From the creators of World of Goo and Little Inferno, Human Resource Machine on Wii U is a charming puzzler that taps into the fascinating world of computer programming for its challenging hook. The game forces you to think differently and to play around with all the different options with the new tools that you’re given on every new level. It’s a creative approach to designing puzzles and is a totally unique experience compared to anything else I’ve ever played. I hate it.
Have you ever played a game where you’re dropped into the world and immediately expected to understand everything that’s being thrown at you? Have you ever played a game where you struggle to complete the most basic, menial tasks? Have you ever played a game where the game language is both simple and unflinchingly complex at the same time? Have you ever played a game where, despite a cute, friendly exterior, you are expected to solve absurdly difficult coding puzzle after absurdly difficult coding puzzle by utilizing tools and tactics that are unfathomable nonsensical to all but people who are majoring in the program at college? Did you like those games? If so, Human Resource Machine is for you!
On the surface, Human Resource Machine appears friendly and learnable. After all, the first few puzzles aren’t too bad; they teach you a few of the game’s simple mechanics to get you started. It’s addictive at the beginning, and it’s simply delightful to solve the more challenging early puzzles. But the early game’s affability is just a facade, a carrot dangled in front of your face to keep you pushing through the harder levels later on. At its core, the game is essentially just an excuse for coding magicians to prove that they’re smarter than you.
By using tools like Add, CopyTo, CopyFrom, JumpIfZero, Subtract, and Inbox/Outbox, the little worker that you control is expected to complete all of his menial office duties with pinpoint accuracy. Again, something that is simple on the surface (and at the outset) almost immediately ratchets up to hair-pulling difficulty. These office duties begin at “Place every other Inbox item into the Outbox”, and end at “Take every item from the Inbox, subtract it from every item eight times while only using the subtraction function one time, copy every item six times, and place every non-negative, non-zero number into the outbox if it’s the second Tuesday of the 4th, 7th, or 9th month in a leap year and pick up my dry cleaning when you’re done.” I’m obviously being sarcastic to prove a point, and maybe I’m too dumb to understand computer programming logic, but the game does literally nothing to help a poor beginner out. There is no tutorial and no hint system. Hilariously (and accurately), your manager does absolutely nothing except provide comic relief, so you’re basically on an island. A desert island of confusion that quickly erodes into a sand bar of self-loathing for not being able to figure out a puzzle that is seemingly so simple. To be clear, the puzzles are fascinating, and it’s mind-blowing that anybody can figure this stuff out. I give the game developers a lot of credit for putting so much faith in the gaming community, but…
These logic loops are just insane! Here is the final puzzle I got stuck on before finally throwing in the towel:
Is the average human supposed to be able to figure this out? Is this some sort of insanity test? Or is Human Resource Machine secretly how the government is probing our minds to determine which members of humanity are worth saving when the alien invasion arrives? Grab your tinfoil hats, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to play Human Resource Machine to see who gets the safest spot in the bunker!
Anyway, there’s really not much else to it. All of the great things about the game, the music, the cutesy indie art design, the concept, and the humor…all overshadowed by a difficulty curve so steep that Lance Armstrong couldn’t bike up it if he was in his blood-doping addled prime. It’s hard to give a low score to a game like this and feel like I gave it a fair shake. After all, the game clearly wasn’t designed for everyone, and I’m clearly salty about my experience. The game didn’t do anything to give me a break, though, so I believe I will be equally harsh in my review score. Check it out if you think you’d be into it, but everyone else should take precautions to make sure their experience isn’t as negative as mine was.
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