From the creators of Wii U launch title Little Inferno, Tomorrow Corporation brings Wii U owners a new surprise unlike anything seen to date. Human Resource Machine resembles all the signature cuteness, charm, and humor the developer is known for, but takes things a bit further by introducing an extra layer of uniqueness and challenge. And mind-bending mayhem. Needless to say, I couldn’t help but wonder if not having any real programming experience under my belt would spoil my time with the problem solver.
In Human Resource Machine, you assume the role of a computer programmer who, by building increasingly complex computer programs, automates sets of instructions for one of four — two male, two female — pint-sized, big-eyed, and adorable office workers. At the start of the game, you’ll pick your worker who is then issued a company badge and sent off to the first year-long assignment that takes place in the mail room. You’ll program your worker to move three items from an INBOX, on the left side of the screen, to an OUTBOX, on the right side of the screen. Using the Wii U GamePad, you’ll drag commands into a work space on the far-right side of the screen next to the OUTBOX. Human Resource Machine was designed solely as a touchscreen game; buttons do not work and additional control options are nowhere to be found. But worry not, dragging and dropping has never been easier and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Like obedient German Shepherds, your workers will carry out each and every command you provide — free of hesitation, full of loyalty. Like a machine. Like a robot. Then again, their every action is the product of your code-crafting capabilities. If you could provide them with instructions to leap from one of the office windows, they would. No questions asked. If you’ve managed to formulate a working set of instructions, your worker will successfully complete his or her assigned administrative duties inherent to the game’s rapidly evolving work environment.
A worker’s efficiency, however, lies solely at your fingertips and will be measured with the fine point of a pen from your meticulous onlooking boss. As your progress, your programming work will be graded on its overall efficiency; creating a program to solve a solution using less commands is always the best strategy. Being enveloped by the game’s simple and smooth soundtrack just made me program harder. Faster. More efficient. It reminded me of that catchy jazz music from the swing era of the 1930s and 40s. I liked it.
About that work space … it leaves a little to be desired. For the first dozen or so puzzles, there’s plenty of room to zing and fling any command at will, and everything is seamless and smooth. However, as more complex puzzles — and commands — are introduced, the once-spacious work area quickly becomes cramped and inadequate. For example, “jump” commands instruct the program to move to different lines within the code, and they are visually represented with a line to show their path. Add four to five jumps to a program and the entire block of code becomes one big ball of tangled yarn. Sure, you can scroll up and down within the work space to trace the jump lines, but that hardly makes their paths any more clear. And if you happen to look away or become distracted for a split second, forget it. It’s tedious and annoying, but I can’t think of how the developers could have implemented a better work space solution. Perhaps giving each jump its own color could have made those paths easier to discern.
In addition to the work space area, a handful of on-screen buttons supplement the interface, and each can be used to make your life easier while whittling away for the perfect program code. While coding, you can step back to debug a potentially problematic solution or step forward to set your worker in motion to carry out your documented instructions. There’s even a fast-forward button that lets you speed everything up; I liked using this, as complex puzzles become increasingly time-consuming to watch in real-time. A copy and paste option makes things even more time-efficient; for puzzle challenges that work with similar code, just copy and paste the code to a clipboard. Time management at its finest.
After racking up more than an equivalent decade worth of virtual programming experience, I finally gave in to the game’s relentless gauntlet of mind-bending puzzles. I could have worked for decades more, but my time at the firm was up; I ultimately failed. I proved to be an invaluable, expendable resource. Perhaps a machine was a better choice given my poor performance. Plus, I wasn’t given enough coffee breaks to keep me fueled, so there’s that. When it comes down to it, Human Resource Machine, while cute and humorous, is a real head scratcher — one that’s better suited for an audience already familiar with programming logic. It’s definitely not a game “anyone can understand and have fun with,” as its eShop description claims — I only stayed focused enough to have fun for the first dozen or so assignments. It turns out that I’m not a machine.
Human Resource Machine is developed and published by Tomorrow Corporation. It debuted in the North American Wii U eShop on October 29, 2015 for $9.99. It is currently not available in other regions.
Review copy provided by Tomorrow Corporation