Enhance blew us all away a few years back with Tetris Effect, taking a classic franchise and turning it into something new and magical.
So it should be no surprise to anyone that they’ve done it again with a game where you play as a dog, barking out orders to waves of humanity, getting them to do everything from pushing blocks to shooting, while gathering golden people, escorting them to an exit.
For many years, people have been crying out for a new modern-day Lemmings and honestly, this is it. Except it’s us humans who are playing the role of wanderers, mindlessly marching in droves, falling off cliffs, jumping to our doom, sleepwalking into certain peril. And it’s just the absolute perfect commentary of society today.
Especially when you do factor in those ‘special’ golden people they are going out of their way to save. If you think of them as celebrities or people of interest. Maybe a politician or some rich fat cat. Humanity often go out of their way to preserve the protected few, no matter the cost.
It’s rare a puzzle game can elicit such deep thinking, particularly, as I said, when you’re playing a dog that can inhabit human beings, talk to blue orbs and casually walk among crowds. But I suppose there’s also something to be said of how much people’s ‘pets’ not only become a member of the family, after a time, they actually kind of run said household.
Sorry, Enhance always manage to get me thinking. I remember in Tetris Effect when I was just simply working through each level, bedazzled by blinding lights and sparkling wonder, just reflecting on my own life, lost in my own thoughts.
The difference here is you also have a quite complex, brain-meltingly difficult puzzler, particularly if you do want to preserve and protect all 150 goldies and achieve that 100% completion rate.
Each level begins with a wave of humans pouring out of a door and it’s up to you to guide them to the exit. It starts out simply enough with you using directional arrows to guide them around, dropping them on the floor so they know the way to go.
Shortly after, you’ll be teaching them how to do different types of jumping, gliding, pushing blocks, shooting – as mentioned – and a few surprises which would be wrong of me to go into detail about as this is definitely a game you’ll want to know fairly little about before playing.
Humanity does a really good job of getting used to the basics through its prologue, but very quickly escalates the stakes. Before long you’ll feel your brain melting through your nostrils.
Likewise, it does a great job of keeping the action steady despite the possible amount of humans you can have on the screen at any one time.
It’s all so incredibly clever and well-designed. Easy enough for you to do the bare amount and progress through a stage but incredibly challenging if you want to take things to the next level and unlock everything.
And one thing I loved is how you can reach the solution in a very different way from someone else. I actually went and watched a few videos of people playing the game to see how they beat puzzles after completing them myself and often found I’d taken the much more difficult, longer path 9 times out of 10. Or I’d gone in a whole other direction but achieved the same result. Brilliant!
In some ways, much like Tetris Effect actually, the less you know going in, the better. This is a game that keeps surprising, keeps ramping up the difficulty, but remains enjoyable and engaging. As you collect Goldies, for instance, so you unlock new abilities which you can execute during each stage, like pausing your game and even finding new cosmetics for your humans.
It’s all part of the elaborate, smart design that keeps the experience fresh, even though the entire principle ultimately remains the same throughout.
But if that’s not enough, the whole thing is fully playable with PlayStation VR 2, which just like Tetris Effect adds a whole other layer to the experience, enabling you to feel the world and get closer to its wackiness.
There’s also a way of continuing to keep the game interesting via its Stage Builder and User Stages. Both are still in Beta, so the experiences will absolutely grow over time – such is the point – but once you have beaten the game and you’re hungry for more, there’s absolutely loads of stages you can hop into already.
There’s already so many built into this, and Enhance will pick out ones they love, letting them preview on your screen before diving in so you can get a great view of what you’re letting yourself in for. Stages are ranked by difficulty, but you can add star ratings and favourites to ensure you don’t lose any you really like. We’re going to keep an eye on these for any we think people might enjoy.
You can also respond in kind, uploading your own creations, or to scratch an itch others can’t quite seem to reach. The stage builder seems pretty involved and lets you craft something pretty quickly or indeed , spend an appropriate amount of time building something special.
Control wise, this is a game that can be a little fiddly at times. Particularly when you’re hopping into humans as dog as you can lose yourself or sometimes get caught up when you didn’t mean to, causing a fall out. There’s no penalty for your death or even allowing other humans to die to begin with, but it still adds a bit of frustration.
And, of course, with it being a puzzler, this isn’t going to be for everyone and may put some people off. But they’d truly be missing out on a really special game that might even bring a smile to your face from time to time.
Humanity is one of the finest puzzlers I’ve had the pleasure of playing. I learned something from each stage and couldn’t wait to see what the game had for me next,. The developments and surprises keep coming along with the challenges and there’s plenty of long tail to come with user created stages and builders. Minor fiddly controls aside, this will be one I keep going back to and will surely stay among the best games I’ve played all year.
+ Smart, taxing puzzles that will keep you glued to the screen
+ Game keeps throwing new, interesting things at you with, along with optional pathways and extras
+ You’ll be playing for ages with user created stages and stage builders
+ Easily one of the best PlayStation VR 2 games on the market
– Controls can be a little fiddly at times
Humanity is now available on PC and PlayStation 5 Plus Extra and Premium
Code Kindly Provided by Enhance for review purposes
Played on PlayStation 5