. It becomes a back and forth of failures until one person gets lucky and is able to pick up the other and throw them off the arena, and at this point it is more of a game of luck than skill.

Adding to the tactile frustration, there no health bar showing how many hits you can take before you become concussed. With no health bar and random audio cues for hits, it becomes a spamfest of attacks until you see someone collapse seemingly randomly. From there it’s a frantic series of button presses to try and pick up or push that collapsed opponent off the arena floor.

Don’t get me wrong, Gang Beasts is frantic and fun, and there is enjoyment to be had. With 19 different arenas you won’t feel like you are having the same fight over and over, and the environmental hazards that most levels have add a unique spin that creates some memorable moments. Triggering a catwalk collapse on one of the tower levels and seeing my buddy panic and jump his way up the stairs and still fall to his death was one of the best moments I had with this game. Unfortunately, the combat and controls really hold back what would be a fun party game with your friends.

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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