Bringing coding and logic to the masses in the form of a cute puzzle game sounds like a difficult task. But wait until you delve into the deep tunnel that Tomorrow Corporation has dug.
So you want to be a corporate lackey, do you? Great! Do you have a deep understanding of coding logic, mastery of mathematics and a keen sense of problem solving? No? Well, that’s probably not going to do you any favours in Human Resource Machine. Masquerading as a simple drag-and-drop puzzle game, HRM is a challenging title that asks you to learn fast, screw up, and fix your mistakes. As a nameless employee, your job in this bland world is to take items from an inbox and drop them in the outbox. Riveting stuff so far. However the conditions of each task change with every level. Each puzzle completion equates to a year of the unexciting worker’s life, and ramps up the difficulty as you pass through the building. Earlier in the game, you may only be required to drop numbers in if they are positive in value, yet its later stages may require that you must also turn negative numbers into their positive equivalent before dropping them in the outbox.
As you progress, you unlock new commands that allow you to subtract, add, jump through your code, and much more. Although they sound like they could be helpful, the addition of these new commands often presents even greater challenges. I’m not a coder, and at times the difficulty of these puzzles was infuriating. At it’s core, this is a game of logic, and so the occasional brain strain eventually turns into relief when you crack the code. This is until you realise you spent 36 commands on a level, where the game challenges you to complete it in 23 or fewer. I’ve not felt a sense of stupidity quite like it before! These performance objectives are a fun way to implement replayability, but at times I felt so exhausted from completing a puzzle that I definitely wasn’t up to the task of trying again.
At times, the most infuriating part of Human Resource Machine is it’s controls on the Nintendo Switch. In handheld mode, you can quickly pick apart puzzles with the touch-screen interface. Switching over to TV mode instead required you to use the Joy-Con as a pointer, utilising the advanced gyro to estimate where you are pointing on screen. It felt slow and quite often required re-calibrating to find its centre again. I’m struggling enough as it is without the damn controls taunting me!
In all honesty, I did not expect much from this title. Certainly the loose plot that plays out feels much like an afterthought. You definitely aren’t picking up this title for the charming characters or the misplaced story, however. I won’t downplay the humour that the quirky employees emit, its a nice break from mashing your mind with sorting items.
Despite minor issues, Human Resource Machine is a charming title with surprising replayability, and a depth of puzzles that will keep you entertained for hours. You may want to consult your dermatologist however, due to the sheer amount of headscratching involved.