Human: Fall Flat originally released for PC back in July 2016, however has recently made its way over to the Switch. At first glance, it looks a lot like its spiritual predecessor Gang Beasts, in its aesthetic and player models. But unlike the party brawler, Human: Fall Flat is a conceptually different beast, focusing on playing around with its physics-based engine to create a crafty little puzzle game.
In Human: Fall Flat, you play as Bob; a plasticine-like ragdoll who wobbly toddles through a series of lightly decorated ‘Dream’-like puzzle rooms. Primarily a physics-based puzzler, you will spend your time trying to make your Bob climb up stairs, roll down mountains, and even attempt to control a series of vehicles.
The puzzles are genuinely inventive for this style of game. Each level offers something new and original to the fledgling genre, frequently making me smile as I figured out the answer. However, for every clever, original puzzle here, there does seem to be some ‘filler’.
Some of the levels come across as a long series of near-identical rooms through which you need to progress through. This doesn’t have to be a problem – games such as Portal have used the concept inventively – but in Human: Fall Flat it can come across as bland.
‘Human: Fall Flat is fun at first, but once the novelty wears off, what is left is an okay, sometimes frustrating physics puzzler.’
Each level is low-poly model of a various theme. In some ways, this lack of detail in the surroundings seems almost charming. The levels often give an impression of a minimalist simulacra of what a medieval castle, or Aztec ruins, could be. When coupled with the plasticine look of Bob, the façade can come across as relatively kitsch, albeit slightly unfinished.
And much like the visual aesthetic, the sound is minimalistic too. There might be a little classical music, and the clanking of the objects, but mostly this is a quiet game.
In essence, Human: Fall Flat is a spiritual sibling to both Gang Beasts, as well as Ubisoft’s Grow Up/Grow Home series. However, once the novelty of the wobbly characters wears off, what’s left isn’t so great. This is a problem that lies at the core of the games concept. Many of the levels are filled with puzzles that can be broken down into two stages:
- The first stage in each puzzle is figuring out what to do. This will often mean observing all of the tools at your disposal, and forming a plan of action.
- The next step, is putting that plan into action. And that’s where Human: Fall Flat becomes both uniquely endearing, as well as overly frustrating.
Moving Bob is an intentionally clumsy affair. She will wobble around, and swing her arms left and right with careless abandon. As such, doing any precise platforming sections, or lifting any of the objects around the game, is a learning process in itself.
And at times, this process is hilarious. Much like in games such as QWOP and Octodad, there is a joy in struggling to perform trivial tasks. And in the earlier levels of Human: Fall Flat, this compliments the simpler puzzle-styles well.
In the later levels however, the slightest mistake can lead to Bob falling off the edge, and having to redo various different precise puzzles. Whilst funny for the first few attempts, it starts to get a little frustrating.
I was initially disappointed with the inability to play co-op on the Switch with the split joy-cons. However, the game was patched today – less than a week after release – to enable the use of a single joy-con in local co-op. Instead of using the right analogue stick to control the camera, you use the motion controls to tilt the camera around.
Unfortunately, this can be very fiddly – The Switch doesn’t have the precision that the Wii had. As such, this can exacerbate both the joy and frustration in moving your Bob around. Funny at first, but not precise enough to be fun later on.
Therefore, I recommend picking up multiple controllers if you want to play through with a friend. Because once you both have dual analogue sticks, many of the earlier frustrations melt away.
In co-op, the simplicity of the visuals and sound design starts to make sense. Navigating your wobbly character through the levels is twice as fun, as you laugh at each others failings. With 2 of you, the frustration you may feel with some of the puzzles dissipates. The lack of utility in your Bobs totally adds to the fun factor, and the game shines.
Pleasantly, the game runs well on the Switch outside of these screen issues, even in co-op mode too. There is a slight performance increase in docked mode, with a higher resolution and no noticeable loading screens outside of changing between levels. There is a bit of pop-up in general, and not as strong draw distances compared to other versions of the game, however in a game like this that doesn’t really matter.
What does matter however, is the lack of workshop support in this version of the game. Currently on PC, Human: Fall Flat is constantly being updated. A new online multiplayer mode was added quite recently, along with lots of community created levels. None of these make their way over to the Switch unfortunately.
Human: Fall Flat is fun at first, but once the novelty wears off, what is left is an okay physics puzzler. It’s got a charming sense of humour, which does just enough to carry it through its 7-hour single player mode. The game’s simplicity helps it shine in multiplayer however, and it can be a lot of fun in small doses. Play this game in co-op to really get the most out of it.
This game was provided by the publisher. Reviewer Conor Clarke completed the main story in just over 6 hours, and then went back and tackled it in local co-op.
Human: Fall Flat for Nintendo Switch is available now on the e-Shop.