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TOPIC: Coding drudgery in Human Resource Machine

Coding drudgery in Human Resource Machine 2 months 3 weeks ago #216

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So far the games by Tomorrow Corporation have been pretty hit or miss for me. I'd been really impressed with their second game, Little Inferno, which was an offbeat indie game with a completely unique game mechanic that ended up being both funny and surprisingly chilling. I'm not at all a fan of physics-based video games, so it's no big surprise that I was pretty bored with their much-acclaimed first game, World of Goo.

I was a little leery of their latest game Human Resource Machine (available on many platforms, including iOS and Android, Steam, Switch, and Wii U), as it's a game about programming and I'm a professional programmer. The game starts off pretty well with new commands being introduced at a gradual pace, but things soon become pretty tedious. The visual design is very simple and pretty much identical to Little Inferno, which is a bit disappointing. The presentation in general is very bare, and at first seeing your little worker act out your code is cute. The game's code is very low level and mimics assembly language (the the Wikipedia article does a good job of identifying the parallels).

Unfortunately, pretty soon it's apparent that there's nothing much to liven up what becomes a seemingly endless supply of bone dry programming tasks. If the developers were hoping for players to really feel all the tedium of working a white-collar office job, they certainly succeeded. I also agree with other reviewers that the game would have really benefited for more hints or assists to help people who aren't programmers as you can easily get stuck without any way to proceed. Hints would also have been helpful for people who are trying to tackle the optimization challenges (optional challenges to accomplish the task with the fewest number of lines of code or fewest number of actions).

It's a little difficult to imagine who the game would really to. Hard-core programmers would probably enjoy working through the optimization challenges, and budding programmers may find this an interesting way to learn about programming, but I can't see that general puzzle fans would stick with the game all the way through to the end. As a programmer myself, playing the game feels too much like work, but even despite that there's really very little about the game that feels like much fun. The game has decently high scores on Metacritic, although it seems like there are a lot of people who admired it (me included) rather than really enjoyed it, let alone finished it. It's disappointing that they're planning on continuing this game's concept with their next game, a sequel that sees you controlling multiple workers (yawn), but despite my lack of enjoyment with this title I still enjoy the developers' unique ideas and I'm looking forward to what their next wholly new game will be.

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