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Human Resource Machine (Wii U) artwork

Human Resource Machine (Wii U) review

"The good kind of soul-sucking office job."

After a few years of relative silence, the Tomorrow Corporation is back with its second ever game. It's less of an “experience” than the first project, 2012's Little Inferno, but more gameplay-focused and just as unique.

You play as a nameless entry-level employee in a bizarre Tomorrow Corporation-style take on a typical soul-sucking office housed in a vaguely-sinister office building. Your task is to take a stream of numbers from the inbox, manipulate them in some stage-specific way, and move them to the outbox. (Don't ask why. Just like in a real office, nobody really knows why they're doing anything.) The demands can be simple, such as when you must arrange them in numerical order or subtract 1 from each digit, or more complicated, like when you are asked to arrange them into the Fibonacci Sequence before sending them on their way.

You accomplish your task this with a simple set of Assembly programming commands that grows more robust as you progress. You can add numbers together or subtract them from each other. You can bump a number up or down in increments of 1. You can also copy digits to and from spaces on the floor to further manipulate them.

The tools are simple and easy to understand, and the game does teach you everything you need to know, but it's challenging anyway if you're not already used to programming. The game expects you to figure out how to use these tools to do new things, such as multiply or square numbers. These are the types of things a programming class would likely explain outright, but there's a feeling of satisfaction that comes from figuring it out on your own.

Stages have multiple possible solutions, and some are more efficient than others. There are bonus objectives that ask you to clear stages using fewer than a set number of commands or steps. It's not always possible to meet both requirements at once, so that's never expected of you. These goals are a good metric to judge your own solutions against, however.

Part of the appeal of Human Resource Machine is its aesthetic. It looks and sounds much like Little Inferno, with a similarly strange graphical style and atmospheric soundtrack. There's a story, told through cutscenes that unlock every few stages. The tale that's told is light, but surreal, working as a reward for solving puzzles, more than a way to get a message across.

Human Resource Machine is a weird (but welcome) little game. It somehow manages to be both simple and accessible, and complicated and difficult all at once. Unless you're a programming pro, you're going to spend a lot of time pondering some of these puzzles, which is not the result of poor puzzle design or poorly stated rules. The brain benders presented here are just challenging. That's fine, of course, but some players may still become frustrated. Human Resource Machine isn't quite as must-play as Kyle Gabler's other games, but it's unique and worth checking out.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (December 18, 2015)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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