I am a busy person, and I imagine most of you are as well. So, I’ll save you the trouble of reading this review by providing a quick, four-word opinion: Go buy it now! Seriously, if you like puzzle games, you can’t pass up Human: Fall Flat.
Sure, me calling it the ‘best puzzle game since Portal’ is a tall order, but stick with me here, and I’ll defend this masterpiece.
Portal was set in a fictional sci-fi environment with some strange futuristic technology that allowed you to make holes in stuff that leads to other stuff, all while getting belittled by an arrogant, sadistic, and hilarious AI. Human: Fall Flat (or HFF from now on, I’m getting tired) is an entirely different beast that you couldn’t even dream up, or actually… could you?
Other puzzle games are inside ‘worlds’ of various types. HFF is played in what I’d sooner call dreamscapes. Each different puzzle area is something that you could potentially see doing in your dreams, minus your sister’s friend doing that weird stuff (wake up, it’ll never happen). Sure, they are based on realistic spaces, like a construction site or a medieval castle, but not in a realistic way. They’re… weird, and there’s something off about them, and that’s where the puzzle-solving aspect comes in. That strange room in your dream that you couldn’t find a way out of? Imagine that turned into a ragdoll physics game with an artistic twist. That’s every puzzle in HFF.
Let’s dive a little deeper into what makes this so awesome. For starters, it’s REALLY HARD to get going! The ragdoll character is susceptible not only to the physics of the world, but it’s almost as if someone decided to crank up the inertia modifiers on the extremities to make it weirder. Want a good idea of how this character moves around the game? Go search for ‘I Love Russia Compilation’ on YouTube. There, our fine comrades embrace their strategic national reserve of alcoholism and show us what it’s like to move around when you have little to no cognitive or motor skills. Solving puzzles? Easy. Solving problems while totally hammered? Yeah… I thought so. But, it’s just fabulous.
Note: in an effort to science the shit out of this, I did put down six shots of fantastic French brandy, and then tried playing this game. It was as wonderful as I had hoped, but now I have a stubbed toe. Don’t ask.
The physics in the game itself is lovely. The way you have to move items is smooth and effortless. Of course, if they’re in your hands, they do “benefit” from that cranked up inertia modifier, so expect things to go a little wacky. You’ll notice that sometimes it’s more fun to keep failing than it is to solve the puzzle.
The worlds or zones that you play in are just spot on as far as design is concerned.
Camera movement is smooth and logical. The artwork and aesthetics are on point for this dreamscape world. Add to that, small remotes that you can find lying around that help “guide” you through things with silly 1950’s style "How To" videos that seem although they’re being voiced by the great Cave Johnson… “Bean counters said I couldn’t fire a man for being in a wheelchair. Did it anyway! Ramps are expensive…”
I just wrapped up a fantastic book called Reality is Broken: How Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, where the author Jane McGonigal says that we are attracted to games that are actually hard, and where failure is almost certain. The more spectacular the failure, and the harder the victory, the more we love the game. HFF embodies both of those well. The puzzles are not only challenging but if (note: when) you fail, it will be really fun. Fail over and over? Yes, you will. Love it every time? Nope. However, that buildup in frustration is essential in getting you hooked on the game. When the answer is juuuuuust barely out of reach, you will try that much harder next time.
In closing, I’ll reiterate that this is one of the best puzzlers I’ve seen in a LONG time, and easily since the Portal games. HFF is completely different in every single way, though. But you will laugh out loud, you will potentially cry, and you will have an amazing time.