Platforms PC
Developer No Brakes Games
Publisher Curve Digital
Release Date July 22, 2016

Disclaimer: Review code provided

Human: Fall Flat is basically a drunk person simulator. The way the Human-shaped blob of a protagonist, called Bob, stumbles around the various levels of the game, complete with controls which force you to control each of its arms with different triggers, is the perfect embodiment of being absolutely rat arsed. Trying to accomplish any task in Human: Fall Flat, I was immediately reminded of very hazy memories of attempting to complete the most mundane of tasks while smashed – the level of drunk where opening a door or walking up some stairs was a challenge of monumentally epic proportions.

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Human: Fall Flat is a puzzle game where the challenge comes from the controls rather than the puzzles themselves. The puzzles themselves would be fairly simple to master if you weren’t controlling a white blob who’s had too much whiskey. It’s a game in the same vein as Grow Home, where it presents a familiar gameplay style and mechanics with a fresh twist on the in-game physics. You accomplish everything in the game by manipulating the main characters arms. The analogue stick moves them up and down, and you grab things with each arm independently using the left and right triggers. And that’s the crux of the game. Every puzzle or advancement you make in the game is done by grabbing stuff. Rocks, levers, train cars, the edges of platforms – it’s all about being grabby while maneuvering a drunk protagonist around.

Puzzle solving plays a big role in Human: Fall Flat. You’ll be solving puzzles such as getting boxes across progressively more complex levels or trying to fire a catapult at a wall. I’m going to stick with that catapult example, because it encapsulates a lot of what I love about Human: Fall Flat. For starters the game is hilariously entertaining. If you’ve ever struggled to put your keys in the door when you’ve been drunk, imagine trying to load and operate a medieval catapult. Words cannot describe how funny this game can be. Not scripted funny, not loaded with jokes funny – the hilarity ensues because of the things that happen to you while you’re trying to complete simple tasks. And crushing yourself with a box.

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The catapult puzzle also showcases Human: Fall Flat’s nonlinearity. When you come upon the catapult you’ll see three things – the catapult, a pile of rocks next to it and a castle across the way with a wall that so obviously looks like it can be smashed. Upon loading a rock into the catapult, a task which was far from easy, I fired and watched the rock sail over the top of the wall harmlessly. Clearly I’d need to adjust the aim. After another two failed shots I got pissed off and loaded myself into the catapult and fired Bob over the wall. Job done.

It turns out there are multiple ways through a fair few parts of the game. The most obvious path isn’t always the only one, and sometimes the most obvious path is the more difficult path to take. There were sections of Human: Fall Flat that I bypassed and assumed I would come back to later, but that never happened. Instead my blobby white companion simply pushed on with his mission. Being able to approach a puzzle in a variety of ways is a great feature, especially for a game where you’re hardly in complete control.

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Full disclosure: I don’t think he’s actually drunk, but it’s the easiest shorthand to describe how he moves. You’ll spend a lot of time in Human: Fall Flat doing some puzzle platforming. And if you’re picturing what that might actually look like and wondering how it’s at all possible – then yeah, you’re picturing it right. Tackling some platforming that Mario could manage in his sleep is enough to keep you on your toes in Human: Fall Flat. Just clearing the smallest of distances from one platform to the next takes some serious concentration.

It works because of how intuitive the controls are here. Jumping is as easy as pushing A, grabbing the edges of platforms is a little trickier. You need to have both of Bob’s arms raised in the air (above the platform you’re trying to grab) and hold the shoulder buttons down. Bob will grab the edge of the platform and hang on for dear life. Once you’ve done this you need to look down, and Bob will slowly pull himself up onto the platform, just make sure you let go at the right moment, or you’re going to have a bad time.

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It sounds convoluted but it works incredibly well. There’s something really intuitive to the whole thing, and it’ll only take you two or three jumps before you’re super comfortable with how it all works. The same goes for the rest of the platforming – there are sections where you’ll need to swing over things, for example, and it’s all intuitively managed because all you’re really controlling is Bob’s grip. It’s easy to grab hold and let go of things, all you need to get right is the timing.

What makes Human: Fall Flat more than simply an interesting, quirky twist on a physics-based puzzler is how hilarious the end results generally are. The utter lack of true control should be annoying, yet it never is. You should be tearing your hair out every time you get trapped under a box, hurtle off a platform or utterly fail at whatever action you were trying to take. Instead you’ll laugh. Human: Fall Flat is a charming game because of it’s absurdist central mechanics and its malleable protagonist. Running for a jump with two arms raised in the air and screaming “tally ho!” is never not awesome (though that “tally ho” part might just be me).

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For added kicks, Human: Fall Flat also features a local co-op mode (which you should absolutely not mistake for a single-player gameplay feature), which sees two players sharing a screen trying to work together to guide two Bob’s through the same levels. While it’s just as funny to watch your friend flail around and fail at the mundane tasks set forth in the game, there’s no change to the levels and no levels specific for co-operative play, which feels like a missed opportunity. Some levels that outright require teamwork would probably make for some of the funniest gameplay all year.


Summary

Human: Fall Flat is a fun, funny physics-based puzzle game. It throws you against tasks that any other video game protagonist would have no trouble completing, then casts you as a protagonist who moves and controls like he just left the pub at last orders. What should be frustrating is actually charming thanks to some superbly intuitive controls and the (usually comical) end results of your efforts to complete these simple puzzle based tasks. Despite the extra layer of difficulty thanks to the main characters movements, Human: Fall Flat is an easy game to pick and play because of these controls. It’s also a guaranteed good time – especially for anyone watching.

8


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