22 May, 2023
Check out our review of Humanity to find out what we thought about a dog leading humanity to its salvation across abstract puzzles.
In Humanity, you play as a consciousness in the form of a brightly shining dog, and your goal is to guide a mindlessly streaming mass of humanity to their destination. To do this, you place commands on a grid, instructing the humans to go left or right or jump or turn around. This simple concept forms the basis of all of Humanity’s puzzles.
However, solving the puzzles is just one thing. To make progress in the game, you’ll also have to grab a few ‘Goldys’, which are like add-on objectives that require you to solve the puzzle in a particular, harder way. You can view solution videos the puzzles at any time, but you’ll have to figure out how to get the Goldys on your own.
As the sequences of levels unfold, it becomes clear that Humanity isn’t so much a straightforward puzzle game as it is an exploratory mish-mash of gameplay ideas. What holds the game together is that these ideas orbit one core idea: guiding people from one place to another.
If it reminds you of the 1991 Amiga classic Lemmings, then you might Humanity to be an extended meditation on that game. At the same time, it’s also a platformer of some sort, and it’s also an action game sometimes, and it’s also real-time strategy game. No, it never stops being a puzzle game through all this, but it’s important to be clear of what you’re getting into. You’re very much going to need your wits and quick reflexes to guide humanity to the light.
Humanity introduces new mechanics at a rapid pace, but it’s also worth nothing how for every idea the game introduces into play, it also presents a counterpoint to that idea.
For instance, you begin by placing turn commands on the level’s grid, but what if you had to make the humans follow you directly? Another one is that humanity flows endlessly in a stream, but what if you had to work with a smaller, more finite team? And you can place an unlimited number of commands at the beginning of the game, but what if you had limited uses of those commands?
This philosophy of design causes a grand variety in the types of puzzles you will encounter. Sometimes you’ll act in the field, and at other times you’ll have to make decisions in advance and watch them play out. Sometimes you’ll have all the time in the world, and other times you’ll feel the pressure of having to make quick decisions.
The result is game design that forms an extremely comprehensive look at one concept. The frequent shifts in how the game plays would typically be held against the game, but surprisingly, Humanity executes everything it does with assured confidence.
It’s a marvel of a game, where every idea is thoroughly explored, every level is crafted like a well-cut gem, and everything just seems to fit together, not only within the puzzles but also between them.
Despite Humanity being a puzzle game that held me stuck in certain levels for an hour or longer, I found that I kept coming back to it with excitement and delight. I thought aloud, I rejoiced, I despaired, I formed strategies, I felt silly, and I felt like a genius. All this purely by virtue of gameplay, at that.
There is a story glueing the levels together, but it’s very minimal and easy to ignore if you’re really only here for the puzzles. What it does do well, though, is provide excellent context to the awe-inspiring visuals you’ve probably seen in the game’s screenshots and videos. Swirling, teeming masses of humans, walking and swimming and flying and jumping, all faceless, all varied – it’s an incredible sight. I caught myself in awe several times as I stopped to take screenshots of the game.
The allegorical story carries the same kind of transcendental tone of these visuals, but I stress again that it’s not the highlight so much as the dressing. It must be said, though, that I cannot possibly oversell the appeal of having your control cursor be a dog who leads people with its barking. It’s a simple, strong, universal image, and I don’t think developer Tha could have done it any better.
Humanity is a very meaty game at nearly 90 story levels, and it also includes a stage creator and network to share user levels on, making it a no-brainer if you’re into puzzle games at all. Even if you’re not, this might be the game that gets you into them.
It can get very challenging at times, but it never made me want to put it down – there were always ideas to be tested, puzzles to be figured out, strategies to experiment with.
It’s appropriate that Humanity comes from publisher Enhance, who previously published The Tetris Effect. Humanity created a tetris effect of its own in me, and I found myself assigning orders and watching the snaking queue of humanity even in my dreams. Even as I write this review, the game’s dog barks in my ear over and over, and I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of that sound.
I can’t help but give Humanity a perfect score, as the game is an achievement in the puzzle genre, and a born classic right out of the gate. I should not consider it an exaggeration to say that this is the standard future indie puzzle games are going to have to aspire to.
Country of Origin: Japan
Release Date: May 16, 2023 (PC, PC VR, PS4, PS5, PSVR, PSVR 2)
This review of Humanity is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher. The flat screen, PC version of Humanity was played for this review.
Thank you for reading our review of Humanity!
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