Human: Fall Flat is a perfect example of a good idea that doesn’t quite stick the landing. Full of interesting things and a really endearing sense of humour, Fall Flat still manages to uh… well… it’s in the name.
Human, much like games like Surgeon Simulator and Octodad, is all about having very little control over your own body. Tasked with completing physics puzzles that require a fair amount of dexterity, you play as a procedurally animated little fella with very sticky arms. The left mouse button will shoot his left arm out to grab whatever’s in front of him and the right mouse button will do the same with the right.
It’s a simple idea, yet somehow developer No Breaks Games manages to apply it to a variety of cool situations: trashing construction sites, improvising swings out of crowbars, pushing trains around, and a firing out of a catapult all stand out as fun and unique moments. It’s easy for physics puzzles games to fall into a trap of “push this block to this button with increasing amounts of faffing”, but Fall Flat on the whole successfully steers well clear of it.
Fun and unique moments
It’s easy to go for the “wrong” or less interesting solution
Unfortunately, all the good ideas in the world don’t help when the core game itself is flawed. The game is also billed as being “open-ended”, where there are multiple solutions to each problem. While that certainly is true in some areas, in others it’s easy to go for the “wrong” or less interesting solution. All too often I thought “was that what I was supposed to do?”, which when the maps are littered with those previously mentioned cool ideas can be a shame.
As the movement relies on where the physics-based animations place the legs, movement on some terrains (slopes and stairs in particular) can be an utter nightmare of stumbling and tripping over. Jumping and climbing feel unprecise, as pulling up from a ledge also makes you dart forward as the legs try to meet the ground. Couple that with precise platforming segments, which happen all too often, and Fall Flat quickly becomes a game of trial and error rather than figuring out any particular solution.
It doesn’t help that the checkpointing sometimes won’t reset objects, meaning a silly mistake can make certain obstacles entirely insurmountable. For example, one area required me to swing across a large gorge on a rope, except I screwed up the first time and fell to my death. By the time I’d respawned, the rope had lost all of its momentum – the controls meant the accuracy needed to jump and grab it was nigh-on impossible, and even if I did I wouldn’t have been able to do a whole lot with it. I had to close and restart the game a fair few times in the hopes things would reset and let me get past them, which was a frustrating waste of time.
To top it all off, the aesthetic styling just feels half-baked. The low-poly, untextured style could’ve been endearing, but when the limited sound design (great music, just broken up by very long periods of silence) and the glitch animations are added to the mix it gives the entire game a very unfinished or unpolished feel.
Human: Fall Flat doesn’t have the humour of Octodad or the challenge of Surgeon Simulator. While it does have a few good ideas, especially with the incredibly fun swinging puzzles, and it’s obvious a lot of thought has gone into how the few mechanics can be used to their best effect, it just doesn’t make up for its many flaws. The unguided level design, lacklustre presentation, poor checkpointing and dodgy controls make it a forgettable experience.
Developer: No Breaks Games/Curve Digital
Release date: July 22, 2016
- Swinging is fun
- Interesting and varied level design
- Nice soundtrack… when it finally plays
- Slow and frustrating controls
- Dodgy checkpointing
- Dull presentation
While Human: Fall Flat has its good moments, the game is let down by annoying, fiddly controls and undercooked presentation. It’s not bad, it’s just not at all fun either.