Analysis: Gang Beasts

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Blue person emoting victoriously, without reason.

In the course of testing games that might some relevance pertaining to my research, Gang Beasts came along. I suppose it could be classified as a brawler, a beat-’em-up or even a fighting game, but I believe that would be selling this odd little game short.

In Gang Beasts, you and up to seven or so other players play grumpy jelly people. The object is to beat each other up across various large, interactive spaces. You have controls for hitting, grabbing hold of things, lifting things up, and, here we go – emoting victoriously. This animation does nothing – but in various playthrough with various people, it is by far the most often-used function, whether used for humiliating grandstanding or limp irony.

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Romance.

Gang Beasts is ostensibly about beating each other up, but the playground-like design of the levels and the severe clumsiness of the character controllers make for a very playground-style of play, one where people spend as much as time fooling about on the swings as they do actually performing the prime directive of the game. This is abetted by the strange, physics-driven nature of the controllers: The characters often topple over, and their crouch animation makes their arms flap about in suggestive manners, which a lot of players I played with interpreted as either dancing or intimidating gestures. Couple this with the way each character can grab the other and pretty soon various quasi-romantic scenarios emerged. Not because this is a romantic game, but because the players made it romantic.

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