Humanity Review: Lacking VR Support Saves a Few Lost Souls

There’s something uniquely riveting about VR games that create beautiful microcosms to interact with. Games like Ghost Giant, Little Cities, Down the Rabbit Hole, The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets and more, all provide living dioramas that you can’t help but get sucked in by. Humanity is very similar in this regard, watching thousands of humans merrily wander by. Albeit with the slight caveat that they love leaping off ledges into an infinite abyss. And while the puzzles are fun, our Humanity review finds a noticeable lack of VR mechanics.

There’s no point in talking about Humanity without a quick mention of classic puzzler Lemmings. Many games have been inspired by it, but Humanity takes the suicidal lemmings design and adds a far grander twist. Rather than trying to control a few wayward characters here, there’s a never-ending supply of human souls to save. Yes, that’s right, you’re the guiding light that they need to follow. Commanding them to turn, jump and perform other actions to get them to safety.

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Oh the humanity

The droves of humans you encounter aren’t in any danger. There’s no detrimental action to the success of a level if you continually allow them to step off the edge. They’ll keep coming and falling until you tell them otherwise. So for the most part, Humanity is a very casual, zen-like puzzler where you can take your time and plot a course of action. Unlike Lemmings where time was always of the essence.

You might be saving human souls yet you don’t inhabit one. In actuality, you find yourself inhabiting the form of a glowing dog, a Japanese Shibu Inu to be precise. As this ethereal pooch, you can run and jump around levels, inhabit the humans and issue actions for them to carry out.

Humanity‘s levels are entirely block-based, meaning you can only put one action on a block. Be it a turn function, a high or long jump action, giving them the ability to float and much more. This mechanic means carefully considering how to manoeuvre the horde and gives rise to numerous options as to a level’s completion. But simply getting from A to B isn’t all that Humanity offers, especially when it comes to unlocking its riches.

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All that glistens is gold

First and foremost the idea is to get the stream of humans from one glowing doorway to another. Along the way, you’ll notice a rather imposing golden figure or two. This is Goldie, a singular entity you can pick up on route. Classed as an optional side challenge, Goldie is, in fact, critical to progression and should always be picked up at every opportunity. However, Goldie doesn’t play by everyone else’s rules. Located in difficult-to-reach locations, Goldie can be lost by walking over the edge. So once activated they need to be monitored. Otherwise, the only way to get them back is to restart the level.

Goldie adds a critical element to Humanity, circumventing the zen-like gameplay with precise, life-or-death decisions to make. The reason for picking them up is two-fold. You need them to unlock later stages and new bonuses, adding useful mechanics to your arsenal. In these types of games, we tend to be used to having rewind or fast-forward options. Here they have to be unlocked.

What really stands out in Humanity is the sheer inventiveness of the puzzle design. The core story mode campaign has 90 stages to complete, and they’re all wonderful to look at and deconstruct to find a solution. There are giant water blocks to swim through, fans that’ll launch them high into the air and even enemies to shoot. Never was there a dull moment, even zooming in to hear the chatter is a nice added touch. Humanity feels organic, alive and immensely fun.

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Oh, woe is VR…

That being said, this is a VR review of a game clearly designed for flatscreen gaming. Originally released for PS5 and PSVR 2 in 2023, that particular version allowed players to switch between both modes. This being the Meta Quest edition, all we want is VR goodness, but there’s very little in the way of implementation. For example, there’s nothing you can physically grab and move around like the camera position. It’s all done via the stick and buttons. Which is a shame when compared to games like Little Cities.

Then there are the various story-driven cutscenes. All of which only offer a 180-degree view. Look to the side or behind you and it’s black. Again it’s a disappointing element that dulls the experience for VR players. All the worlds and the main hub have an angelic, cloudy backdrop to them. Couldn’t that have been wrapped around a little further? It’s a small issue in an otherwise excellent game yet shows how the VR port took second place.

Another aspect that could’ve worked brilliantly in VR is the Stage Creator. Currently in beta form, you have a 2D window in which to design your own levels and share them with the world. Providing hours of entertainment, you have all the components to build wildly intricate stages. But it’s all on a 2D screen, which can’t be moved and I found it to be a bit too close for comfortable editing. That’s beside the point, in a game whose main components are actual blocks surely picking and placing them with my hands is far easier than a pointer! I wanted to sit there and build a level by grabbing different pieces, not clicking through menus. That’s the main problem with Humanity, the lack of VR’s interactive elements.

Also in beta form is the Play Stages mode, where (you guessed it), you can play everyone else’s designs. This should make for infinite entertainment, however, it never worked for us as it was unable to connect to a server no matter how many times we tried.

Humanity Review Summary

Humanity is undoubtedly a great puzzle videogame with plenty of almost endless content. There’s so much variety and choice in the way you approach stages that even a replay can feel fresh. The minimalist design combined with the soothing music creates a wonderfully ambient experience while chilling on the sofa. If you’re a puzzle fan then Humanity should not be missed. On the other hand, as we’ve found during our review, Humanity isn’t the best example of VR puzzling, missing out in several key areas.