After checking out the Humanity playable demo earlier this year, we now know what we’re dealing with. What appeared to be so unusual and inexplicable before can now be handily described as a surrealist spin on Lemmings. Get this gaggle of folks from A to B using a string of well-placed commands. That summary holds up against a near-final build of the game, which we’ve now played for many hours, but the full experience throws in a good dose of bizarre imagery and existential musings for good measure.
Before we get to all that, let’s recap. Playing as a glowing Shiba Inu, the game has you laying down instructions for a procession of mindless people in order to help them reach the exit of each level. To start with, you can only make them change direction, but the game quickly gives you new commands — Jump to make them hop in the air, Branch to make the stream of people split into two, and so on. With each new command, stages rapidly grow in complexity, and that’s before we consider the introduction of obstacles.
You may need the humans to push blocks around, activate switches, ride conveyor belts, and more in order to reach the goal. Combined with stage-specific limitations on your commands and each level’s geometry, these simple elements combine into some seriously tricky puzzles. It all works wonderfully, and the minimalist rules of Humanity are so straightforward that you really do only have yourself to blame for screwing things up. Importantly, when you do crack the solution, it feels great.
We love how it looks, as well. The humans appear in such numbers that there’s a certain flow to their movement. When a level is done and you get a revolving shot of the people carrying out your solution, it looks very pleasing, almost like a murmuration.
From what we’ve played so far, the difficulty curve is mostly well-judged, although there have been a couple of real head-scratchers that stumped us for longer than expected. Most levels contain one or two Goldy — these are collectible giants that reward you with useful features as well as cosmetics for the humans. Gathering them and getting them to the goal is often much tougher than simply beating the level, and we’ve had to admit defeat on collecting certain Goldy for now. If you love logical puzzle games, Humanity definitely scratches that itch.
Levels are gathered into groups called Sequences, and after clearing each of these, you’ll find yourself in a plain white void, which seems to be where all your rescued people are transported. It’s here that the game’s hints of story emerge, as you — a dog, remember — speak to large, coloured orbs. These balls of light are the ones conducting the levels, or Trials, to test both your intelligence and to evolve the behaviour of the humans. Themes of strength in numbers, achieving goals as a collective, and war rise to the surface in between each Sequence, and the humans in this endless white space form increasingly unnatural formations as you progress, giving the game a very slightly unsettling tone at times.
We’ve also had the chance to play a couple of “boss” stages against these orbs. These exchange the usual A-to-B objective with destroying smaller balls of light. These can be pretty tough stages, and are certainly longer, but they follow established rules you learned in previous levels. It’s all very neatly designed.
That said, the formula does shift as you progress to keep things interesting. Some levels only give you a finite number of people, so ensuring their survival is crucial. Others pause time and have you laying down all your objectives before hitting the Go button, after which you can’t make any amendments. Eventually, you’ll encounter the Others, human-like beings that want those Goldy statues for themselves. This forces you to find faster ways to reach Goldy, or create ways around or through the Others so they don’t disrupt your path. Again, it’s nothing wildly complicated, but each element really adds something to the level design; there’s nothing superfluous.
You get to really explore how everything works with a full level creator. Humanity gives you access to all its parts and lets you make your own puzzles, and the tools are pretty simple to use. Once you’re happy — and have proven the stage can be completed — you can upload it to share with other players, in theory meaning the game will always have new content. The editor seems robust and intuitive, but the selection of user-made stages pre-release is understandably minimal. This will obviously come into its own post-launch, but we can already tell the community will make some elaborate, brain-stretching stuff.
We come away from Humanity excited to play more, which is always a good sign. This sort of quirky, experimental game is a rare breed these days, and we truly appreciate developers Enhance Games and tha ltd for doubling down on this tonally bizarre, visually surreal puzzler. It isn’t doing anything too crazy, but the way it presents itself and the simplicity of its design has us excited to see where it goes next.
Humanity releases on PS5 and PS4 in May 2023, with optional PSVR2 and PSVR support. Thanks to Enhance Games for providing access for this preview. Are you looking forward to this interesting puzzle game? March into the comments section below.