It seems like more and more games are purposefully implementing fiddly controls as a central gameplay mechanic, Octodad: The Dadliest Catch is a prime example of this, although this included an amusing story at least, Human: Fall Flat is about lead character Bob dealing with his recurring dreams of falling, there’s a small amount of humour in the tutorial levels, but this quickly dissipates and what’s left is a frustrating, almost lifeless experience.
This game is all about having very little control over your own body. Tasked with completing physics puzzles that require a fair amount of dexterity, you play as a procedurally animated little fella with very sticky arms. The left mouse button will shoot his left arm out to grab whatever’s in front of him and the right mouse button will do the same with the right.
It’s a simple idea, yet somehow the game manages to apply it to a variety of cool situations: trashing construction sites, improvising swings out of crowbars, pushing trains around, and a firing out of a catapult all stand out as fun and unique moments. It’s easy for physics puzzles games to fall into a trap of ‘push this block to this button with increasing amounts of faffing’, but Human Fall Flat successfully steers well clear of it.
So it’s unfortunate that, all these good ideas don’t help at all when the core game itself is flawed. There are supposed to be multiple solutions to each problem and, whilst that certainly is true in some areas, in others it’s easier to just go for the wrong or less interesting solution. All too often I thought “was that what I was supposed to do?”, which when the maps are littered with those previously mentioned cool ideas can be a shame.
As the movement relies on where the physics-based animations place the legs, movement on some terrains can be a nightmare of stumbling and tripping over. Jumping and climbing feel unprecise, as pulling up from a ledge also makes you dart forward as the legs try to meet the ground. Couple that with precise platforming segments, which happen all too often, and Fall Flat quickly becomes a game of trial and error rather than figuring out any particular solution, and it’s mostly error upon error.
It doesn’t help that the check pointing sometimes won’t reset objects, meaning a silly mistake can make certain obstacles entirely insurmountable. For example, one area required me to swing across a large gorge on a rope, except I screwed up the first time and fell to my death. By the time I’d respawned, the rope had lost all of its momentum – the controls meant the accuracy needed to jump and grab it was nigh-on impossible, and even if I did I wouldn’t have been able to do a whole lot with it. I had to close and restart the game a fair few times in the hopes things would reset and let me get past them, which was a frustrating waste of time.
There is a co-op option too, but it is local only, with no option to use it over LAN or online, this is somewhat of a shame especially as this multiplayer element can add another layer to the puzzles and games such as Portal 2 have shown that you can really get creative with puzzle design when introducing a second player. I couldn’t promise that this co-op wouldn’t end in arguments however, as the frustrating camera would get even worse if two people are trying to use the same screen.
Aesthetically, the styling just feels half-baked. The low-poly, untextured style could’ve been unique and interesting, but coupled with limited sound design in which there are long periods of silence, and the glitchy and awkward animations, it gives the entire game a very unpolished feel.
Human: Fall Flat just doesn’t have the humour of Octodad: Deadliest Catch or the challenge of Surgeon Simulator. Whilst it does have a few good ideas, especially with the incredibly fun swinging puzzles, and it’s obvious a lot of thought has gone into how the few mechanics can be used to their best effect, it just doesn’t make up for its many flaws. The unguided level design, lacklustre presentation, poor check pointing and dodgy controls make it a forgettable experience.
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