Creating a puzzle game based around programming logic is a brilliantly unique endeavor. However, does it still hold up if you don't have a passion for programming? IF (intrigued==TRUE) THEN GOTO [paragraph 2].
Before we continue I should mention that I've been programming for most of my life. In fact, a few jobs ago I was in charge of building a human resource management application. Now that I'm reviewing Human Resource Machine, I guess my life has taken a strange turn at some point. Anyway, the entire game consists of dragging pieces of logic into a sequence in order to program your little worker to fulfill each puzzle's conditions. The puzzles basically involve you taking tiles from the left conveyor belt, manipulating them in various ways, and placing the appropriate results on the right belt. The logic pieces that you get to use are limited to picking up the next tile then copying, adding, subtracting, and incrementing tiles to ultimately submit the desired result one tile at a time until you've accomplished your task. Also, a few "jump" commands allow you to skip steps or perform loops given very limited optional conditions (namely if the result is zero or negative). Considering the pieces of logic you can string together are this basic, you know that you'll have to put your brain into overdrive to perform seemingly simple jobs like multiplication.
Human Resource Machine has a simplistic visual style with cute characters who constantly smile yet a dark sense of humour persists throughout. This is accomplished fantastically as it'll make you laugh and feel uneasy at the same time, especially during the odd cutscenes. The puzzles themselves are clearly laid out so you can focus without any complications getting in your way. A nifty effect is that each puzzle represents a year of your employment and as you progress, your character actually ages. On the audio side, the music during scenes and such establishes a twisted yet lighthearted atmosphere. On the other hand, generic trance vibes that don't fit at all play while you solve puzzles. It annoyed me to the point where I eventually shut the sound completely off. Why couldn't they make it more playful like the rest of the tunes? Overall, Human Resource Machine does a decent job of establishing an engaging setting.
The main campaign is broken up into 36 puzzles with 11 of them being optional. It starts out easily enough so anyone could learn the basics but the difficulty gradually ramps up to the point where even expert programmers would find the puzzles challenging. You move from simple problems to situations that involve placing multiple zero terminated strings in ascending order one after the other. It's quite clear that players without a passion for programming and logic will probably lack the patience to persevere past the first handful of levels. Even after I finished the entirety of it, I ended up feeling like I was at work as opposed to having a good time. That being said, the satisfaction from finally solving a complex problem was overwhelmingly gratifying at times.
Besides working through the optional puzzles, you can replay any puzzle to make the solution more efficient. Doing so is a worthy challenge for perfectionists and has the potential to add hours of gameplay. What makes this process intuitive is that every solution is saved so revisiting a puzzle means that you can easily tinker around until you discover an even more efficient approach.
One issue that I encountered is that the interface is very sensitive. If you accidentally move a piece of logic then you can simply tap "undo". However, if you don't notice that you slid a piece by mistake then you can be screwed to the point where you have to start all over again. This isn't that big of a deal, but it happened enough that it annoyed me.
It's difficult for me to widely recommend Human Resource Machine. On one hand, programming enthusiasts will have a satisfying challenge yet everyone else will probably become perplexed early on. I'll just say that if you love programming and are looking for something to challenge your logical capabilities then you need to buy this game immediately! Others need not apply.
- + Extremely challenging and satisfying logic puzzles for programming enthusiasts
- + Optimizing efficiency adds replay value
- + Great dark sense of humour
- - Unless you have an aptitude for programming, you'll quickly be left in the dust
- - Sensitive interface can screw you over
- - Music during gameplay feels out of place