The idea behind the TouchArcade Game of the Week is that every Friday afternoon we post the one game that came out this week that we think is worth giving a special nod to. Now, before anyone goes over-thinking this, it doesn't necessarily mean our Game of the Week pick is the highest scoring game in a review, the game with the best graphics, or really any other quantifiable "best" thing. Instead, it's more just us picking out the single game out of the week's releases that we think is the most noteworthy, surprising, interesting, or really any other hard to describe quality that makes it worth having if you were just going to pick up one.

These picks might be controversial, and that's OK. If you disagree with what we've chosen, let's try to use the comments of these articles to have conversations about what game is your game of the week and why.

Without further ado…

 

Human Resource Machine

Tomorrow Corporation has brought us lovely, dark, and though-provoking experiences like World of Goo [$4.99] and Little Inferno [$4.99], and this week they passed their most recent offering Human Resource Machine [$4.99] from desktop and Wii U over to mobile. As I'm always up to my ears in mobile stuff and don't always pay close attention to the console and PC space, I honestly had never heard of Human Resource Machine, which originally launched in October of last year. However, knowing the pedigree of this developer I figured I was in for a treat, but I didn't quite expect to be so blown away with how ingenious of a puzzle game Human Resource Machine manages to be.

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This is a game that's based around the principles of very basic visual programming. You play as an office worker tasked with taking packages from an inbox conveyor belt and tranferring them to an outbox conveyor belt, with various rules in place for doing so in each level. For example, you may have a series of numbered boxes where you need to transfer all boxes except for the ones marked with a zero. Or you may have to grab the first two numbered boxes and add them together and end up with a box with the resulting number on it to take to the outbox. It sounds a little strange but the game does a great job at walking you through these basic principles early on.

You accomplish your mundane tasks by utilizing a series of set commands which you drag and drop in the order needed. There can also be spare spaces on the floor which act as "memory" for you to hold certain boxes in, if needed. So for that second example given above, you'd start with a command to grab a box from the inbox, then a command to take it to a space on the floor, then a command to run back and grab the next box from the inbox, then a command to add that box to the box on the floor, and finally a command to take that resulting box to the outbox. Thankfully, you can also initiate repeat cycles so you don't have to create a massively long chain of commands to complete a level.

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The crazy thing about Human Resource Machine is that it's simply a puzzle game at heart, but rooted in the ideas of programming. But programming code is basically just a puzzle anyway, so it all ends up making more sense than you might guess. Even though I've worked in gaming for 6 years and have seen projects mid-development and talked to countless developers, I really don't know squat about coding. After playing through just the first batch of levels in Human Resource Machine, I feel like I have a far better understanding of how code makes games work. A very rudimentary understanding mind you, but an understanding nonetheless. That's a very powerful thing for a game to accomplish.

The thing I'm not so sure about is how seasoned programmers might take to the game. As someone who knows basically nothing, I'm finding this a fascinating learning experience. I'm not so sure if that would be true for a 20-year veteran of the craft. At least Human Resource Machine is steeped in the dark humor and tongue-in-cheek look at corporate lifestyle that you'd expect from Tomorrow Corporation, so even if you find the puzzle aspects way too easy it's still an enjoyable game to experience. Having pars for the number of commands used and number of moves taken to complete a level adds an extra challenge to the mix as well.

No matter your level of familiarity with programming, I think Human Resource Machine is worth taking a look at. Not only have I learned a bunch from it already, but I'm finding the puzzle aspects to be challenging and rewarding, and I absolutely love the art style and music. This is a quality production through and through and is one of the more unique types of games out there, and now it has the ability to fit snugly in your pocket and travel with you wherever you go.

  • Solarclipse

    This article and some others are showing up in my watch list, but not in the news feed. Both on my iPad and iPhone. Only the first article today is showing up in the news feed....

    I hope the app isn't broken, though I guess it's only a matter of time since you can't update it until apple modifies their policies...

