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Human: Fall Flat

Platform(s): Android, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: No Brakes Games
Release Date: July 22, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PC Review - 'Human: Fall Flat'

by Brian Dumlao on Feb. 23, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Human: Fall Flat is a quirky, open-ended, physics-based, third-person puzzle and exploration game set in surreal, floating dreamscapes.

Buy Human: Fall Flat

Manuel Samuel, Octodad: Dadliest Catch and Surgeon Simulator  haveone thing in common: They're purposefully difficult games to control. Their reliance on unusual control schemes and, in some cases, offbeat physics turns simple tasks into Herculean efforts, and their joy comes from making things work despite the obvious hurdles thrown at you. Human: Fall Flat goes for the same kind of thing, as you're fighting an unusual control scheme and finicky physics to solve puzzles.

From what you can glean anywhere but the game itself, your name is Bob. You often dream about falling, but unlike most people, you never wake up suddenly because of these dreams. Instead, you land in loads of different places and try to find the exit so you can continue your endless descent. It's a premise that works well enough until you reach the end, which is both abrupt and unsatisfying but fine when you consider how the game doesn't care much about narrative in the first place.

The physics system is similar to what you've seen in other titles. It's realistic, but there's enough wobble and bounce to make things a little goofy. Platforms exhibit more sway when they collide, and you can accidentally shift mobile objects when walking on top of them. It doesn't happen too often, as breaking glass panes still requires some force, and pulling tends to be an easier way to move objects around. One thing you won't see much is objects spiraling out of control, something that can occasionally happen to even the best physics-based games.

The controls are interesting because they're quite normal. Even though this game takes on the third-person perspective, it controls like a first-person shooter to the point where you'll see Bob strafe if you tilt the left stick instead of turning to run in that direction. You can jump, and Bob will cover a decent distance, but he won't gain any height at all. That really is the extent of your basic movement, since you can't do anything else except for the gameplay mechanic of independent arm control.

Using your mouse buttons or triggers, you can independently stick out your arms and have them grab onto just about any surface, so long as those buttons are pressed. Hitting buttons and picking up boxes is easy with this scheme, as is using the remote control that periodically appears to give you hints so you can progress. The most taxing of tasks is climbing, since your right stick is responsible for your camera and where your arms are pointing. To ensure that you can climb objects, you first need to look up, so you can point your arms to the sky. You'll then need to jump and attach yourself to the edge of a surface before pointing the camera down, so you can lift yourself up. This presents the issue of sometimes having to take blind leaps to make it across chasms.

The puzzles start out as simple as you'd expect in some nondescript areas. All you really need to do is open doors or find your way to the door that needs to be opened. Get past what are essentially tutorial levels, and the game starts to open up in both puzzle variety and locale. You'll be in construction sites trying to use wrecking balls to break down walls and pulling poles so you can make a switch stay in the open position. You'll arrive in castles and see if you throwing yourself via a catapult is a good idea. You'll also have to determine if you can pilot a leaky boat when your control over the boat is spotty at best. All of the things you need to do require some pretty simple solutions that are only made more difficult by the physics and your own all-too-fluid motions with limited arm control.

If the game forced you to follow one solution path, then it can be an exercise in frustration. Luckily, the game is pretty good about letting you engineer a solution, so long as the necessary tools are present. You get a small example of this near the beginning, where you can either pull apart all of the boards blocking a doorway or use one of them to break a window and climb through it. Another example is you being acrobatic and swinging from one light to another or simply opting to build a rickety bridge to cross that same chasm.

Failure is a common thing in these kinds of games, and the way Human: Fall Flat handles it can vary depending on whether the execution was correct. On the one hand, falling into the void long before you're supposed to immediately drops you at the beginning of the room, with no load screens to slow things down. The game also makes sure that the objects you messed with the last time are still where you left them, and depending on the state you left them in, that can be good or bad. Most of the time, those things are easily reachable, so most of the hard work doesn't have to be repeated, and some objects are reset to their original locations if they fall. On the other hand, ropes can be placed in positions where they're impossible to reach, forcing you to do a level reset since you're unable to use them again otherwise.

The eight worlds provide a decent gameplay length, so completing all of the puzzles will be satisfactory, even with the abrupt ending. Nothing else in the game is unlockable. Those who prefer playing with others  can do so locally, but there's no option to go online. While the lack of online play is a little disappointing, the benefits of co-op play cannot be understated. Both characters aren't tied to one another, so they can traverse the level independently. That also means that only one person needs to find the exit for both players to leave, which makes things a little easier. Additionally, the levels remain unchanged from the single-player version. Since the game was balanced with one player in mind, some of the more difficult puzzle segments are much easier with a second person in tow, provided he or she doesn't succumb to temptation and use the physics system to mess around with you.

There is one thing that Human: Fall Flat does wrong, however, and that's the camera. Not counting its awkward use when it comes to climbing, the camera does a terrible job of staying still unless you are standing still. Walk anywhere, especially places where an object is above you, and you'll notice the camera zoom in and out on its own. It does this quite often, but it doesn't do it at a rapid pace. It occurs frequently enough that those who are sensitive to the camera in first-person shooters will have a high chance of getting sick.

As a whole, the presentation is pretty minimalist. With the exception of the color gradients, everything looks untextured and a little crude. You can make out what the objects are, but they look like something in the prototyping stage instead of something in a final product. As a style, it works out just fine. On the audio side, music is barely there, so it's something of a treat to hear snippets, and the effects play at a good volume and aren't drowned out. There is a good narrator at the beginning of the game who also shows up whenever a tutorial video plays, but he is absent otherwise.

Human: Fall Flat is pretty good. It may be another awkwardly controlled game with a robust physics system, but neither is overbearing enough to drag down the game's enjoyment factor. It comes in at a good length, there are multiple ways to solve puzzles, and the co-op really makes things enjoyable. The camera can be nauseating if you're sensitive to such things, but if you can handle it, you'll find a game that's just as ridiculously fun as some of its contemporaries.

Score: 8.0/10

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