Alternatively titled as “The 2016 Election”
Reviewing a puzzle game before its release can be as frustrating as trying to tie a rattlesnake into a knot at the state fair. It’s a brand new activity, you’re not sure how to do it, and there is no instruction manual or guide to relieve your annoyance. There were many times in Human: Fall Flat where I felt this exasperation: Vexation so powerful that there were multiple times that I had to set my laptop down and take a breather. While I would have loved a guide to help me through these trying times, I am loathe to say that a guide would have helped me much anyway. There is something inherently rewarding about the open-ended puzzles in Human: Fall Flat, and that’s how the game is able to get its hooks into you.
No, this game isn’t a train wreck
Human: Fall Flat is a unique open-ended physics-based puzzle game from No Brakes Games that never ceases to simultaneously entertain and annoy- but I’ll get to the annoyance later. To best describe the concept of this game, I would say that it’s a love child between Octodad: Dadliest Catch and Portal, with a dash of Roblox. That’s right- remember that random Lego rip-off game that somehow always had something entertaining to play? Human: Fall Flat looks like a game that could have easily been developed within that world. That’s not to disparage the aesthetic of the game; far from it, actually. Part of Roblox’s brilliance was its ability to find innovation in simplicity. No Brakes Games takes this concept to heart, as Human: Fall Flat‘s simplistic aesthetic and gameplay mechanics help shape the puzzle game into one of the more original titles on the market. Octodad: Dadliest Catch‘s cheeky play on physics seems to have been an influence as well, as advancing in Human: Fall Flat requires the player to be knowledgeable about the inherent laws of physics (well, video game physics, at least). Questions such as these are commonplace: How far can I jump? How heavy is this object? Can I lift said object and throw it at that wall- and will it break that wall? Portal’s mantra of giving the player basic tools to “build a bridge” to the next level is also present within Human: Fall Flat– I felt as though the more I played, the more I learned, and therefore the better I got at proceeding to the next level.
Metal as h*ck
In Human Fall Flat you play as a man, Bob, as he tries to escape his dreams. Or you know, whatever on Earth is actually going on. I’m sure that there is a plot stored deeply inside the developer’s head, but that never really comes to fruition within the confines of the game. This game is not like, say, Limbo, where the puzzles were simply a conduit to tell a moving story. Rather, the story is just an arbitrary necessity to provide an excuse for the developers to make each level in a different locale. Which, to be honest, is completely fine with me; I’m a sucker for a great story, but there are times when a plot can overshadow the game in a forceful, unnecessary way. If the gameplay can stand on its own, why not let it?
Between a rock and a hard place
Believe me, the game does feel oddly marvelous to play. Bob is like a jelly-blob that somehow has taken up the permanent shape of a man; It would be like if all the bones were removed from a human body, and yet the human retained basic functionality. If you’re thinking “Wow, that sounds like it would provide an endless stream of silly entertainment”, then you’d be right. The physics of this game feel so natural, and I’d go so far as to say that this is some of the best climbing in video games. While the ease of Uncharted-style rock scaling has its merits, Human: Fall Flat delivers on harrowing jumps from cliff to cliff better than that series ever could. The left mouse click controls your left hand, while the right mouse click controls your right hand. As you jump from ledge to ledge, Bob reaches for the littlest bit of the platform he can get. This provides the player with some nail biting moments, as the chance of success always feels organic. While playing Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, I couldn’t help but think that everything about climbing felt too easy. I always knew when I would successfully land a jump. Human: Fall Flat never shows its hand, and its always a guessing game as to which methods of solving puzzles, climbing or not, will work out.
Woooahhh OH! Livin’ on a prayer…
Human: Fall Flat is certainly not without its share of frustrations, however. The open-ended nature of its physics based puzzles means that there are no absolutes: There is usually more than one way to continue, and sometimes it’s based on whether or not you are lucky. For example, there was a moment that I had to bust open a locked gate with a rock (pictured in the screenshot with the caption “Between a rock and a hard place”). I knew the solution immediately; Obviously, I had to take the rock and bash the lock off. That was the fun part; the infuriating part was trying to manipulate the rock in the way that the game wanted me to. I smashed the rock into the lock for 10 minutes straight, getting nowhere. Frustrated, I left the game alone and came back after a few hours. When I came back, it took me only one try to break open the gate. I didn’t feel as though I did anything differently, and that’s the problem: Sometimes, you’ll be performing the correct action to solve the puzzle, and yet you’ll get nowhere with it. This is discouraging, and it makes solving the puzzles much less enjoyable, as you know that you should have gotten it 30 minutes ago.
Ultimately, fans of the genre will appreciate and learn to love Human: Fall Flat. It was a refreshing take on the puzzle genre, but its open-ended nature was as equally rewarding as it was frustrating. The game does have it’s high points (no pun intended), such as it’s take on climbing. I know that this might sound like hyperbole, but its seriously the best way to experience climbing in a game. I enjoyed my time with Human: Fall Flat quite a bit, and I think anybody with even an ounce of interest in this game should give it a go- especially at the $14.99 price point. No Breaks Games delivered a very enjoyable, if not irksome, physics-based experience.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Curve Digital ; Developer: No Brakes Games; Players: 1 ; Released: July 22, 2016 ; ESRB: n/a ; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Human: Fall Flat given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.