Humanity review - Puzzlingly wonderful

A puzzle in Humanity

A puzzle in Humanity

Humanity is a game that is both forward-thinking and taken out of time. It follows many of the basic tenets of puzzle games founded decades prior but it tries to be so much more, and that tension is surprisingly endearing.

In a sense, this growth reminds me of Tetris Effect. Though the gameplay is simple, it combines this with a slowly building intensity and pulsing, trippy music to tell a story greater than what it sets up.

Table of Contents

It is somehow both surprising and subdued - a wonderful expression that is somewhat held back by the limitations of its form. Though the game often intentionally slows you down, its story and design are only as effective as you let them be.

A spark

Something you instantly notice about Humanity is how fully self-assured it feels. It steps into philosophy enough to border on pretence but its unwillingness to back down from this label leaves it feeling surprisingly sincere. If it did it with a detached irony, it would lose much of its effect and this works well in its favour. Though it doesn't treat itself with deadly seriousness, it doesn't undercut its own message.

A screenshot from Humanity
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To put it simply, you play a small dog who must lead crowds of human-shaped bodies towards a final goal. Set at the end of the world, your goal is to push aimless and goalless lives through trials, working towards something much greater. From here, things are left vague to explore their ideas yourself.

This works well as the game's mechanics effectively function to push meta-narratives about the fate and point of humanity. This all being said, it starts very slowly.

The build

Humanity feels like a modern rendition of Lemmings. Initially, you place arrows on preset paths, moving humans down a factory line-style level to reach the end. This is very quickly swapped out as you unlock jump, float, and follow commands. After just a few levels with each mechanic, you finally start to feel comfortable - only for the game to pull the rug out from underneath you.

A puzzle in Humanity
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Puzzle games are uniquely brilliant at making you feel both stupid and clever, and Humanity does this by showing you the building blocks and hoping you trust the process. It has faith in its players and this makes you feel wonderfully stupid when you get stuck.

It does have a solution button, showing you a video on how to do it. Only then do you realise how many intricate steps are required to actually get through each puzzle. This is quite humbling in a way, but makes you feel great when you've figured it all out.

A Mindset

Humanity does something that the best puzzle games do: it gets stuck in your head. You go to sleep thinking about how to do that one puzzle you have been stuck on. For the most part, it stays consistently challenging throughout.

A puzzle in Humanity
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Unfortunately, parts of the game do slow down a little. Some of the extra levels don't add quite as much as the main ones and become a little tedious as a result. You have to finish a number of extra objectives in each level to finish a central chapter, essentially forcing you to take on side levels if you want to finish it. This is a shame as you are sometimes left pushing through less good levels to get to the other side.

As well as this, while the soundtrack can be lush and interesting in the story's best moments, it can feel a little repetitive on those levels that take you a while. It often flows without direction, and this compliments the VR mode much more than the flat mode. VR support on launch is a wonderful addition and it even comes with some unique shots and angles, really making you feel small.

Humanity is a creative puzzler that adds meaningfully to the inspirations it takes from. Though it can slow to a halt in unsatisfying ways and there's a bit of a grind, it feels so honest and unabashedly sincere in what it wants to be.
8 out of 10

Reviewed on PlayStation 5. A code was provided by the publisher.

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