Physics-based puzzle games are a tough nut to crack. Make the game too hard and the player leaves the game frustrated, never to return to the thumb contorting nightmare they just experienced. Make the game too easy and the player leaves disappointed, thinking about the untapped potential of the game they just played. Human: Fall Flat attempts to balance this difficulty teeter-totter by keeping the mechanics simple (all you can do is grab things and jump) but increasing the complexity of the situation you need to apply the mechanics in. While there is the occasional stumble, Human: Fall Flat manages to stay on its feet to the end.
Jumping in, you take control of Bob, he is a builder, but I do not believe there is any relation to the other one. The first few levels are increasingly complex tutorials, but even as the difficulty grows, the answers are straight forward. Eventually, you get to the first “real” level and you are immediately challenged to put together everything you have learned to solve a more complex, and far less straightforward, combination of puzzles. These levels are where the game really shines. Though there seems to be an intended way to solve each stage, you do have significant freedom in how you approach each situation. There are areas to explore that have nothing to do with solving the puzzles to escape. On the other hand, if you are skillful in your approach and have mastered locomotion, you can skip entire parts of puzzles on your way to the exit.
When controlling Bob, you have only a few options of what you can do: grab things and jump. On the most basic level that is it. However, the possibilities are quite vast. Each arm is independently controlled with the right and left trigger. You will grab at wherever you are looking with the trigger you pull. So, you can look right and grab a lever, then look left and grab a separate lever, and then twist your body to move them each a different direction. Or, commonly, look up and jump to grab a ledge with both hands. Then use the sticks to pull yourself up and let go of the triggers once half of your body is up to stand-up. In trying to write this it is confusing, but I have included a video of it in action as it is quite intuitive once you learn it. Now, intuitive does not mean easy, or that it works the first time, but if you think something will work, it almost always will.
If you miss a jump, or drown, or do something else you are not supposed to, your body will fall back down onto the level crumpled in a heap back at the beginning of the puzzle. Though death happens often (at least to me) it was rarely frustrating, and thankfully the checkpoints are frequent enough that I never felt like I lost significant progress on my quest. Only one time was I repeatedly failing at a task when I was trying to do the “right” thing. Often what you need to attempt to do is easily teased out. Occasionally you have to try a couple of different techniques to make something work, but more often than not, if you fail numerous times at a task, you are likely approaching it wrong. Knowing this helped keep the game from getting frustrating and helped ensure I was regularly making progression toward the end of the level.
While puzzle games have been lookers in the past (The Witness and more recently Rime) the presentation here is not something to write home about. That is not to say the game looks bad, not even close, but there is a minimalism to the presentation that will not appeal to everyone. Additionally, the sparse soundtrack led me to do something I almost never do…listen to podcasts while playing. I felt a bit guilty about this the first time I did it, so when going back to the game, I tried to listen to the audio again. I just could not do it and went back to listening to podcasts.
One advantage Human: Fall Flat has over many puzzle games is a co-op mode that is likely more fun than playing alone. While I spent the majority of my time in single-player, I was able to partake in a bit of local co-op, and the emotions ranged from slightly irritated to uncontrollable delight. While the wonky physics can be humorous individually, they are significantly amplified when you have another person trying their darndest to help, but they make things considerably more complicated. If you are short on patience, this may not be a great mode, but I found myself having the most fun when I had a partner.
As a complete package, Human: Fall Flat delivers a simple concept in a way that was able to balance the frustration with the fun. It is not going to win awards for presentation, but if you can navigate an occasional control struggle, and you enjoy solving puzzles, there is enjoyment to be found. To amplify your fun, find a fellow builder to join in your adventure.
Human: Fall Flat was reviewed using a PS4 code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s review policy on our disclaimer page here.
A fine entry into the physics-based puzzle genre, Human: Fall Flat will give you occasional control quirks but typically provides a fun experience.