Human: Fall Flat is a laugh-out-loud meditation on hominid fallibility

Articles: Gaming
Feb 20, 2021 Written by:Eric Born

I can’t say enough good things about the ending credits of Human: Fall Flat. It has easily made my top-ten all time list, ending up somewhere between GLaDOS’s catchy tune in Portal 2 and the adorable baby Yoshi dance party at the end of Super Mario World. As Human: Fall Flat ends, my white, putty-like humanoid character plummets down through the air into a never-ending void, crashing into giant floating letters that spell out the names and titles of the staff who worked on the game. My first time through, I got obsessed with grabbing the massive letters as I fell and using them to slow myself down. I tried to get the letters entangled with ones further down below me, but couldn’t quite stop my free fall.

This ending sequence is so clever because the entire game is an exercise in grabbing stuff and falling. Human: Fall Flat is a charming and ridiculous puzzle game, a series of floating chambers that I carefully navigate only to fall through the exit and land face-first in the next. It’s full of boxes to haul around, levers to pull, doors to open or circumvent, gaping chasms to cross, and obstacles to destroy with conveniently located machinery. Since each level floats in mid-air, opportunities abound for me to slip off a ledge and tumble into the atmosphere. Every time that happens, I watch my character fall through a layer of wispy clouds and land with a doughy splat in the starting area of the level I just dropped from.

hff-1Image source: Gamesplanet

Don’t feel bad for my character, though. His pale white blob of a body can absorb an endless amount of punishment. I can’t stop laughing at the way his boneless body stretches and contorts as I work through a level. The controls are simple and hilariously clumsy. When I press the left mouse button, my left hand will stick tenaciously to any surface within close range. The right mouse button controls my right hand in the same way.

The interface turns the innocuous act of climbing a ledge into a slapstick comedy routine. To reach the top, I approach with my view pointed above the ledge. I press both mouse buttons, and my character raises his hands like he’s just heard the bass kick in at an Ibiza rave. I run and jump, not that his squat little legs are very capable at either of those activities, and I hope that his hands will grab hold of a surface at or near the top. Once I’m dangling in place, I pull the mouse toward myself and my character pulls himself up and over the ledge. The whole process can go awry at any moment, so levels are full of trial and error as my character bumbles from one objective to the next.

hff-3Image source: Gamesplanet

Those sticky hands let me solve all kinds of puzzles, too. I can grab train cars and roll them along tracks. I can haul around boxes and boards and rubble. I can grab and pull levers, detonate dynamite, push buttons, and open doors. My character’s quivering, dough-like body bounces and stretches in response to the world around it. It’s a constant source of amusing clumsiness.

One of my favorite levels is an abandoned industrial theme park full of destructible barriers. The level starts by putting me in charge of a couple cranes equipped with wrecking balls. Things get a little more hands-on as the level progresses. After opening some doors by placing heavy objects on large square buttons randomly placed on the floor, I got to smash open one wall with a runaway train car and another by beating it down with nearby loose rubble. The final section of the level is a real treat. Without spoiling the secret, I’ll say that it required me to set up an elaborate aerial circus trick so that I could go flying through a glass window, out into the empty air, and crashing down into the next zone.

hff-2Image source: Gamesplanet

The madness only multiplies when you mix in some multiplayer. The game supports two players in local couch co-op mode and up to eight through online lobbies. If your friends are like mine, you’re not going to be pulling off tightly choreographed puzzle solutions like the co-op mode in Portal 2 requires. Instead, multiplayer Human: Fall Flat spaces are full of chaotic, laugh-out-loud fun. The levels don’t explicitly require coordination among players, so you’re free to drag each other off ledges, clobber one another with large machinery, and laugh at it all over voice chat.

An evening of inflicting and receiving some good-natured griefing with my friends reminded me of how much I need that kind of relaxed socializing in my life. Back in my college days, that happened almost every night in the dormitory. Now that we’ve all moved on to work in different states, my friends and I only find that kind of space when we’re gaming together. Human: Fall Flat is an excellent and unique addition to our list of online multiplayer games. Its mashup of slapstick humor and inventive puzzles made it a winner in my circle of friends, and it could be a winner in yours, as well.