Gang Beasts

While attending the September PIGSquad meeting, I had the opportunity to play Gang Beasts against 5 opponents.  For those unfamiliar with the title, Gang Beasts is a Steam early access game that pits brightly colored, child sized, figures against one another in a fight to the death.  You’re given control of each arm, whether or not it’s raised, and whether or not it is grappling.  Otherwise, you can move about the level and jump.  Each level includes an array of different hazards to negotiate and try to angle your opponents into.  This might be water, fire, a fan, gears, or any number of future dangers planned for the full game.  The game revolves around its simple mechanics and physics implementation to create an atmosphere of intensity and spontaneity.

This isn’t a game with sharp, well defined controls.  It’s not Street Fighter, or even Super Smash Bros.  This proves to be a great aspect of the game though.  There are myriad ways to apply the grapple and raise mechanic – to strike, carry, pin, climb, and more as each match progresses.  While your goal is to fight and defeat opponents, you are really creatively manipulating the physics of the level.  Victory and defeat might hinge on your ability to orient yourself to grab a ledge with one arm and onto your opponent to drag them into a fan.  There are many novel strategies, and the process of discovering and mastering new techniques really makes playing Gang Beasts a rewarding experience.

Part of what makes Gang Beasts so enjoyable is that player’s start at the same skill level: it’s very much physics based, but at the same time the physics are just surreal enough that someone can just pick up the game and logically master it’s systems.  You feel like a baby that’s learning to walk.  It’s a motor skills arms race, and the other babies are out to get you.  Counter-intuitively, it’s simple appearance and presentation create all the more tension as you try to master a system that’s more complex than you might have initially assumed.  It is all very bizarre and exciting.  If you’ve got friends in the vicinity, Gang Beasts will provide you with great entertainment.

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