After having us burn our way through mounds of junk, I was unsure where Tomorrow Corporation would tread next after Little Inferno‘s heartwarming tale.
Human Resource Machine casts you as a fresh-faced office worker, loyally reporting to the Mail Room where your boss barks a job at you. That begins by tasking you with building a management program to safely transport objects between an inbox and outbox, deducing a successful solution rewarding you with a hard-earned promotion. With each floor in the company’s vast office building representing another rung in your winding career ladder, your goal is is to see how high you can climb.
With intermittent coffee breaks thrown in for good measure, such moments hint toward a light narrative that surrounds Tomorrow Corporation’s puzzler. But in essence, Human Resource Machine is more largely concerned with teaching players the basic concepts that drive programming language. Chucking out the textbook and making the learning experience more accessible was evidently the ambition, and that has wholeheartedly been achieved.
The approach is simple, with players lining up commands that allow their timid employee to cart numbers from one side of the screen to the other. We start simple, building programs with ‘Inbox’ and ‘Outbox’ commands that see your character scurrying between conveyor belts. Tomorrow Corporation describes the layout far more succinctly, the office replicating a computer. The inbox and outbox imitate inputs and outputs, slots on the floor act as the memory, and your minuscule office worker can only hold one box at a time – like an accumulator.
Soon enough, ‘Jump,’ ‘Copyfrom,’ and ‘Copyto’ are steadily introduced, nurturing the player’s noggin’ in being careful not to overwhelm them with too much at once. That isn’t to say that Human Resource Machine won’t wrack your brain cells, but players are partly tutored rather than there ever being any expectation that you’ll know everything from the get-go.
You’re left to experiment in your puzzle solving early on, with increased scrutiny coming beyond the first several floors when your performance is measured on the number of commands and steps that you implement in your solution. As the puzzles become increasingly complex, you’re inevitably left to ponder what is being asked of you – repeated experimentation eventually seeing you satisfyingly strike that rewarding ‘Eureka!’ moment.
Once you have spent more time with the game, you will ultimately begin to have a greater understanding of how everything works. That invites you to return to floors that you have already cleared, trying to reduce the amount of commands and steps that you used to complete them beforehand.
Those looking for something more taxing can turn to optional floors, designed “for high performing employees only.” These will really test your abilities and provide heightened challenges for players with prior programming knowledge who may breeze through the early portion of the game.
Human Resource Machine successfully gamifies a topic that many would normally find intimidating. Approachable, and retaining Tomorrow Corporation’s charm and comedic appeal, it’s a welcome experience that differentiates itself from the rest of the Nintendo eShop catalogue.