Lately, it seems like more and more games are purposefully implementing fiddly controls as a central gameplay mechanic. Naturally, they need more than awkward movement to draw players in, so Octodad: The Dadliest Catch included an amusing story, Gang Beasts brought madcap fighting and Human: Fall Flat is about lead character Bob dealing with his recurring dreams of falling.
Before hitting play, I popped into the customization menu to give the 3D model of Bob a splash of color. I was able to be as artistic as I’d like here, and there’s even an option to use a webcam picture (for those wishing to see their face plastered across Bob’s whole person). A few splodges of paint later and I was rather attached to the little guy, ready to start his adventure.
Things kicked off with Bob freewheeling through the sky before unceremoniously landing on a floating world. I was invited to toddle around the environment while a disembodied narrator commented on my every action. The observant humor reminded me of The Stanley Parable, so I was disappointed when it came to a sudden halt after the tutorial level ended. There were a few hint boxes that saw the return of this comedy, but in general, Bob and I were left to solve the worlds’ puzzles alone.
One negative here is that the areas don’t look great. They feel both basic and empty: there are neither collectibles to go after nor any NPCs to communicate with. I get that this is supposed to be a surreal dream world — but then why, other than the floating platforms in the sky, does everything look so bland and grey?
Progressing through the game does show some more interesting environments, of which the castle level in particular comes to mind. I also really appreciated how the specific level designs had a say on what puzzles would crop up. For example, the construction site includes the operation of a wrecking ball, and the water level gets you to manually maneuver boats. There were always a number of solutions to each puzzle, and the off-kilter physics provided a bit of fun, when everything ran smoothly.
The challenge in Human: Fall Flat isn’t solving the puzzles (only the last two levels really left me stumped). Figuring out the goals is easy enough, but actually getting Bob to realize those goals is another thing entirely.
You see, Bob controls like a toddler learning to walk, which means a lot of fighting with the mechanics. There’s a nice idea here in that you’re supposed to use his sticky hands to pick up objects and cling to ledges. Unfortunately, while it does offer satisfying feedback where physics are concerned, getting Bob to put his arms into different angles (up high to reach objects, straight out in front, or down low for picking things off the ground) is harder than it should be because the camera must also be moved in that direction. This led to times where Bob’s hands ended up where I didn’t want them, the camera angle obscured the edge of platforms, and even moments where Bob’s body filled the entire screen due to the third-person perspective. Even simple actions felt like a battle against the controls.
The split screen co-op, on the other hand, went a long way toward making up for problems encountered while I was playing solo. A lot of this came down to Human: Fall Flat suddenly being really funny, as ways to hinder progress became my top priority (I was mature enough to grab onto other Bob and launch him off into the void at every opportune moment).
It wasn’t all mucking around though, as an extra pair of flailing arms made puzzles a lot easier. For example, one Bob could hold an item in place while the other went to get something else, or smart use of the split-screen allowed the first player to act as a lookout while the second was swinging up into the air. Most importantly, as long as one of us made it to the next section, both were able to progress.
Despite faults, it’s fair to say that I got rather attached to Bob. The ragdoll physics and camera combination led to a lot of frustration, as it was hard to get the little guy to do exactly what I wanted him to. That being said, I did really enjoy myself when playing co-op, so there’s fun to be had with the right mindset. It’s far from perfect, but Human: Fall Flat will help to while away a few hours, especially if you have a friend with a sense of humour nearby.
This review is based off a PC copy of the game, which we were provided with.
Human: Fall Flat has awkward controls and camera angles that make even basic actions a chore to execute. Luckily, the ragdoll physics puzzles, combined with a fun co-op function, can keep you entertained throughout Bob’s short journey.