Gang Beasts

COUCH CO-OP / Gang Beasts (PC)

Couch Co-op, our segment where we get together and talk about video games that consist of local co-op and force us to interact with each other, is back!!  Cody, Vince, and I, along with new writer Jake Sapir and good friend Dave, sat down last month to play Gang Beasts, a vicious, perilous, and ultimately silly mêlée brawler that uses gelatinous goons and rag-doll physics to elicit lots of laughs.  Developed by the small, United Kingdom-based studio, Boneloaf, Gang Beasts pits up to eight players in varying hazardous locales, with only one goal: grab, punch, push, pull, and throw everyone else into death traps, and be the last one standing.

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Andrew Burrage, Editor: I had the opportunity to play Gang Beasts at Bit Bash in Chicago earlier in September, and the game is a total blast, especially in that kind of atmosphere.  When playing with a group of friends in a smaller setting, and fewer players, there is no reduction in fun by any means.  There is very little to Gang Beasts in terms of plot: throw your friends into danger and be the last one standing.  No story, no extensive game design, just good old button mashing.  There are a variety of different types of levels ranging from a meat packaging plant and incinerator to an ocean-front Ferris wheel and a plain old wrestling ring.

While I wholeheartedly enjoyed playing Gang Beasts with friends and participating in the smack talk that comes with it, there were some parts that left for wanting.  Mainly, the controls were a little off.  In addition to pulling and throwing your competition, you are also supposed to be able to punch and push them down.  When I played Gang Beasts at Bit Bash earlier this year, it seemed like punching had some heft to it and you could knock out a character for a few seconds.  However when playing it at home, I didn’t get that same sense of force.  It may be an update or something else different between the two versions, but at home it was hard to tell if I was even throwing a punch, and being knocked down appeared to be arbitrary.  Once I got the hang of the controls, though, it was pretty easy grabbing onto the others and lifting them over the various dangers.

If you’re looking for a game to kill some time with a couple of friends, and want to lay the smack down on them, then Gang Beasts could be the game for you.

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Cody Shults, Editor: Like Andrew, I also had an opportunity to play Gang Beasts at Bit Bash Chicago last year. I was initially really impressed by the simplicity of the game: take out your opponents by any means necessary. Underlying this simple task are the controls of punching or grabbing opponents, all while wandering around unassumingly lethal levels.

Bit Bash Chicago brought a large group of people together to play the game, where every move and misstep was reacted to by over 50 people. I thought there may be a lack of this fun and excitement when we brought that experience to smaller setting, but I am glad to report that I was very wrong. This game is just as fun to play with your buddies on the couch, and this also gave us an opportunity to learn more about the game through experimenting with the environments.

The gameplay, as I have alluded to before, is solid. Levels are simple but offer their own challenges, and the developers give you the ability to choose levels, number of lives per level, and even costumes for your characters. These costume choices can be purely cosmetic, or actually offer some challenge, like the headless costume where the player character’s head rolls around the environment and can be thrown into the fire pit or off the edge to kill off the headless player. I also really enjoy that there is no respawn mechanic until there is one or no players left standing per round. It gives you an opportunity to watch other players and strategize how you will win in the next round.

Gang Beasts is a great game to play with friends, and offers a fun experience to players of any skill level. It’s easy to pick up, and hard to put down.

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Vince Borkowski, Writer: Although a simple premise and few controls to memorize, Gang Beasts stands out as immensely fun. The objective is simply to throw your opponents to their death, whether it be off of a moving truck, in front of a train, or into a whirling industrial fan. The stages are all fun, and this is where more fun can be had: adding more stages in the future could be a very simple way to expand the game. The gameplay was great, especially with our group of five.

A minor criticism, though: the controls felt a little unresponsive. It’s entirely possible I was unable to master them (Andy was kicking my ass) but still I felt I really had to put a lot of effort in to throw everyone to their doom. And maybe that’s the point. It gives a little difficulty and challenge to the game, although the fun factor still remains.

Bonus points go to character customization. You can change what costume your player wears (I was partial to the sombrero) as well as other options. One memorable moment was when we selected “headless” and the player’s head proceeded to roll around the stage. Again future updates could really make this area of the game shine, with more costumes and outfits to wear.

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Jake Sapir, Writer: This game can best be described as a brawl. As soon as I joined in, my fox-costumed ragdoll went straight in to grab Andrew’s bear-man, and I tried unsuccessfully to drop him onto a conveyor belt. I did that quite a few times. Lifting and dropping your opponents is how you most often win, after all. You’ll pick up the nuances of the combat eventually, but the game doesn’t stray too far from the concept of ragdolls in silly costumes trying to throw each other into stage hazards (or the abyss below). And for a party game, that’s more than enough.

Not that there isn’t variety, of course. I learned that when I went to check out the alternate costumes available. Imagine my surprise when I chose “Headless” only to realize that my character’s head was just lying in the stage as I fought. That’s when somebody raised the question: if the head dies, does my character die? The answer turned out to be yes, and a mad dash for my head was on. See, everything in this game is designed to be as ridiculous as possible. The characters, outside of random hats and animal costumes, are just solid colored lumps in the vague shape of people with glowing eyes. The stages are all ridiculously dangerous and violent, with the pretty much unanimous favorite being two precariously dangling shipping containers. The characters move around ineffectually to a large degree, so there’s a lot of flailing around to stay out of death traps. What’s not to love?

Indie party games (and I’d definitely call this a party game) can be pretty hit or miss, with most not living up to the party concept. Fortunately, Gang Beasts delivers. It’s simple enough that up to eight players can pick it up and get playing right away, but it has enough variety to keep you doing so well into the night. There’s even some strategy involved with the different stages, as each hazard works slightly differently. Fans can pull you in, dangling shipping containers can be cut loose, doors can be opened and closed, and so on. For such a simple game, there really is a lot going on. I highly recommend it, even if you think it looks stupid. Once you start playing, you can’t help but smile.

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Overall, everyone had a positive experience with Gang Beasts.  The game is still in beta testing, but the gameplay is solid and there is enough variety to keep this party game interesting with the right crowd.  Hopefully future updates will include more levels and/or customization.  Gang Beasts is currently available on Steam as an Early Access game, and is slated for release on the PS4 and PS Vita later this year.  You can also download the alpha build for free at indiedb.

Are there any couch co-op games you are interested in seeing us play and review?  Let us know in the comments and we will put them in our rotation as we continue our segment!

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