As I have been known to do, I’m about to show my age again through one word. Lemmings. For most of the gaming populous, this term will fly over their head, but for you ancient few among us that haven’t been indoctrinated into the gaming sphere through dropping out of a Battle Bus, it might be somewhat familiar.
Allow me to fill you in. Lemmings is a classic title made all the way back in 1991, which sees the player guide a series of mindless little minions from their starting point, to an end goal, often dodging a multitude of traps along the way.
It’s a simple premise, but at the time, this was the pinnacle of the puzzle genre, and while many have borrowed the formula that Lemmings brought to gaming, I would argue that none have truly one-upped DMA Design’s Amiga classic.
For decades, Lemmings has been the magnum opus of mindless minion management. Then all of a sudden, as if someone tapped the industry on the shoulder to point out a gap in the market, two come along in the space of one month. Both with VR capabilities, no less. We have been blessed with a Lemmings-inspired title in the form of Tin Hearts, but that’s not our focus today.
Today, we turn our attention to Humanity, a puzzle platformer with a difference that asks you, an ethereal little doggo, to guide hundreds of thousands of humans to salvation. There is a grandiose reason for gathering all these folks, but all you need to know is, this is Lemmings with a modern twist.
However, you may be wondering just what this game could possibly do to alter and perfect an already stellar puzzle format. Or you may be wondering if this game can actually take this antiquated formula and make it fun for modern audiences.
These are all fair questions, and I have your answers. So without further delay, here is Ready VR One’s Humanity review, conducted on PS5/PSVR2.
Clean Cut and Classy
Let’s get into the action and begin with Humanity’s overall aesthetic, which is ironically lacking that human touch in a lot of ways. The game opts for a very clean-cut, industrial look, as if the game is still in its alpha stage with all the bells and whistles stripped back.
Yet, due to the game’s phenomenal puzzle design, it’s never in doubt that this was a conscious decision. The game uses simple assets to communicate with the player, opting for a grid design for each level, with a handful of cubes, fans, bodies of water, and other factors for players to consider when planning their route to their end goal.
This simplistic and minimalistic approach reminds me of titles of old like Kurushi or, dare I even say, Portal. Everything feels sterile and manufactured, and yet, I love the overall look and feel of Humanity.
This may look simple and clean on the surface, but this game, from a visual and performance standpoint, is right up there with the best in class. Every asset is crafted with the utmost care, textures on screen are sharp, and the UI layout is phenomenal to boot.
However, this is all secondary to the fact that the game runs smooth as butter despite the literal thousands of little humans that will fill your screen with each given puzzle. The fact that the player can freely manipulate each individual human to do their bidding is remarkable and really shows how far technology has come in this regard.
I still remember the smoke and mirrors developers used to use, such as Kingdom Hearts II’s 1,000 Heartless battle. So to see Humanity offer incredible scope for puzzling with no cheap tricks is staggering. While I would love to give the presentation the perfect ten, I have to say that the musical score lets the side down a little, with a blend of what I can only describe as otherworldly elevator music, which ranges from tolerable, to plodding and annoying.
Plus, I wasn’t crazy about the skybox, which feels like the developer did a quick Google search and promptly downloaded ‘Clouds.JPG.’ However, despite these small issues, the game is very striking.
The Instagram School of Storycraft
Now we move onto the narrative for this title, which I’ll tell you upfront, isn’t anything to write home about. It’s largely inoffensive and fills a space to motivate players and have them push on and solve more puzzles.
However, I found myself pressing on because of the quality of the game design and puzzle formats, rather than the grandiose yet threadbare plot. To boil it down, you play as a Shiba Inu with the power to control the masses, and your job is to guide Humanity as they form a collective.
Then the rest of the plot essentially exists as a series of loose themes that aim to both satirize and explain the pros and cons of the human race. On paper, it all sounds a little Black Mirror, but I can assure you, because the story has no real cohesion, it feels more like a series of motivational quotes on the social media of your choosing.
As I said, it’s not a bad concept by any means.
It’s interesting enough that you will want to stick around to see what becomes of the humans and your little doggo, but because it is essentially a lot of loose ideas floating around in the void, it’s essentially on you to attach meaning to any of these themes, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be far too engrossed in the game’s puzzles and mechanics to put your philosophy hat on.
A Modern Marvel
Okay, onto the star of the show, the gameplay. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is the best traditional puzzle game design that I have seen in quite some time. Yet, the game doesn’t re-invent the wheel.
It merely borrows the core principles of what Lemmings brought us in 1991, and then drags it into the modern era. To boil it down, the player will freely roam a map, creating inputs as and when they see fit, and in turn, the constant stream of people will do as you ask, turning, jumping, swimming, floating, and splitting as you need them to.
The game largely succeeds due to the wonderfully simple and accessible puzzle design in the initial stages that onboards the player seamlessly without it ever feeling like a mindless tutorial. It starts slow, but quickly ramps up from there.
Then all of a sudden, you’ll need to create infinite loops of humans to activate a switch, or create a slipstream to have your crowd of faceless minions clear a chasm. It’s masterfully paced and never feels like a burden to learn the abundance of new abilities thrown at you.
However, it would be reductive to say that the game succeeds due to excellent UX design alone, because it’s much more than that. A lot of the credit goes to the puzzle design, as each level feels like a bespoke little treat crafted just for you.
No level feels like any that come before or after, and almost every single one of them hits that sweet spot where you feel cerebrally challenged, without the urge to rip your hair out in frustration.
Plus, even if you are stumped, the game has a built-in video hint system, meaning you won’t even have to shamefully hop over to Youtube for the answers. They won’t give you the solution to get all the Goldys, but the nudge in the right direction is usually plenty.
