I have many mental ticks that mess me up on a day to day basis. One of them is that when I’m walking I become obsessed with how weird walking is, it’s unsettling when you see a dog walk on it’s hind legs, but humans are no different. We’re top heavy creatures that are gangly and the majority of us have the grace of a brick. When I think too hard about the act of actually walking then I start to wobble, it’s much like being told to think about your tongue placement or that you need to manually breathe now, and then you are unable to think of anything else for the next 30 seconds. The reason I bring this up is that gravity and physics are weird, and as such are a constant source of inspiration for game makers to take advantage of. Sometimes it’s for semi-realism to show off an engine like Half Life 2 and the Source Engine or it can be used for something that’s actually good and fun like Human Fall Flat.

Human Fall Flat is a curious game, it straddles a wonderful line between being a sandbox and a puzzle platformer. You’re dumped into a land, floating high above the Earth, and must navigate your way to the exit. How you do this is up to you. In the opening area a lot of the game is based around pushing and pulling train carriages and crates to get to your objective, but instead of doing the obvious choice, you can instead drag a dumpster from earlier in the level and use that as your mobile platform. It’s the openness and the lack of hand holding that makes Human Fall Flat something special. Your weird little humanoid is permanently unsteady on his feet and with a combination of buttons you can control his arms to make him reach for surfaces or objects. That is quite simply the crux of the game, apart from some climbing lessons after the second level there really isn’t much progression, just the logic changes and location.

What makes Human Fall Flat so enticing is that encouragement to experiment. If you happen to fall off the world into the void you just appear above the ground and faceplant heavily into the dirt, no set back, no punishment, just another bite of the apple, it’s a joy to play with. When you’re able to recover instantly from failure you are happy to try wacky options like in co-op mode getting your partner to hold only a pole while you hold the other end and swing them around off a ledge. Or the entertainment of hitting the fall over button when on a perilous edge just to see if you survive.

Graphically Human Fall Flat is incredibly simple on the face of it, it feels like old Unreal engine games when the texture pop in would take a few seconds after a loading screen. The benefit of this approach though is the frame rate which holds pretty solidly even in co-op undocked mode on the Switch. There’s one major juxtaposition however with the presentation, the music is amazingly epic and grandiose for what is happening on screen 90% of the time. The first patch allowed two players to use a single joy-con each rather than needing a separate two stick controller for both players, but to be honest, I’d go out of my way to find a second bluetooth controller for player two as the camera controls when using a single joy-con are unfortunate to say the least.

There is no story or even mild exposition in Human Fall Flat, in a less pretentious tone than Journey or something of that ilk you are just given the world and the basic idea of there is no reason to go backwards. The majority of the start of the game is just context setting, climb this, jump that, push XYZ. with each level a new element gets added, the third world adds machines that you can control like a wrecking ball on a crane or the medieval world after that presents you with draw bridges and catapults. It’s these little moments of excitement that push the game forward, rounding a corner and exclaiming “what is that? OH WOW” never gets old. Most of the puzzles are quite obvious and it’s incredibly rare that standing still and thinking for 5 seconds won’t get you at least an option to work on until you fluke a different solution. The only times most players are likely to be stuck in this game revolves around the requirement for platforming, something that this game almost intentionally doesn’t thrive on. Your little fella jumps about as far as a log and mix with that the requirement on the player to have about 28 fingers and the dexterity of a hyper intelligent octopus the inevitable outcome is you’re going to miss a lot of ledges and have a lot of deaths under your belt.

Human Fall Flat is a must play for me, I’m sure it’s great on all consoles but the portability of the Switch and the great quality of split screen on the go makes for an essential purchase for the Switch. Screenshots don’t do this game justice, it’s a game that thrives on someone turning to you and saying ‘just play this’. Simple at first but tougher as it goes, a great sense of minimalist style and with a clearly tongue in cheek sense of humour that permeates every element, Human Fall Flat is a joy from start to finish.

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