Human: Fall Flat Review
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Developer: No Brakes Games
Publisher: Curve Digital
Platform: PC/Xbox One/PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Sometimes, games are good. Sometimes, they are bad. Sometimes, they are intentionally bad, and that's good. Human: Fall Flat flops its way into that category. A physics-based puzzle game involving a difficult to control Play-Doh human named Bob will start out as a lesson in creativity and either evolve into a new mindset of how to control a video game or devolve into a slew of curse words and potentially broken controllers depending on how you view games like this.
It feels like Human: Fall Flat is out to get you. From the first moment Bob flops on the ground and takes a notable time to get on his feet, the game tests your patience. Slowly but surely, the game makes it harder to get from the starting position to the end goal by putting themed puzzles in your way. You start out moving train cars around, spend some time in a construction yard, and even learn to row a boat to get to your destination. Thing is, Bob himself isn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. At top speed, Bob wobbles like he's had one too many to drink, and can barely understand the mystical object known as A Stair. Small ledges may be hopped, whilst larger ones need to be climbed. Climbing is a lesson in tedium, as is holding any object, thanks to the way you handle Bob's grip. Pressing L2 or R2 on the PS4 result in Bob reaching out and grabbing with the corresponding hand. Thing is, he aims in the direction of the camera, which is rotated by the right analog stick. So if you want to reach up, you must pan down with the camera, hit "grab," then move over to X to jump. Add in a few more games of Finger Twister if you feel the need to make a running jump. When you grab an edge, climbing up involves holding on to those lower trigger buttons and panning the camera back up above so that he lifts himself up onto the edge. If you are a little low, he will NOT adjust. You will find yourself flopping against the side of the cliff with no way to move your arms up for a grab, particularly annoying when you get 49% of your weight on the ledge, just not enough to prevent you from falling to your doom. (side note: the game was attempted and given up on with the Vita's Remote Play. It's impossible to hold the slippery back for grip and maneuver the analog sticks as well.)
For me, another frustration came in the completely flat, edgeless shading of the world. A few times there would be a platform lower than me with a gap between, but since there is edgeless, same shading, I'd run forward in a jump (that I had to pan away from the ground to set up) only to run right off an edge into a hole I didn't even see. The game is quick to flop you right back at your last checkpoint, though, so at least a retry is rather quick.
Another time, I actually got a PS Trophy for going the wrong way in a particular level. I felt smart as I jumped out later in the world, thinking I'd found a shortcut, only to land beside a button that required a weight that was back on a ledge I could no longer get to. I had no choice but to reset the level and try again.
At first, you might be coming off of this review thinking the game is terrible, but as I said at first, some games are designed to almost be intentionally bad. Human: Fall Flat has great shades of Octodad running through it's veins; another game so hilariously dependent on it's physics and staying true to the law of the world even with a clumsy character. Whilst Octodad has the hilariously fun multiplayer mode where everyone controls different limbs, Human: Fall Flat gives us a basic two-player mode. It is amusing going around the world with a compatriot, and you can help each other over ledges and such, or hold a switch for another person. This allows some of the frustrating puzzles to be cleared a bit easier, and the couch co-op allows you to laugh together as well.
The physics allow for some rather humorous outtakes. Regularly, Bob gets his hands stuck behind his head, and it's a chore to get those wobbly limbs back around to a useful place. Missing a jump translates to a hilarious plop/fall. Sometimes, you flat out get stuck due to how the physics combine your environment and your body. The first few times it is enjoyable, laughable, and you'll be looking to share the video clips with your friends. Unfortunately, if an error comes around for the sixth time simply because of the intentionally clumsy controls, it may not feel so fun anymore.
I get the intentional difficulty of the controls, but I do lament all of the dead buttons on the controller. As I said, two of the four shoulder buttons are grip, there's a move and a camera analog stick, X is jump, and Square makes Bob go Ragdoll and flop to the ground. So many other buttons exist on the controller exist that could make it a little less frustrating. Again, yes, it's the point to have bad controls, but the "look/hold direction" analaog stick so close to the jump button when you need to use them in tandem made me twist my hand to hold the controller in ways I didn't think were even possible.
Place this game in front of a non-gamer with no sense of humor, and it'll be dropped within five minutes. Even if the non-gamer is amused by the floppiness of it all, I'm sure that they will not stay with it long either, as the mixed up controls wax and wane between fun and frustrating. Get a diehard video game player with dextrous hands and a penchant for humor (and patience) and you have a winner. While controller-throwing-frustrating at times, the game has the ability to let you easily see the solution, it's the getting there that's the problem, and finally flopping over that last edge to skydive down to your next challenge is a sweet, sweet victory.
-Hilarious! Gameplay is bound to cause laughs.
-Local Co-Op makes for some memorable gameplay.
-The feeling of achievement when getting through a tough section is worth the frustrating control design.
-The game has set physics, but at times relies on the luck of hitting things right due to intentionally tough controls.
-Aiming your arms is very awkward and there is no way to change the angle.
-The thematically "flat" textures blend together. While unique, it's bland and sometimes messes up jumps.
Special thanks to No Brakes Games and Curve Digital for providing a copy of the game on PS4 for review.