It’s one of those games where you only truly get a feel for how masterfully crafted it is when you see all the cogs in motion before your eyes. However, I can assure you, after seeing my human army overlap through the air, loop endlessly, and weave between small openings more times than enough, I will say this.
The game is poetry in motion, and every single puzzle will be one that you will look down upon after completion, and you’ll think, ‘God, I’m clever.’ Which, in my book, is worth its weight in gold.
As any veteran puzzle game fan will know, to solve a puzzle, it’s often necessary to be a few steps ahead of the action. Well, it seems that the developers took this lesson to heart and opted to include some wonderful systems in their title that ensure that this game has longevity, with retention retaining devices in the short term, and the long term.
Firstly, in terms of short-term retention, the game does something that many other titles fail to provide. A reward system that actually feels rewarding. I’ve seen plenty of RPG titles that dole out arbitrary stat buffs like they were Skittles, and I’ve seen more than a few games that rely on cosmetic items to get players pushing closer to completion.
However, few actually give the player something useful. Humanity admittedly does dole out a handful of cosmetic goodies, as is custom, but the game also offers rewards that affect gameplay.
With the discovery of Goldys, players can gain access to stat menus, the ability to fast-forward and pause time, and eventually, players will gain access to a creator mode.
Which leads me to the long term. We have seen in recent years that games which give players the ability to form a community and engage creatively really flourish. Take games like Dreams, Super Mario Maker, and Minecraft.
With infinite possibilities at their fingertips, players tend to stick around, and Humanity has this sandbox quality to it, allowing players to take the assets present in the game and create just about any puzzle they can imagine. It’s early days, but I can only fantasize about the complex and zany puzzles the fanbase will dream up.
The point I’m trying to make here is, this game has replayability and staying power, making it more than just a one-and-done puzzler.
Hey, what about VR?
The end of the review looms, and somehow VR is yet to be mentioned. What gives? Well, the VR functionality for this title is a footnote in this review because it’s treated as such within the game. It serves as a welcome luxury rather than something that players need to truly enjoy the game. How VR works within this title is pretty straightforward.
The player is given a 360-degree birdseye view of proceedings, and through some clever camera design, the player can alter their field of view as needed via the controller. This means that this one is very much a sit-down and-relax VR experience, rather than a flail-your-limbs sort of deal.
Credit where credit is due, though. I will say that Humanity in VR is the optimal way to experience this title if you have access to the hardware needed, as it feels much more immersive, and everything pops just that little bit more in VR.
However, aside from an all-encompassing visual display, VR doesn’t alter the gameplay at all. Think of it a little like Gran Turismo 7’s VR offerings. The player still uses the Dualsense controller; the player still engages with each puzzle as they would if it were on screen. However, in VR, you feel plugged into the action.
Is it a great showcase of what the PSVR2 has to offer? No, not really, but it’s a nice feature nonetheless.
Before we sign off on this review, I want to give you a few close alternatives. Hopefully, when you finish all that Humanity has to offer, these games can satiate your hunger for more puzzles:
- Kurushi/ IQ: Intelligent Qube
- Tetris Effect Connected
Overall, I have to say that I am very impressed with almost everything that Humanity has to offer. Within a sea of open-world titles, endless Metroidvanias, and a slew of farming sims, Humanity is proof that ingenuity coupled with great game design will always shine brighter than those simply trying to jump on bandwagons.
Humanity ironically has this cold, almost industrial feel to its aesthetic and design, yet despite that, it’s incredibly visually appealing, and through this clean-cut design, everything feels compartmentalized and wrapped up in a neat little bow, which will undoubtedly be deeply satisfying for any puzzle fan.
The puzzles have a very manageable difficulty curve, and offer reasonable difficulty without being obnoxiously demanding, allowing for plenty of those quintessential ‘I’m a genius’ moments.
Puzzles have multiple solutions most of the time; the Goldy rewards actually offer rewards that players will appreciate, making them worth collecting, and thanks to a constant stream of new abilities and ideas as levels progress, the game remains engaging from start to end.
I will concede that I wasn’t a huge fan of the musical assortment, and at times, the platforming aspect of the gameplay seemed to be at odds with the problem-solving mechanics.
However, these are small gripes with what is quite easily one of the finest puzzle games in over a decade. Portal, The Witness, The Talos Principle. Humanity belongs amongst the greats, and thanks to the level editor, I can see this game becoming a fan favorite for years to come.
Sorry Lemmings, it’s over, but you had a hell of a run!
- Incredibly satisfying, accessible, and addictive puzzle design
- Great visuals that really pop with the use of VR
- A built-in level editor allows for endless fun
- The musical assortment, while thematically appropriate, can be quite irritating
- The storyline is pretty threadbare
- The platforming aspect of the gameplay sometimes gets in the way of good old-fashioned problem-solving
Callum has played for a grand total of ten hours before sitting down to write this review. He blasted through the main story path, but is now working his way through the optional levels and already has four sequences completely finished. A platinum trophy beckons.
Humanity Review: FAQs
Question: Is Humanity on the PS Plus Catalog?
Answer: Yes, Humanity was available for all paying customers of PS Plus Extra on the day of release and is the first VR-compatible game to feature on the platform. The game is also available on other VR platforms.
Question: Do You Need PSVR2 To Play?
Answer: No, VR is optional. While I would say that VR is definitely the optional way to enjoy this title, the game can be played in a flatscreen format, and none of the genius will be diluted.
Question: How Long is Humanity?
Answer: This is dependent on how good you are at solving the puzzles, and how much you make use of the built-in hint system. However, I would say that if you are only playing the mandatory levels to complete the main storyline, this average player should get through this one in about 10-12 hours.