To be frank, when Humanity was announced back in 2019, we weren't really sure what we were looking at. A series of delays made it all the more mysterious. It was only with the recent reintroduction during February's State of Play that things began to click into place. The game comes from Tetris Effect studio Enhance Games and experimental Japanese team tha ltd., and having now played the limited time demo, we can at last tell you what it's all about.
Essentially, this strange game shares its core concept with Lemmings. In each abstract level, it's your job to guide a stream of people, walking in unison, to the goal. You control a dog (a shiba inu, to be precise) that can literally bark commands at the mindless humans, ordering them to change direction, perform jumps, and more to make it to the exit. That's kind of it.
It's a simple idea, but the hundreds of people onscreen and three-dimensional levels make it appear more complex. Fortunately, the demo introduces things nicely, giving you access to different commands as you progress through the 10 stages. We will say, however, that the difficulty is somewhat inconsistent; the fourth level, Loop the Loop, is a jump above the previous three, and isn't the only spike among the selection. Of course, this is just a demo, so we'd expect the challenge curve will be gentler in the full game.
The 10 levels do at least give you a good idea of how Humanity will use its simple mechanics to construct some very interesting and surprisingly tough puzzles. Optional collectible figures named Goldy, fans that can blow the humans away, blocks they can push along, and more all add small but effective layers to the design. Some levels make getting from A to B a real head-scratcher, but obviously, it feels great when you find the solution.
Once you're done with the main stages, you can hop into a level creator and a browser for user-made levels, both of which are in beta. The editor is simple and intuitive to use, and comes with a decent suite of tutorials if you need some guidance. As with games like Super Mario Maker, you need to complete your own stage before it can be uploaded. Meanwhile, anything created and shared by other players can be found in the browser. Naturally, there aren't too many of them at the time of writing, but they're organised neatly into various lists, like 'Easier Going' or 'Up For a Challenge'. The quality will vary here, but it's a neat feature that'll potentially extend the longevity of the game — provided it can find a community to keep it going.
We played the demo on PS5 and mostly on the TV, but Humanity also supports PSVR2. It plays identically, with the controls remaining the same whether you use the DualSense or the VR Sense controllers. While the virtual reality version provides a decent sense of depth to the game, turning each level into a diorama you can inspect from all angles, the perspective ultimately doesn't seem to add much to the gameplay itself.
We've come away from the Humanity demo intrigued to play more. It's unusual, with a unique atmosphere, some semblance of a story beneath the surface, and neat, tidily designed puzzles. If it can get the difficulty balance right, we could be looking at a game walking blindly out of the left field and into cult hit status.
The Humanity demo is available now on PS5 and PS4, with support for both PSVR2 and PSVR, but it'll only remain playable until 6th March 2023. The full game is scheduled to launch in May. Have you played the demo? What do you think of Humanity (the game, not the world populace)? Walk straight into the comments section below.