People Programming People Into Programs in Human Resource Machine REVIEW

You have a year's worth time to get everything from Inbox to Outbox. Just like real life work.
You have a year’s worth time to get everything from Inbox to Outbox. Just like real life work.

Gamers can be likened to a pile of bratty little kids. We demand great games, we demand laughs, we want gasps, and jump out of our seats thrills, we want the best entertainment, and we want it now. If your game sucks, it doesn’t get purchased, pack it up you’re done. The men and women who spent months in jeans and coffee stained shirts locked into a desk with poor lighting, hippie music, and not shaving anything-anywhere for months, what happens to them? A failed project means running towards another game project if they’re lucky. There’s a darkside to the video game business, it is an unchangeable element in this giant turning wheel powered by gamer demands. So why not make a game in which gamers have to program well, or your boss yells are you, makes you feel stupid, and worse of all- like real life programmers you just fail? Who would have the nerve to make such an ironic disciplinarian game? None other than Tomorrow Corporation.

Those that played (and loved) Little Inferno are going to instantly find common ground in Human Resource Machine. The morbid dark humor is ever looming throughout each cutscene and dialog you come across. The art, musical, and artificial voice styles are straight out of Little Inferno. If Tomorrow Corporation games are all going to form parts of the same dystopian world, then color me intrigued. With Human Resource Machine, you have a clear cut defined path to success, how efficient you are is another topic entirely.
Climb the corporate ladder, each level is 1 year of work. Getting here will require physical notepads, and plenty of aspirin.
Climb the corporate ladder, each level is 1 year of work. Getting here will require physical notepads, and plenty of aspirin.

The basic premise of the game is that you are moving up the corporate ladder, each level is a year of your life, and each year of your life you spend solving a complex problem with simple functions. These functions are basic digital logic gates in concept with a spot on the floor to serve as memory slot (like RAM). Much like programmers of old who crafted complex mathematical solutions using only 1’s, 0’s, AND, and OR functions. With these functions you push your little counterpart to run through a series of actions and nested functions. Be forewarned, this game starts off simple then ramps up the logical problems exponentially as you advance. It get’s crazy.

 

At the start you get your first task, take one number from the inbox (INBOX command) and deposit it into the outbox (OUTBOX Command). The next year (or level) you now need grab the first two numbers and put those two in reverse order on the outbox conveyor, using a new command called COPYTO to copy your current inbox card to a spot on the floor for holding. You also have a JUMP command to loop back and start your human program over. Once you hit play, your character will start at the first function like grabbing the first card out of INBOX.

Things get tougher as you're expected to solve these puzzles using less commands and physical steps.
Things get tougher as you’re expected to solve these puzzles using less commands and physical steps.

If you do not add another command your avatar will simply sit there and do nothing. Everything has to be planned out, each and every successive action, and a loopback to the start to repeat the program. In order to solve the puzzle your next function maybe to add that to another number on the board. If that number is 0, and that is the desired output then jump-to-zero command lets you go straight to OUTBOX. Else, you can loop back to another point in the program. Now I’ve been able to craft a multiplication system to solve this problem “Multiply first item in inbox with second item in inbox” using only addition functions, and specific nested loop to properly multiply negative numbers. There’s a certain satisfaction with essentially building one slot to act as a count down timer, while numbers are being added until it reaches zero. Once I solved the level I became disappointed at my “boss’s” evaluation. I could have completed the problem with 4 fewer commands and 10 fewer physical steps. Huh? How? Wha?

Starting from about mid game and on, solving these problems but in doing so with the least amount of steps becomes an important factor. What do you gain from being highly efficient throughout the game in the end? I am not sure yet, but I am sure that being told my thought process is inefficient really sucks. Running through your basic program and taking out commands you don’t need or simplifying its structure is what is “optimization”. I mean, don’t us gamers love to jump on forums and complain that ‘X’ game isn’t optimized?

You have to be specific in your commands, your avatar will not do anything out of his own "intuition"
You have to be specific in your commands, your avatar will not do anything out of his own “intuition”
The same satirical humor and art style from Little Inferno returns
The same satirical humor and art style from Little Inferno returns

These puzzles are quite brain busting, if you’re looking for a challenging puzzler, this is one that will give you some fits. I found myself eager to also get to the next level to see what other humorous dialog or faux-corporate dilemma awaited. At one point, it was determined that corporate wanted to get rid of all the zeros, and remain positive. Later it was determined that this was a bad idea, and instead they wanted to preserve them. Amusing book titles, and the trite coffee time employees babbling about inconsequential things as a severe power problem plagues the city. All add a delicious layer of flavor to the atmosphere of this game, which brought out smile after smile.

Does writing your own basic programs, but dressed up in this distinct art style and humor make a fun game? Yes, it sure is. Is it as fun as Little Inferno? They are at its core two very different games. Where Little Inferno had no (obvious) end goal, or failure states to reset poor performance, it did have a grim story and profoundly interesting combination system that had me hooked. Human Resource Machine does have obvious failure states, most of the puzzles I have come across are mathematical based, the open ended nature of Inferno is gone, thus the constant similar problem solving got tiresome at times. While mathematical problem solving is not something I seek out in my games, I was actually drawn towards this game’s universe and wanted to get past each obstacle in order to see what additional satire or quirky nuance came next. This is a clever, humorous, and fun title most puzzle fans will enjoy, and another lovely piece in the fabric of Tomorrow Corporation games being stitched together.

 

Human Resource Machine

Score - 7

7

Logical Fun

Learning curve is simple, puzzles get exponentially harder, yet humor and satire remain constant, else if, (Play This Game); Enjoy Yourself (1)