Power failures? Robots attacking the city? Humanity on the brink of doom? Stop worrying about that nonsense and get back to work! There's a busy Inbox and Outbox to take care of and you haven't got time to think about petty, mundane things like mankind's forthcoming robot enslavement. You are the Human Resource Machine!
Yes, the boys from Tomorrow Corporation have returned, this time with a unique take on the puzzle genre that may have left me in the dust, but it made my wife giggle with glee. How did they make this so?
Although a cute little character appears on screen at all times, what you really are controlling are the various tiles that make up the commands you input in order to make. They slide around easily, and discarding incorrect tiles is also easy. The interface is both functional and very user friendly. Not much to say beyond that it works well for the tasks at hand.
Music and Sound
The music shifts from having an upbeat tone, to oddly melancholy, to mysterious and foreboding. In short: It's the typically awesome music you come to expect from a Tomorrow Corporation game. I would download all of these in a heartbeat because they often remind me of Danny Elfman's better work. There are few game makers I know of outside the major companies that pull off such a rich level of music with such strong personality. Kyle Gabler just knocks it out of the park again.
Sound design for this Tomorrow Corporation game also remains as strong as its predecessors. From the blips and bloops as you enter computer commands, to the pleasant whir of the conveyor belt; each sound in Human Resource Machine carries with it a weight of personality which again feels distinctly Tomorrow Corporation. Likely they've borrowed assets from previous games, but they are as welcome here as they were in the previous games. Even though World of Goo hasn't even reached a ten year anniversary, I already feel a twinge of nostalgia when I hear the already familiar sounds.
Graphics and Style
Yup, it too has got that Tomorrow Corporation feel, and that' alright. All the characters look like something out of Tim Burton's sketchbook, and that works great. It's amazing how much emotion you can get from the simple little figures. You really feel like they're tiny little people in a cartoon world. From the bespectacled boss, to the pop-up book-ish building, to the odd charcoal like shadows--Human Resource Machine has a style which feels familiar, but in a comforting way. Like, "I know this world and what's happening in it. They're doomed, aren't they?"
I'm not sure if the games are all connected just because the art style is the same, but I really hope they are.
As I sat down to treat myself to another clever puzzle game from the Tomorrow Corporation people, I quickly found myself out of my depth. I was working along, got to roughly level 7, and was a little lost as to what to do next. I kept trying to figure out the puzzle, but being more of a wordsmith, the numbers aspect was throwing me off. I pondered what to do next when suddenly the controller disappeared from my hand and the weirdest thing happened next:
My wife was holding the controller; playing, smiling, and plugging away at the game like it was nothing.
"You're doing basic programming," she said with delight.
Ordinarily my wife does not play video games, as most of the more modern 3D games make her motion sick fairly quickly. However, thanks to the 2D graphics, there she was was beside me plugging away and finishing each level with ease. Oh sure, there came a point where she slowed, but she thanks to her intuitively knowing what the game was all about after watching me play for a few minutes, she was able to chug through half the game with a ease. (Or at least what seemed like ease to a person who does writing, not programming for a living.
My wife and I had previously enjoyed playing Little Inferno together, so she was drawn to the game when I told her it was from the same people. However, where I wasn't able to figure out the puzzles past a certain point she was able to pick up and play through the game because she recognized it for what it was: A math and computer programming game. Her talents, abilities, and the lessons learned via her computer science Bachelors degree had come to use in playing a video game! Why was this? Well...
Each level involves you moving objects from the Inbox to the Outbox in ever more intricate ways, but you do so by creating a list of commands for your little office worker to perform. In essence, your human icon is a machine or computer. You plug in the commands and it does the job you told it to do. Math and computers just aren't my strong suit, but this did not detract from my enjoying watching my wife play the game. There was something fascinating about watching a game about "programming."
I guess I should have known what the game involved seeing as the website itself has a section where it flat out says, "About the Game: For Expert Nerds" in big bold print. Despite it being geared more towards people with my wife's skills, it was just too awesome to pass up though. I have to really hand it to Allan Blomquist, Kyle Gabler, at Tomorrow Corporation. I may not have had the chops to solve the game, but by golly I loved just watching the story, however bleak, unfold. So much atmosphere and cleverness in a simple but highly effective package. Bravo guys, you made math and computers interesting to a word nerd like me.