Human: Fall Flat Review – Punch Drunk (PS4)
Platforming games are making a comeback, but it’s hard for indie developers to compete against AAA franchises like Mario and Rayman. With Human: Fall Flat, devs No Brake Games have created their own niche in hopes of securing solid footing in the platforming genre. Instead of throwing difficult puzzles and complicated gadgetry at players, this quirky physics-based game makes even the simplest task difficult. “How is this accomplished” you may ask? Well, it’s achieved by giving players a simulated out-of-body experience via user-unfriendly controls.
Bob is a human, but the Bob that players control is a reasonable facsimile. More specifically, he’s a featureless dream version of Bob that is trying to escape his own nightmares of falling by solving puzzles and advancing through levels. Oddly enough, each level ends with Bob falling through the air for ten or more seconds and landing on a new dreamscape, so the most sensible way to avoid falling is not to advance. However, logic puzzles aren’t an intentional part of the game, and there are more important questions to ask.
Instead, most players will query: “Why the hell is it so difficult to control Bob?” Maybe it’s because Bob is an alien clone. Perhaps he’s just a shell for another being to wear while hiding among humans. Some players might think that he’s an adult version of a baby who hasn’t learned to control his body. Yeah, right. I think Bob is hard to control because he’s always hammered. Not just drunk, but freakin’ hammered! I’ve seen people at parties and bars that act exactly like Bob. They act like someone is trying to guide their body by using a remote control for the first time. Not surprisingly, some of these humans did indeed fall flat!
Bob is the perfect name for this character because his head bobs on land and at sea like a newborn baby trying to keep it’s overweight noggin upright. This motion pertains to his whole body, as it always leans in the direction the camera is facing, so looking up snaps his head and shoulders backwards and looking down lurches his upper body downward. He also walks in a very strange way, as if he’s always trying to regain his side-to-side balance. When these actions are combined together, it becomes very humorous to watch, and very difficult to control.
However, this pales in comparison to the hilarious and awkward way that Bob’s arms work. For starters, he has no elbows, so his arms are more like sticks with hooks on the ends. I say “hooks” because the hands latch onto any and every object when “activated.” Each arm is controlled separately by R2 and L2, and when a button is held, the corresponding arm stretches outward. Players must then guide the arm to its destination by leaning Bob in the correct direction. I find it hilarious to stretch both arms outwards in front of Bob while walking, as it reminds me of an old-school zombie. It’s even funnier to reach his arms up high, run towards a ledge, jump off, and then latch onto a platform.
You would think that having limited control over a character would severely limit their abilities, but that isn’t the case with Human: Fall Flat. Bob can pull, push, grab, carry, climb, break, jump, and even row a boat. These actions can also be combined to perform simple tasks like pushing a cart near a ledge, and then jumping onto the cart and then up to the ledge. Add a bit of imagination to the mix, and complicated actions can be performed, like grabbing a long hook, jumping in the air, using the hook to grab a peg, and then swinging to a new area. Bob can also pull levers to control large machinery, and this is used for controlling everything from cranes to giant ships.
This game also encourages experimenting with the environment, or what the devs like to call, distractions. Some of my favorite things to play with include: a crane with a large wrecking ball, rope swings, catapults, and stacking boxes. It’s even more fun to experiment in local coop mode. I played this game with my girlfriend, who is a casual gamer, and we had a blast messing around with objects, the environment, and each other. It’s great that our hands stuck to each other as it allowed us to do things like use each other as a human ladder or have one character swing on a rope and grab a second character who’s on a ledge, swing them around, and then toss them through the air. I even latched my hand onto her butt and let her drag me around for a while. Unfortunately, she quickly grew tired of the awkward controls and ended up quitting in a huff. I can’t say that I blame her.
Gameplay Fall Flat
The intentionally difficult controls added to the charm for the first few levels of Human: Fall Flat, but eventually the game becomes more frustrating than fun. None of the puzzles in the game are difficult to figure out, and they don’t even become clever until the end of the sixth level. However, the difficulty lies in actually solving puzzles using drunken Bob’s limited mobility. It can be infuriating to know the steps to get from A to B, but still end up missing a jump over and over or moving a platform too far because I can’t smoothly control my character. It’s almost like I’m playing a platform game for the first time, but in this case, it’s not nostalgic.
Frustration mounts even faster when objects become stuck in the environment and I can’t advance unless I restart the level, which happened more than once. I also found some basic tasks, like rowing a boat or flipping a barrel on it’s end, to be maddeningly difficult. I almost rage-quitted more than once due to the controls. Another thing that could use some work is the lack of depth and detail in the environment. For instance, there are many houses to enter, but none of them contain anything interesting. In addition, there are no hidden objects or collectibles. The only secrets revolve around discovering different ways to solve puzzles.
Human: Fall Flat seems like the kind of game that was conceived at a party where someone asked “what would it be like to control a character who’s already drunk?” Unfortunately, the game falls a wee bit short in terms of depth and gameplay. While it does have bits of drunken fun and charm, it would be better used as a mini-game in a larger game, similar to playing the Doom mini-game in Wolfenstein. There’s some fun and experimentation to be had in Human: Fall Flat, but be prepared for the hangover that follows.
Review code for Human: Fall Flat provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.