Human: Fall Flat (Xbox One Review)
Human: Fall Flat presents itself as an experimental puzzler, not restricting the player to a set linear path, but rather opens up its own boundaries and encourages the player to get creative. It invites ingenuity, exploration and above all, a good laugh.
Human: Fall Flat expresses itself through the comically flailing Human that you control through each of the 9 carefully crafted worlds available. Your Human is controlled using a simple set of mechanics that all revolve solely around the game’s physics engine. Using the controller’s left and right triggers you can control the Human’s arms, respective to each trigger. Using only your arms and a bit of resourcefulness, each obstacle can be overcome through pushing, pulling, twisting, climbing and bungling through them. And the Human, as a whole, is a player-controlled ragdoll. All limbs move and flow loosely as you move, making traversing within Human: Fall Flat part of the puzzle. Understanding how to make your Human climb properly, lifting its weight up onto ledges and putting one foot in front of the other, is part of its puzzling charm but can also become a bit of a chore from time to time.
From the finite amount of levels at your disposal to flub around in, the first 4 act as an introduction to Human: Fall Flat’s mechanics, showing very little in aesthetic design. Each one gets progressively longer and more difficult than the last, but sticks to a more traditional linear design; sequentially completing one puzzle after another to proceed to the finish. The latter 5 levels, however, are increasingly more varied than the introductory ones, throwing out the handy tooltips of earlier levels in favour of enforcing some freedom of thought. This pushes the player to problem solve for themselves and sometimes think outside the box.
These complicated and more detailed levels offer up alternate routes and even puzzle-breaking shortcuts if you’re smart enough; finding a low wall that you can swing around or even piling up crates to hop over to an unforeseen finish line. Some levels stick to a theme as well: “Castle” will have you continually breaking down walls and obstacles using catapults, “Water” will have you traversing bodies of water using vehicles and floats, and “Power Plant” will have you finding fuel sources to power machines. Though some levels may be dull to look at visually and even devoid of colour, others make great use of the designer’s minimalistic art style, creating large and lifelike structures using only the colour grey, whilst still having it be recognisably obvious as to what it is.
Though there is an obvious soundtrack that accompanies Human: Fall Flat the majority of your playtime, it will go unnoticed or, to be more precise, is absent from the game. With tracks being only a minute or so long, these jazzy and dramatic acoustic melodies seemingly flyby as you bash your head against the wall trying to solve your next hurdle. Having barely noticed the tunes to begin with, you’d be wondering where they went. As one track finishes, another doesn’t play until a specific queue in a level is triggered, leaving the player alone with their thoughts for the rest of their playtime.
Human: Fall Flat is a unique game at that; one of those few rare gems that come along every once in awhile that you can get really hooked on in an instant but ends up being a once fleeting dream due to its longevity. Although I do adore what Human: Fall Flat has to offer in all of its minimalistic ragdoll glory, those 9 levels it does throw at you will be over before you know it.
And with Human: Fall Flat being primarily a puzzle game, the main source of the gameplay in actually solving puzzles, a second run of the game left me feeling empty, if not, uninspired as I felt I had accomplished everything I had to. And I guess that’s the problem with puzzle games, once you’ve solved it the challenge is gone and any sense of accomplishment has been achieved the first time round. That initial excitement and intrigue has all but been extinguished. Playing it with a friend, however, does bring an added level of humor and replayability that cannot be attained playing alone. Sabotaging each others attempt to solve problems or simply carrying on breathes new life into those once-conquered stages.
With fantastic level design, the fumbling humorous Human, and even the partially absent soundtrack, Human: Fall Flat is a blast to play. Although short-lived–your play time could vary as it is a puzzle game–Human: Fall Flat is a most welcomed momentary distraction to the more serious and heavy AAA games we have been recently getting flooded with. So if you have the time, why not pick up Human: Fall Flat and have a few laughs with a friend while you have the chance.