Bob is not having a restful night’s sleep. His dreams involve endless falling off of cliffs, castles, girders and pretty much any other tall area where gravity might be a problem. On the plus side, when Bob hits the ground in dreams he merely flops around a bit rather than dies, so that works out in his favor. Still, despite gravity not being Bob’s friend, physics is firmly on his side as he puzzles his way through the environments of Human: Fall Flat.
Human: Fall Flat is a 3D platformer puzzle game where every piece of the sandbox levels has the potential to be used as another tool to conquer the next challenge. The path to the next area is frequently obvious, but there’s no reason to stick with just the one solution if you can figure a better, trickier, more complicated, or simply more entertaining way to get through. Jump to a handy window ledge and then from window to the platform across the way? That works, but you can also use the pole lying on the ground to vault the gap as well, once you figure out how to bring it from lying flat on the ground to upright.
Bob has a couple of basic abilities, with a decent movement speed and a jump height that can kindly be called “realistic” rather than “sad”, and seeing as the puzzles take place in a dream world he’s resistant to any damage. His real ability, though is in his hands, which can grab, push, pull, hold, or otherwise manipulate any object he can touch. It doesn’t mean he’s particularly dextrous, of course, but Bob has a grip of solid steel that’s as effective on shattered glass as it is on a perfectly flat wall. The control is a bit tricky, though, and can lead to a fair amount of fumbling about when trying to be precise.
Bob’s grip is controlled by the controller triggers, right trigger for right hand and left trigger for the other. Angle of grip is controlled by the camera, though, which makes a kind of sense until Sony invents the Triple Shock with three analog sticks. When clamping down on a trigger Bob will reach straight forward with the appropriate hand using the camera angle to determine the height. Have the camera pointed at the ground and Bob grabs whatever is lying there, or maybe the ground itself if you’re off by a bit. Point the camera at the sky and Bob reaches up, which is great for grabbing on to ledges but not so hot for seeing where his feet are when he makes the jump. Thankfully none of the jumping sections require pinpoint precision, and most areas aren’t that hard to climb back up to when you miss, but it does make the trickier sections a bit more nerve-wracking than they’d otherwise be.
Platforming is only a small part of Human: Fall Flat, though. Most puzzles are all about figuring out how to use the physics engine to advance. Use a lift to knock down a swing to hang off of and propel yourself through a distant door, or grab a rope tied to a tree and jump off the bottomless cliff to swing over to the far side. Push a boxcar down a slope to crash through a stone wall, or drop a steel beam onto a glass floor to shatter it, giving access to the next area. Take a chunk of glass (which is several inches thick) and drag it to a platform to use it for an extra boost to make a jump that’s otherwise just a bit too high, latch a steel hook onto a beam to swing across a gap, grab onto a stationary wall and start pulling to push the vehicle your standing on to a better spot, and most importantly, play with everything you find. Maybe it’s a tool that leads to a new solution or maybe it’s just entertaining to see what it can do, but everything has the potential to be played with even if it doesn’t turn out to be particularly helpful. Or disappear through the floor.
While Human: Fall Flat is available for purchase, it comes with a disclaimer that this is a very early version still under development. Things can therefore get a bit wonky, such as Bob getting an arm twisted behind his head when recovering from a fall, or props not getting reset to their starting positions when you reload a checkpoint. It’s a work in progress with all the disclaimers that comes with, but even with those problems I was still able to beat the current crop of levels without having to completely restart simply by trying something else on the two occasions the props involved in my initial plan glitched away.
One of the main points of Human: Fall Flat is that any solution that works is a correct solution, so it’s just a matter of trying something different. Bob has two hands and the ability to hold on to anything, and there’s bound to be something kicking around that’s useful. It might take a bit of dragging, and the end result be just good enough to hold together long enough to clear the current obstruction, but so long as it works that’s fine. Bob’s dream world is filled with places to fall from, gaps that are too big to cross without a bit of clever thinking, doors that are inaccessible until a makeshift contraption does its work, and even a number of places that are useless except for being fun to figure out how to find. Bob is going to fall flat time after time, but if you pick him up and keep on trying then he’s bound to find a dream with stable ground eventually.