    • Collin Burton

      Same, except I have the first two articles from today, and nothing after that point. Odd, since I didn't update my OS or anything. It just stopped.

      As for this game, I got it and am enjoying it quite a bit. I'm hoping it helps kick some of the dust off my brain.

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      • LarryWP

        Give me your phone number and I'll get back to you.

      • maiyr

        $6 to $8 a month? Wow that is low.

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    • Darklloyd777

      Restarting my phone fixed it for me

  • geoelectric

    I'm a seasoned programmer. So far (20-something levels covering both sides) this is my favorite assembly language tutorial ever.

    • Son of Anarchy

      Hi 😀

      I realise coding and creating a game would be far more in depth than this awesome game, I was wondering if these puzzles and commands are anything like the real thing? If you knew nothing about coding but wanted to learn, is this a good place to start? Thanks in advance.

      • Tone

        programming is problem solving and this game will help you sharpen those skills. It also teaches concepts most modern programmers never get to learn about. The idea of registers in a constrained system. Most programming focuses on the lexicon and syntax of the language. I really believe if you start with a game like this you strengthen the right skills.

        The best developers, IMO, are the ones that can keep a rich mental model of how the program works in their head.

    • zwobot

      Have you tried TIS-100 from zachtronics? I played it a lot on pc and it is helped me to understand how assembler works - in my opinion it is far better than human ressource machine. An IOS version is also available.

      • evgeny

        I will say that the iOS version is nowhere near as good. In particular, it won't work with an external keyboard. Sads. But it is out for everything else!

    • evgeny

      I concur!

  • thumbs07

    Keep seeing my friend play this on Steam, now I know exactly what it is.

  • https://www.youtube.com/user/rrvirus redribbon

    well deserved, totally best release of this week 🙂

  • Prhaber

    I'm no programmer (apart from a brief stint writing Basic games in the 1980's) but the higher levels are certainly not a walk in the park. I'm at level 22 and the last couple of levels have had me really having to think hard about the logic behind the sequences I'm creating. I was actually up til far to early this morning as just as I was drifting off to sleep a solution came to me for level 20 and I just had to test it out...and test it out...until I could get it to work. So, so satisfying when you do get it to work as well.

    It probably is easier if you're and experienced programmer but still not too easy I'd imagine.

    One thing I can't sort out is level 2. It's incredibly basic with only 3 lines of commands but I can't get down to the number of moves it's asking me to do. Any suggestions?

    • Codyb

      It took me a little bit too.. Inbox outbox inbox outbox jump!

      • Prhaber

        Thanks for that. But can you explain to me why using three commands gives 27 steps, whilst using 5 commands like you suggested uses only 25 steps? I can't get my head round that at all.

        I'm currently trying to program the Fibonacci sequence level....my brain's aching but in a good way!

      • evgeny

        You can use the step buttons to go through any execution one instruction at a time.

        In this case, think of it this way:

        - inbox/outbox/jump is doing the mechanics of delivering mail 66% of the time.

        - inbox/outbox/inbox/outbox/jump is doing the delivering mail tasks 80% of the time.

      • johnkeippel

        Interesting. Adds the assumption, though, that boxes come in pairs, or its ok to grab nothing and move nothing one time. On another level I tried optimizing steps by ditching jumps and hard coding the exact number of moves. It told me that was wrong because the number of boxes could be dynamic.

        Will definitely change the way I look at optimizing in later levels!

    • Tone

      I just finished them all and as a full time game programmer they were thought provoking for sure. I really enjoyed it. I have a game like this in my notepad if I ever get around to it.

      Your experiencing what programming is like from a problem solving perspective.

  • Delusionaltool

    This game is tough and needs a way better tutorial. If your not a programmer you will be extremely confused. I am on the rainfall puzzle now . I am lost

    • Tone

      Which number is that one?

  • Grits n Gravy

    No love for Steppy Pants?

    • Brawwwn

      A surprise release for sure. Way more addicting and polished than you'd think. It's probably my gotw but it may just be a little too ridiculous.