Human Resource Machine (PC) - Gaming the Pandemic: Day 97

by -JaguarWong-. Posted on Jul 01, 2020    45    8

Today's randomly selected title from my 538 game backlog (already reduced by over 100!). I'm playing one a day, every day, for as long as I'm furloughed from work...

Human Resource Machine on the PC

Previous days' entries are linked in my profile.


There are games I get in bundles and decide to keep because they sound interesting.

There are games that I buy because they’re bargains, even though I know I’m not going to be able to play them right away.

And then there are games that, bizarrely, I bought excitedly near launch and have no idea why I haven’t yet played them.

Human Resource Machine falls very much into the latter category. I absolutely loved World of Goo, but for some reason, having eagerly anticipated their arrival, both Little Inferno and HRM (from the same close knit publishing team) have lain dormant in my collection for years.

I wish I knew why so I could stop it happening again, because Human Resource Machine is a brilliant game that has unexpectedly devoured the majority of my Sunday.


This game falls into a niche variety of puzzlers that are probably called ‘coders’ or something similar. I’ve had limited exposure until now, with just the excellent ‘Pony Island’ under my belt, but it’s my understanding there were a glut of these a few years back.

Human Resource Machine has you working in various offices throughout an unnamed, gothic styled, corporation. Every level of the game represents a year of your career, and the goal in each is ostensibly the same: Take items from the ‘In’ conveyor belt, process them in the prescribed way, and then place them on the ‘Out’ conveyor on the other side of the room.

When I was a kid I was fond, as were so many others of my age, of leveraging my rudimentary knowledge of BASIC to use two lines of ‘code’ to fill a screen with my swear word du jour, or a witty and disparaging put down aimed at a sibling; “Mark is a Wally” or something similarly acerbic.

Many years later my propensity for logic gates and simple programming helped me pick up VBA in very short order, which in turn helped in my career.

Which all means that Human Resource Machine feels very cyclical to me: Games taught me logic, which got me a job, and now I’m playing a game where you direct your avatar using the kind of work-flow logic gates I used to get paid to bumble through in my real job.

The difference? Human Resource Machine is fun, and the challenge, unlike real work, doesn’t feel like a grind for someone else’s benefit.

It all starts very simply, you arrange labelled tiles to form workflows, set them in action and watch your little character busy themselves putting into action.

The selection of available tiles is gradually and expertly increased until, by the mid-game point that I’ve reached, the flows are nearing 30 tiles in length and the tasks have evolved from simply adding and subtracting to finding ways of using functions that don’t include Multiplication, division, or sort - to multiply, divide, and sort.

It’s the purest kind of logic puzzling. Maths is very much at the forefront, but creativity is equally important thanks to clever restriction of resources that forces you to work around the limitations of the tiles available to you.

And honestly, I don’t have much more to say. This is a purists logic puzzle game with fantastic, highly stylised presentation, and exactly the kind of low key background music necessary to ease the stress of some utterly devious puzzles.

It builds the challenge with speed and fluidity and, if you’re anything like me, ‘a quick game’ will rapidly suck up several hours of your day.

Human Resource Machine - If logic puzzles are your bag then you pretty much need to play this one.


KiryusWhiteSuit 3

Nice idea to review games from your backlog during the pandemic. I also have this game and never played it.
I'll check out your other reviews

  -JaguarWong- 1

Thank you. Genuinely appreciated.

neema_t 9

If you liked HRM, you should obviously try 7 Billion Humans (it teaches the concepts behind FPGAs in the same way and is as brilliant as it is difficult), TIS-100 and Shenzhen I/O are two other really good code 'em ups but are even more difficult as you literally can't play them without the manuals... Most, if not all, Zachtronics games are excellent puzzle games.

I'm not sure I ever finished HRM, I'm not a professional programmer but I've done a fair bit off my own back but HRM really did me in a few times. Every now and then I'd go "oh wait I've done this before!" and banged out a solution but in the later stages it really lost me.

  -JaguarWong- 1

I'm currently stumped by an optional level around half way that asks you to sort three numbers from highest to lowest. I say 'stumped' but in truth I know how to do it, it's just really long winded and I keep making mistakes compiling it.

Norm_Standart 1

I found 7 billion humans really undewhelming TBH

lazarus22 2

Also prime mover. Its a zachlike that I think even uses the offical zactronics scoring system. It really helped me understand coding before I stated coding.

BiBiPsychicFire 16

As someone who wants to get into programming, I find HRM to be a great fun puzzle game that manages to make coding and maths really fun. Having had to deal with a lot of people who are not very programming-minded, the game is actually a great tool to guide you through the line of thinking you need to start writing programs.

Sadly it falls into the category of Pure Puzzle games where (for me, at least) you get stuck at a certain level and you either start looking up solutions, defeating the purpose of the game, or quit out of frustration. Still a fun little game, specially with the standard Tomorrow Inc. aesthetic and funny dialogue also shining through.

  -JaguarWong- 1

Agreed about the 'pure puzzle' nature, but with great challenge comes great satisfaction when a long pondered upon level finally clicks!