App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Tomorrow Corporation’s 7 Billion Humans is an exercise in turning programming into a game. In it, you complete puzzles my manipulating workers into performing specific tasks using coding that’s reminiscent of assembly language. While that sounds like it could very easily make for a game that feels super overwhelming or like a complete snooze fest, the puzzle design in 7 Billion Humans is remarkably accessible (even for non-coders), and it pairs nicely with the game’s humorously grim tone.
Work, work, work
7 Billion Humans is somewhat of a follow up to Tomorrow Corporation’s Human Resource Machine. In that game, you used a simple coding language to control a single worker performing a variety of tasks. In this one, you are still using coding to solve puzzles, but this time, you’re controlling groups of workers that all operate simultaneously to the instructions you give them.
At the start of the game, 7 Billion Humans keeps things dead simple to acclimate you to its unique coding language. The game’s first puzzle, for example, simply asks you to get your employees to stand over a box, pick it up, and drop it. To do that though, you can’t just control your minions to do exactly that. Instead, you have to code it using a menu on the right side of the screen with drag-and-drop commands that let you accomplish this task. Since this task is pretty simple, you’d just drag the command to step and indicate for them to move one space down to stand over their boxes, then drag the grab command under that, followed by the drop command.
Order of operations
This might not sound too different from Human Resource Machine, and—to be honest—the group dynamics of 7 Billion Humans don’t really rear their head until you’re almost half a dozen puzzles in. Once you get here, you start getting puzzle setups where your employees might not all be facing in the same direction or even be near each other. Thankfully, the game gives you increasingly complex tools like conditional statements and memory slots so that everyone can still accomplish your goals even if they need to do different things to get there.
Given the somewhat abstracted way you have to control your workers, 7 Billion Humans ends up being an experience where it’s often extremely obvious to see what you are supposed to do, but you need to bend your brain to translate these actions into cold, logical code sequences that account for every novel situation your workers might discover, and all in the right order.
It might take a while to get used to the coding system of 7 Billion Humans, but once you invest enough time in it to pull off anything remotely complicated, you end up feeling like a genius. Well, it's more like you feel this way for a second until the game informs you that you could have solved the same problems using half as many steps and it would have executed much more quickly too. This information is surfaced to give players extra challenges on puzzles they complete, and it’s a really smart way of adding replability to the game.
Up to this point, 7 Billion Humans might have sounded potentially fun, but also probably a bit dry. Rest assured, this game is filled with a surprising amount of character and humor. The entire game is based around a comically dystopian future where robots can provide everything humans need except one thing: useful jobs. This is communicated to players primarily via cutscenes, but the personality of these cinematics bleeds into the game’s art style and level design as well.
The bottom line
For a game that’s essentially about coding, 7 Billion Humans is surprisingly fun and accessible. It’s puzzles can feel like they’re melting your brain at times, but this makes figuring them out all the more rewarding.