“To fall properly, you need to get high.”
That’s a line from the tutorial for No Brakes Games’ Human: Fall Flat, a third-person physics-based puzzler. Considering how your blobby/ghosty/human-ish avatar bobbles around like a lead balloon whenever you move, it’s apt advice.
Besides apparently coming fresh off a three-day bender, you’ve got a problem. A bunch of problems, actually. You’re stuck in a series of surreal dreamscapes floating in the sky, each forming a puzzle to be solved by your wits and severely impaired sense of balance. On the plus side, a smart-alecky narrator is providing rarely-helpful information on how to accomplish basic functions like walking, watching tutorial videos, and using your hands. Assuming you consider that a plus.
Human: Fall Flat gets pretty innovative in how you use those hands, though. They’re fingerless blobs matched to your left and right mouse buttons, operating more like suction cups than fingers. Gravity, inertia, and the way you grab things are how you’ll solve most puzzles, which often have multiple possible solutions.
Levels in Human: Fall Flat often reward experimentation and exploration. See that catapult down there? You can use it to knock down a distant castle wall, fling yourself anywhere within its range, or knock over some menhir for target practice. Or, you can just kick it off the cliff if you like. There’s rarely just one solution to a problem, and most levels (once you’re through the tutorial areas) have multiple paths. You’ll miss quite a bit of content if you play each level through only once.
Hand-over-hand wall-crawling works too… not that it’s easy. If you miss a critical jump, you might find yourself clinging to a sheer rock face with nothing below but sky. Dangling from one hand, you swing right, then left, stretching out the free hand on the upswing to grab a few inches of upward movement. Painstaking minutes of eking out every advantage the surface geometry can give finally achieves the summit, and you’re safe once again.
Recovering from what would normally be an instant failure in other physics-based puzzle games is not only possible in Human: Fall Flat but feels like a real accomplishment when you pull it off.
No Brakes’ focus on surrealism in level design works very well here, using creative simplicity to lighten the Unity engine’s load. Not to mention providing a wide variety of challenges and atmosphere. I can’t recall having this much fun working a dockyard since Grand Theft Auto V!
The interface does create a couple of minor problems, though. When picking something off the ground, there’s no aiming reticle. Combined with the avatar’s tendency to be in front of the camera (complete with drunken movement), this means you’ll often grab the ground instead of what you were aiming for. When the puzzle you’re solving is time-sensitive and involves a lot of pickup actions, that can be frustrating. Similarly, the wobbly physics can bite you in the backside at the worst times. Such as when you’re trying to jump across two feet of water, and end up drowning because the crate you’re carrying took a wild bounce off your face in midair.
If you’re using game controllers, hitting “A” on the second one turns Human: Fall Flat into a co-op challenge. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to check that out for myself (having only a standard keyboard/mouse/joystick setup). However, I can see right away how it would make solving certain puzzles a lot easier – such as the crate mentioned above, which could easily have been handed off to a waiting buddy. Or sailing a boat, or working the dockyard, or doing any of a hundred things which would be pure spoilery if I were to mention them!
Now, if you want spoilers (or at least help with solving the tougher puzzles), there’s plenty of good YouTube videos already out there. New ones seem to be coming out every hour or so at this point, while some of the earliest have millions of views already. Perhaps one of the better series so far is by Draegast, though fair warning if you’ve never watched his work and don’t appreciate a lot of cussing. There are others, but most are several months old, now partly or wholly obsolete since No Brakes Games continued development while allowing streamed gameplay.
A console version is in development for release later this year, though there are currently no details regarding which platforms will be supported. Nothing in Human: Fall Flat is terribly groundbreaking, but it’s all put together competently and entertainingly, pushing you to observe, explore, and overcome your surroundings.
Human: Fall Flat was reviewed on a Windows 7 PC via Steam using a code provided by Curve Digital.
The bottom line is that Human Fall Flat is fun, challenging, and charming in its simplicity.