I don’t know the first thing about programming and I definitely don’t know the first thing about making games. I think a lot of people don’t understand the plethora of hoops that companies go through in order to create a working game. Thankfully, Tomorrow Corporation’s latest game: Human Resource Machine puts our curiosity to the test in one of the most well thought out, and challenging games yet. Kyle, Kyle, and Allen (creators of Tomorrow Corporation) have been responsible for some of some great puzzle games like World of Goo, Henry Hatsworth, and Little Inferno. I knew ahead of time that I would be in for a challenging experience.
The core concept of Human Resource Machine is programming and how to properly execute objectives through various operations and procedures. You play the low guy on the totem pole, attempting to climb the corporate ladder. Each puzzle is a year of your employment within the game, with each year getting significantly harder than the year before. Besides the really hard and painstakingly difficult puzzles; Tomorrow Corporation does a great job giving the game it’s own sense of humor, charming music, and a Tim Burton art style. Gaming has proved previously that you can make something difficult and still make it great, Human Resource Machine is a testament to that understanding.
In the game, you have to create an automatic program that will help you solve each puzzle through a series of commands and operations. Of course the contents have to be in a specific order, which at times could be hard to understand at first. If the numbers in the “inbox” are 1, 2, 3; then you have to get them into the “outbox” in the order of 3, 2, 1. Sometimes you will need to transfer all numbers except zero. Sometimes it’s not just numbers, letters become involved too as you continue through the levels. Then some operations will require you to use more functions and operations, becoming more complex as you go along your employment. Sometimes math is involved, which makes you want to break out a pencil and paper. I know math is a major part of calculating formulas and operations, which also plays into how the game is difficult but also true to form.
The way that the commands and operations work is complex, but after some time you get the hang of it. You must create an entire list of commands from start to finish by clicking and dragging each single operation into an operations panel. Once you have a list of commands, you hit the “Play” button to see your character perform the operation as you directed in the operations panel. It starts with some very simple commands, directing your character from the “Inbox” to the “outbox.” The game quickly gets difficult with operations like “Jump” (which is an operation that helps you jump to another part of an operation) and “Add” which makes you do math in an attempt to send a specific sum of numbers to your outbox. Then other operations like “copyto” and “copyfrom” get thrown in, making the puzzles even harder and more complex. If you don’t get what I am trying to say here, it was incredibly hard for me to grab this concept. If you do understand what I am trying to say, then you’re most likely a programmer.
As the game continues, you gain more operations to put on your program list. The puzzles get harder and your operation list becomes more advanced and harder to manage, which is why a “debug” option is available at your disposal. Using this ability lets you take your operations step by step in order to figure out what is going wrong. You can go backwards and forwards, or stop the debug mode all together. The problem is once you exit the debug mode then the entire puzzle at your inbox resets, starting you from step one. If you are working on a math problem, then you’re out of luck because the contents of the “inbox” changes. The good thing is that your operations list doesn’t reset.
Unlike the previous games that Tomorrow Corporation has made, each puzzle takes a large amount of time and precision to complete. Each puzzle becomes even more challenging as you are rated by how long your operation list is, and how efficient you are when completing each puzzle. I did not find it as simple as their previous games, and it has a very steep learning curve, but you feel very rewarded as you complete each puzzle.
I give Human Resource Machine an 8 out of 10 because the game is really fun and addictive. You want to keep on going through each puzzle, and it's not like other puzzle games where you can solve each problem within thirty seconds of being introduced to it. It's painfully hard but once that light in your brain clicks on, you're open to a whole new way of solving problems. To be honest, the only complaint I have is that it might be hard for some people to really understand at first, and the introduction of perhaps "easier" puzzles would benefit people who normally don't play puzzle games. That's all strictly an opinion of course, other people might have an easier time with this and blow through the game in a single sitting.
Human Resource Machine is far off from the previous games that Tomorrow Corporation has released before, and I get the feeling that this game comes from a personal place. Programming isn’t easy, and this game can help people understand the complexity behind some of the greatest games we have played today. I am looking forward to seeing what Tomorrow Corporation puts out next.
Human Resource Machine was made available to me via beta key from Tomorrow Corporation. The game will release on Windows, Mac, and Wii-U for $9.99