Some games try to be funny with a sparky script written by a bored scriptwriter who dreams of hitting the big league. Even if it manages to rise above the usual misfired dross, the funniest jokes will only work the first time before they become the script equivalent of your Dad dancing at a wedding.
However, the truly funny games – those that leave you huffing and snorting like an overexcited bulldog – are the ones that set up something entertaining then let the laughs write themselves through unrepeatable situations. Titles like Nidhogg, PAIN and Super Mario Kart hold golden opportunities for some amazing same-couch-multiplayer wonderfulness. Well, you can add Gang Beasts to that list now, as I haven’t had this much fun with a game in ages.
It may still be in (free) Alpha form, but the bones are glorious. Up to four players each control a blobby little guy with expressive eyes and a chest like mid-spinach Popeye. There are a number of levels to choose from – a wresting ring, window cleaning gantries, a ferris wheel – then you spend the next twenty minutes skidding around trying to take out your opponent(s). Two separate buttons control your right and left arm, with a tap to punch and a hold to grab. It’s a beatdown – reduce your target’s health then try to drag them to their doom before they recover and fight back. We played an hour of it last night before realising there was an extra action move – hold both arm buttons with action and you’ll hoist your enemy into the air, ready for a WWF-style thrown finisher.
The humour comes in the awkwardness and, actually, realism. The fights aren’t Streetfigher-style violent ballets between trained combatants – this is the kind of fight you would get into at school or outside a club. It’s messy and scrappy and utterly brutal in a way that we all recognise. And the unpredictability of it all is glorious, each victory and defeat becoming another part of the narrative that you’ll retell for weeks.
That is, if you can see through the tears of laughter. There’s an interesting list of features that are going to be added and a variety of platforms on which the finished game should appear, but if you can, don’t wait around for that. Grab a friend and get stuck in. Happy weekend!
Gang Beasts (Free, Windows, Mac)