For quite a while, gaming has been a solitary hobby for me. But recently my brother bought an Xbox and a new PC so he could start gaming again, and I am along for the ride. To give you an idea of the last time I seriously played multiplayer/co-op games, it was during the first wave of indie couch-multiplayer games - Nidhogg, Towerfall Ascension, Lethal League, and other games of that ilk. It’s been a while.
Since then, there’s been a steady stream of fun indie multiplayer and co-op games, but things have been getting wobbly. I mean this in the literal sense - there’s a whole sub-genre of physics-heavy multiplayer games starring wobbly little guys, led by Human: Fall Flat, Fall Guys, and Gang Beasts. There’s certainly the appetite for a multiplayer slapstick comedy game if it’s done right. For example, Human: Fall Flat has sold 40 million copies. To put that in context, according to Wikipedia, it’s the 15th highest-selling game ever, tied with The Witcher 3 (I know this is a digression, but those are bananas figures, I had to share them).
With all this in mind, it was a great time for me to play Filthy Animals: Heist Simulator from Pewter Games Studios. The conceit for Filthy Animals is that a slimy criminal called Tony is creating mutated animals to do his bidding. You and up to three of your friends play as these animals, who are still getting used to the whole humanoid thing – hence the wobbliness. You start small by robbing a convenience store, before moving on to bigger jobs such as a bank and nuclear power plant, and things get even more outlandish from there. In each of the 21 levels, you will have to find a way through locked doors, puzzling security systems, and armed guards that stand between you and the loot.
Part of what makes games such as Filthy Animals work is the tussle between what you want to do and what your less-than-coordinated character is able to do. You want unexpected results, but at the same time, you want to feel like you have enough control of your character. There are times Filthy Animals pulls this off, and times when it doesn’t. The way the animals effortlessly break and fling around doors and furniture is funny. A couple of times I got a key stuck in a tough spot because it was in a small room and I just turned it upside-down by picking up a table instead of the key or a healing taco.
This is a good result of imprecision. I can imagine a newly mutated animal not knowing its own strength. What's less good is taking three tries to press a button, which happened a lot. Neither is dying because it’s so hard to aim a gun. The controls often lean too far towards being frustrating rather than enjoyably erratic. This issue wasn’t bad enough to completely get in the way of a good time, but it did often halt the momentum we were carrying from our latest bout of mayhem as my brother or I struggled to press a button on the wall.
The less-than-ideal controls weren’t the only thing getting in the way of a good time. The online experience was far from ideal in my opinion, but of course, your mileage may vary with these things, (especially if you live somewhere with better internet than Australia’s infamous NBN. It was the first time in my comeback to co-op gaming that a game was not co-operating, but all things considered, I would highly recommend you find someone to play couch co-op with you. You could also play the game solo, but it’s not as much fun that way, which isn't a knock against Filthy Animals, it’s just generally the case with co-op games such as this.
Filthy Animals is a game with some glaring issues, but the potential for fun slapstick chaos does manage to override them. If you’re hoping to find new wobbly little guys for you and your friends to muck around with, you can do a lot worse than this one.
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