These days, many indie games take a traditional game genre and make it their own by introducing a new twist on the gameplay. Those innovations often take the form of giving the player some new power or ability, such as teleportation or time manipulation, that makes the player feel powerful in a way that goes beyond what traditional games can accomplish. Curve Digital took an entirely different route when making their puzzle platformer Human: Fall Flat. Instead of making a player feel powerful, they make you feel totally incompetent, clumsy, and unathletic; and they’ve done it in the best way possible.
Human: Fall Flat puts you in the role of Bob, a man whose name is as plain as his looks. Bob is a faceless, colorless, slightly overweight man who has been given the Sisyphean task of escaping a series of physics based puzzles in a strange dreamlike world. The game likes to punish Bob, as even his reward for successfully solving a puzzle is a long fall onto the next. If you had to choose someone to escape a series a puzzles, you’d probably want someone with agility, strength, and dexterity. Bob has none of these thing, in fact Bob seems to lack many fundamental human attributes, like a basic sense of balance. Bob in effect, is like trying to maneuver one of your drunk buddies home after a long night of drinking. Most of the time, he’ll clumsily walk in the general direction you steer him in, sometimes tripping and falling over obstacles or his own feet, but at other times, he seems to just get tired and collapse, laying on the ground like blob for a few seconds before picking himself back up and continuing on. This may sound annoying on paper, but in practice it’s hilariously fun. It feels like you only have control of around 85 percent of what Bob does, which presents a unique challenge that I haven’t really seen in many games.
The puzzles in Human: Fall Flat are incredibly varied, with the only through line being that they are all physics based. To solve these puzzles, Bob has a very limited set of abilities; aside from walking, Bob can jump (badly), and grab things like objects or ledges with his hands, which are controlled independently with the corresponding mouse buttons. With these limited set of abilities Bob can climb onto platforms, drag and throw objects, and pull levers which open doors or allow Bob to operate machinery such as wrecking balls and catapults. The lack of skill and precision in solving the puzzles puts a great spin on traditional puzzle platforming, it never feels like there’s a “perfect” way to get through a level, rather, it always feels like you’re stumbling into success, as if the game is saying “well it wasn’t pretty, but I guess you did solve it”. Bob’s lack of coordination also adds another layer to every puzzle; in every stage of the game, you not only have to figure out how to solve each individual puzzle, you also have to figure out how to actually maneuver Bob’s gelatinous body through the level. This dual challenge makes solving every puzzle feel extremely rewarding.
Graphically, Human: Fall Flat is fairly basic, not ugly or unpolished, just simple three dimensional environments filled with simple buildings and objects. The lack of any real detail in the environments and in Bob (though you can customize him if you want) makes Human: Fall Flat look like a very early test build for a game that has just begun development. However, even though the environments are lacking a ton of detail, they are varied from level to level, giving way to variety like construction sites, dark caves, and medieval towns. I found that the graphics fit the “crash test dummy” feel of the entire game, so even though you could say the graphics are less than spectacular, they in no way detracted from my personal enjoyment of the game.
Human: Fall Flat is the one of the most unique games that I’ve experienced in a while. Bob feels like the grandfather of crazy ragdoll physics, and maneuvering his poorly coordinated body through the puzzles of each stage is both satisfying and hilarious. Although the lack of graphical polish could be seen as a flaw in the game, I really can’t think of a person who wouldn’t enjoy this game on some level. If you're a fan of puzzle platforming or physical comedy, grab Human: Fall Flat right now.