After nearly 20 hours of guiding hundreds of thousands of these strange little friends through more creative puzzles than I can count, I’m left with childlike joy and a little more confidence in my problem-solving skills than when I started. Humanity plays. Each of its maps is simple enough to solve in about 10-20 minutes, but they never stop playing with elements of platformers, diving into real-time strategy, stealth action, and even the occasional behind-the-scenes. Its bewildering possibilities are as limitless as its endless hordes of people, and thanks to its expansive yet effortlessly simple Scene Builder, it reaches Little Big Planet levels of open-endedness that will inevitably keep me coming back for months, if not years.
Let’s step back for a second and explain exactly what Humanity is does. It’s the puzzle game behind Tetris Effect and Rez at Enhance Games, which explains why it looks so weird and cool. You play as a ghostly Shiba Inu with the power to make people do your bidding, and the goal is to guide your followers through each map, dealing with things like manipulating time and physics to clear a suitable path. No, the thin story doesn’t make any sense – it’s not a huge focus like in Rez. But Mankind clearly hints at some interesting metaphors about human nature that somehow try to explain its wildest moments. …Don’t ask about it. You kind of have to play for yourself to match the pieces.
It’s really like a modernized take on Lemmings, but if you’ve played Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, you might remember a few sequences where you ran through Clank controlling endless clones of yourself. It’s basically what you do in Humanity, but more flexible with more tools at your disposal to change the fate of my endless human followers.
It allows you to run and jump, Turn, Jump, Shoot, etc. on the map yourself. means placing commands like I had a lot of fun watching my initial strategies and mechanisms fail each time I leveled up until I miraculously figured it all out, because trial and error is fun to mix up. It’s great that you can restart the map at any time without resetting your existing commands – it allows me to iteratively rethink my steps without throwing away all my progress after every mistake.
There’s also a bit of action, as sometimes you have to run around the map like a rabid dog and change orders you’ve already placed as certain conditions are met; for example, in one level I organized a group of people to push a block into place, while another group pushed a separate block, working together to create a path for both groups to cross to escape a mob of enemies. This is just one example, but it illustrates the basic premise of Humanity and how each of its intertwining systems gives way to an infinite number of problems.
Playing as a Shiba Inu works quite well here, especially given that your small stature and quick movement allow you to slyly weave through groups of people, dash and leap, and even use your minions to catapult yourself through crowds. It all feels great in motion, and the DualSense controller all meshed together nicely with the beat and pulsation in my hands.
Seeing thousands of individual people flying at once on my TV or VR headset is wild, and many of Humanity’s individual scenes are mind-blowing. This is due both to his astonishing technical wizardry in handling this crowd and his use of stunningly imaginative scenes to burn every moment of satisfaction into my mind. One early puzzle led me to create my own state machine, a logic machine made up of thousands of individual humans jumping between four platforms and stepping over pressure plates in an endless loop. This allowed me to send a separate group to climb the ledge and jump to safety.
You’d think that multiple moving objects darting around the screen at once would be confusing or even nauseating, but Humanity’s camera system handles so well both in and out of VR that you’re almost always in control of what you’re looking at. Whether you need to zoom in for a closer look or zoom out to get a bigger picture, adjusting your view to focus where you need it is smooth and simple.
Sometimes these endless loops continue even after you hit the victory screen, allowing you to enjoy the literal weight of your problem-solving skills. Still, this is just one potential example of how these mechanics tie together to create interesting challenges, and frankly, one of the simpler ones I’ve come across. Mankind’s open-endedness means it almost never slows down or grows repetitively, and figuring out each of its many clever puzzles feels like a whole new experience, uniquely satisfying each time. This is especially true given how difficult they can be if you don’t watch the conveniently included Walkthrough Videos, which guide you through basic solutions but never go overboard or reveal any secrets like how to unlock optional objectives on any given map.
These secret objectives form the basis of Humanity’s progression system, and you must unlock a certain number of them in each move to progress. You can’t just do the bare minimum to get your people from point A to point B and expect a punch to the head; this game requires a little more thought from you. But it never dragged as they were never overly difficult to find or unlock, usually adding enough extra layers of challenge while giving more experience points along the way. Knowing that it’s not the only way I can solve a level adds a ton of replayability.
There’s a nice progression system that levels you up as you complete side objectives, and it unlocks timely rewards like new cosmetics for your human helpers and even new gameplay features like speeding up time or accessing a hidden stats page from the menu. this tells you exactly how many people have spawned throughout your entire journey. The best part of all is that when you finally start creating your own puzzles and maps, you can use those rewards – and share them with the world with the click of a button.
If you play enough custom maps or level up enough in User Milestones, you’ll earn XP in a completely separate set of progression systems that complement each other, but are by no means necessary. You’ll gradually unlock cooler avatars for social prestige, but these systems wisely avoid affecting gameplay. Either way, the User Stages mode is already full of interesting levels that expand Enhance Humanity’s toolbox of mechanics beyond what most people would think they’d be comfortable with in the main campaign, and it’s easy to jump right into. the best player-created levels through a handy indexing system. I could have easily spent hours here and completely avoided the campaign if I had discovered the User Stages mode in the first place, but I’m glad I played this as a tutorial for the super advanced levels people have created there. .
All of this is made even better by Humanity’s VR compatibility, which will work with either PlayStation VR headsets or PC VR. It’s a perfectly suitable way to play at any level, although the VR mode is disappointingly not yet fully utilized to work with the Stage Creator tool itself. Still, I’m delighted that Humanity lets you access full-blown VR mode from the main menu and drop you straight into the action – or you can stick to the PS VR2’s Theater Mode and play on the couch. on a virtual flat screen. Both modes play smoothly with the DualSense controller, though I wasn’t too impressed when I tested it with the PS VR2’s Sense controllers. They didn’t feel like a natural fit considering you were controlling a small dog with your finger rather than doing anything with the motion controls. Admittedly, this is a minor issue compared to the fact that I encountered almost no noticeable bugs, except for one glitchy crash that occurred later in VR.
Humanity also includes a brilliant vocal synth-driven score with some piano and other synth elements. vibe. Its tunes are simple, repetitive, and sometimes even a little silly, but each tune is appropriately relaxing and creates a gentle rhythm for brainstorming puzzles. There’s even a steady drone that allows them to sit comfortably in the background during relatively energetic parts of the soundtrack, namely boss fights.