Human Resource Machine Nintendo Switch Review: Playing the Numbers Game

Credit: Tomorrow Corporation
Credit: Tomorrow Corporation /

Prepare for some serious mind games in Human Resource Machine, especially if you’re not accustomed to coding on a daily basis.

Developer: Tomorrow Corporation

Publisher: Tomorrow Corporation

Platform: PC, Wii U, Linux, iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch (version reviewed)

Release Date: March 16, 2017 (Nintendo Switch)

The Tomorrow Corporation burst from the starting gate to get three of their already-released titles on the Nintendo Switch: Little Inferno, World of Goo, and Human Resource Machine. Their distinctive style easily helps all three stand out in the relatively small (for the moment) Switch library, perhaps none more so than Human Resource Machine. But if you weren’t familiar with the game before, you might be surprised at the complexity of thought required to logic your way through the game’s levels. Then again, if you’re a coder, you might find the game a breeze.

Human Resource Machine puts you in the shoes of a generic office worker in a satirically generic office building, where you must work your way up through the floors by solving puzzles at each level, occasionally touching upon a very subtle plot about robots taking over your already rather-robotic office operation. The basic style of puzzle you’ll encounter for most floors is that of a system of conveyer belts. You must use the numbers on one side of the room (the Inbox) and move the correct numbers to the other side (the Outbox) using various commands gradually given to you as you progress.

human resource machine
Credit: Tomorrow Corporation /

You’ll begin by simply moving items from one side to another, but you’ll gradually gain the ability to add numbers together, leave them on the floor for later, add and subtract one value from a number, copy and paste them around, and more. Your commands will grow increasingly more complex, resulting in strings of addition, subtraction, and jumps to form repetitive cycles of command. You’ll eventually progress from simply learning how to use the commands to being asked to think of new ways to use and combine them, often without much guidance.

The Nintendo Switch gives you a significantly broader space to move commands around in than the mobile versions did, while keeping the benefits of an on-the-go puzzler.

If you’re used to coding, you probably are already accustomed to the type of thinking required to make these puzzles work, but if that’s not a realm you’ve ever experienced, woe to you. There’s a point right around Floor 20 where all of a sudden, the floaties are removed, and you’re left floundering.

You’ll likely either find Human Resource Machine a quick jaunt in the puzzling park (as, numerically, there actually aren’t that many levels) or a mind-breaking challenge. I was the latter, but after conversations with my more logic-oriented friends who have played the game, my understanding is that it’s very much an either-or situation. The game doesn’t offer much guidance for those that are struggling, so you’ll need to make liberal use of the play, stop, and back up/step forward features to experiment with different commands. Even then, you may still walk away from a play session in exasperation.

human resource machine
Credit: Tomorrow Corporation /

On the other side, the more apt hands at forming these strings of commands may enjoy the Size and Efficiency Challenges on each stage, asking you to complete the assigned task in a certain amount of instructions (command lines) or steps (actual character movements). Often, they can’t both be completed with the same string, and you’ll need to try multiple solutions, adding a touch of replay value…though if you’re having trouble just getting past the challenge itself, you may not much care.

Fortunately, the Nintendo Switch lends itself well to the struggle. Past releases of Human Resource Machine have either been on stationary platforms such as PC or the Wii U, or tiny portable screens. The Nintendo Switch, as the best of both worlds, gives you a significantly broader space to move commands around in than the mobile versions did, while keeping the benefits of an on-the-go puzzler.

human resource machine
Credit: Tomorrow Corporation /

More from Reviews

You can play using the touchscreen of the Switch or, if in TV-mode, you’ll use the Joy-Cons like a Wiimote to control your cursor. I’ve never been a giant fan of the Wiimote style of play, but I have to hand it to Nintendo and Tomorrow Corporation for making that style of control as easy to use as possible. You can instantly reset the cursor with a push of the button, and it’s surprisingly responsive no matter where you’re holding the Joy-Con in relation to the screen.

Like the commands that make up the strings within, Human Resource Machine does not offer much clutter on its own, but its simple building blocks allow for plenty of complexities. That said, it will either strain your brain or not; there isn’t much middle ground. But for $9.99, the value is decent, and it’s certainly not an idea you’ll find a million more of for any kind of price. I just wish there was a bit more help for newbies like me, even just in the form of a gentle push in the right direction. I’d love to embrace the coding lessons Human Resource Machine teaches; they’re just too vague as you progress to the higher floors.

Human Resource Machine. 7. Straddling a weird line between far too difficult and a touch too easy, Human Resource Machine has a very specific audience in mind and may not appeal to everyone with eyes on a low-cost Nintendo eShop title. But for what it is, Human Resource Machine presents a challenging diversion in the form of code string puzzling amid pleasing and amusing dystopian aesthetic. If this is the sort of mental challenge you like to carry around with you, by all means pick it up on the Nintendo Switch–it’s the ideal platform for such a game.. Tomorrow Corporation.

All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.