For some people, the premise of Humanity will be enough to sell them in the game. As an ethereal Shiba Inu, you lead people through a world of puzzles in a game co-designed by the minds behind games like Rez And Tetris effect. Now, for those for whom that description makes little to no sense, know this: Humanity is one of the most ingenious and generous puzzle games I’ve played in a long time.
So yes, you control a dog, one that can command crowds of people with nothing more than a bark. There is a kind of story, with a disembodied voice giving you directions, but the actual aim of the game is very simple. In each stage you have to get the crowd to the glowing square at the end. Pick of course How to do that is quite another.
The most impressive thing about Humanity is how patient it is with introducing new ideas and concepts. In the course of the game you unlock new commands. Initially, you can tell the streams of people to turn or jump so they can avoid obstacles. To do this, run up to a square – each stage is essentially a 3D grid – and bark the command. Any human touching that square will follow it. Without the right commands, they can go under and blindly follow similar characters Lemmings. But by making the right choices, you will safely get them to the end.
It may look something like this:
But that’s really just the beginning. Over the course of a number of themed sections (they have names like choice, destiny, and war), you’ll be introduced to new commands and concepts that completely change the kind of puzzles and challenges you face. There are standard things like pushable blocks or blowing fans or switches that do something when you step on it. Eventually, though, things get much more complicated as you’ll be dealing with competing humans, known simply as the others, and even weapons like glowing batons and laser guns. At the beginning of the game, Humanity is a simple puzzler; by the end it’s all-out war. Hell, there are even boss fights.
That slow and steady learning curve keeps it from getting overwhelming, as does the overall generous nature of the game. Humanity can very easily be a frustrating experience, but a few features keep it from happening. For starters, there are multiple challenge tiers in each level, with gold characters (called Goldies) that you can collect to make things more difficult, but are not required to complete a level. The game also allows you to quickly restart a level with all your previous commands in place, which encourages experimentation as you can make small adjustments to your plan and then watch them unfold. Sometimes it’s like building a Rube Goldberg machine, and you just have to figure that out An step to make it all work.
And since most players run to YouTube anyway when they get stuck, Humanity has built-in videos that just show you the solutions. They won’t show you how to collect Goldies, but they will reveal the exact steps to complete a level’s basic requirements. I often caught myself only watching the beginning of these videos when I was stuck, and that turned out to be all the help I needed.
Humanity was built as a collaboration between Enhance, the game studio led by legendary Rez And lumines designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and Japanese design studio Tha, led by Yugo Nakamura. It’s actually Nakamura’s first detour into game development; in the past he has worked on everything from UI design on the iconic Infobar phone to web design for Uniqlo. So on the one hand Humanity feels like an Enhance title, with sleek, minimalist visuals and a sparse but thumping electronic soundtrack. But with its focus on crowds and physics, not to mention its philosophical narration, it also gets downright weird. It really feels like a return to games like Echo chrome or IQ: Intelligent Qubedesign-driven experiences that were as streamlined as they were strange.
Humanity‘s campaign spans 90 levels and it feels like it throws new concepts and ideas at you until the very end. But there’s more to it, with a level editor that lets you create and share your own puzzles. I’m not much of a designer, but I’m very interested to see what weird and clever things the community comes up with. I should also note that while the game supports VR on Steam, the PS4 and PS5, I was unable to test it. (That said, Enhance has a good track record with VR in between Tetris effect And Rez infinite.)
The thing about Humanity is that at various times it can feel like many other games, whether or not it is Lemmings, other titles from Enhance, or those classic PlayStation experiences that inspired it. But in the end it turns out to be completely unique, a masterclass of design that continues to confront you with concepts and somehow also guides you through the experience. It doesn’t just want to challenge you; it wants to show you things – and there’s a lot to see.
Humanity is now available on PC, PS4 and PS5.