“I awoke one morning to find I was a dog,” is an intriguing opening line for any story, and that’s exactly how Humanity, the new puzzle game from THA and published by Rez Infinite and Tetris Effect creators Enhance, begins. It’s not only that you are a dog, you have also been transported to an ethereal plane in which humans stream from doors and will tumble into a vast abyss of nothingness without your help. Voices in your head tell you that you must guide the humans to the glowing pads on each map, thus releasing them from the plane and moving them to… somewhere else.
The game takes it’s cues from the likes of Chu Chu Rocket, Pikmin, Lemmings and more. You, as the glowing Shiba Inu, can place icons around the map that influence the humans. You can make them change direction, jump, infuse them gas so they float higher over fans, split a stream of people in two, hit and shoot things. Each map has obstacles to overcome, whether it’s blocks to push, features to traverse, the simple absence of ground, or occasionally large cubes of water suspended in mid air that you can swim through.
The controls are simple to grasp and you will need to zoom around each map at the start of the level to discover all the nooks and crannies, some of which hide Goldys. These are larger humanoid figures who you must get to the exit to unlock new controls, cosmetics, and crucially, later stages.
Completing a level will unlock the next one, but to pass the final lock on the stage you must have rescued a certain number of Goldys. This means you might have to backtrack and replay some levels and work out where you can solve the puzzle and rescue the golden humans at the same time, effectively doubling the puzzles per level.
As the story progresses – and it’s as weird as you would expect from a game that makes you play as a Shiba Inu made of light – you will encounter The Others. These are a rival faction of humanoids who try and stop you. This is a big twist as you can now command your humans to fight, and they rush in with laser guns and light sabres and epic battles rage across the block landscape. There are also boss fights – something you would not expect in a typical puzzle game.
Humanity also includes a level editor allowing you create your own puzzles using all the blocks, switches and commands available in the main game. Each level is built on a 40 x 40 grid with blocks that can be stacked up to 30 cubes high and you can do all the usual things you would expect like copying sections of the map to save time.
All the features of the level can be configured, from the music – which I love, even if it does noticeably loop – to the speed of the humans and the number you must rescue. It does take some time to master the complex features in the level editor, but once you’re are finished you can name and upload your levels for players can give them a try.
Everything, apart from the Level Editor, is also playable in PlayStation VR 2. This changes the game in to an almost table top like experience as you hover above with your godly powers, but unfortunately I found the controls just a little more tricky to use when playing with the Sense controllers. The buttons are all exactly the same so you still need to press and then using the stick to set directions, but with the smaller joystick on the Sense I found I was misplacing commands a little more than I should.
If all fails you can restart a level, either leaving all your command icons intact, or wiping the play area clean. This former is really helpful as it means if you mess up just on the last few seconds of a level, you don’t have to place every single command again. Solutions for all the puzzles – but not how to get the Goldys – are available as videos within the PS5 game help section, so if you are really stuck you can have a sneaky look.
Humanity hits that sweet spot of being taxing enough to make you want to complete a level, but without having solutions be so obscure you’d need to Einstein to work them out. As someone who played Lemmings endlessly, it did take some time to not feel bad about sacrificing streams of humans to the void, but the puzzles in the game do require you to do that at time, and they thankfully don’t yell a cute “Oh no!” when they vanish off a cliff.