The Humans: Goals

I’ve already described the tools available in The Humans. I haven’t gone into detail about what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish with those tools. That’s because there isn’t a lot of detail to go into. The overwhelming majority of the levels are all about reaching a given point on the map. Usually it’s just a spot marked with a red floor. Sometimes they dress it up a little and make the goal to rescue something: another human for your pool, a pet baby dinosaur, a golden idol, a captive queen. (So female humans do exist!) Only the first of these makes a difference to gameplay. The earliest levels made a goal of obtaining the tools for the first time: “Discover the spear”, etc., as if technological progress were a matter of picking up ready-made items.

In the first half of the game — that is, in the 80 levels of the original floppy-based release — all of these special goals have cutscenes associated with them. When you rescue a baby dinosaur, for example, you get a brief full-screen low-framerate cartoon of the dinosaur leaping onto its rescuer, knocking him flat, and licking his face like a dog. These cartoons are completely horrible — predictable slapstick without any sense of timing. And they loop, which gives them the tiresome aspect of a repeated punch line, a joke retold by someone who doesn’t understand why we didn’t laugh the first time. We were probably supposed to be impressed with the fact that they were doing full-screen animations at all, given the technology of the day, but I remember thinking they were horrible at the time as well.

It should be noted that, unlike in Lemmings, all you need to do to pass a level is get one human to the goal. Sometimes the red-floor goals are flanked by special flowering bushes that give you bonus points if you park a human in front of them before claiming victory, but I haven’t been paying attention to my score. Occasionally I’ve gone for the bonus as an additional challenge, but usually it isn’t challenging enough to make this worthwhile. If you can get one human to the goal, you can get others there by the same means, and so, like the stereotypical mathematician, I consider the problem solved and move on.

There’s one sot of goal that’s different: killing a dinosaur. You kill dinosaurs by throwing spears at them, and the number of spears required varies from one to three. Only the hardiest dinosaurs are used as level goals, so these levels amount to “Find three spears and bring them back to this point”. Except that you don’t necessarily have to bring them back to the same place: spears can be thrown from either side, or even dropped onto the dinosaur from directly above. Complicating matters, you don’t necessarily know that this is the goal. When you see a red floor or a golden idol, you know that’s the goal, but when you see a dinosaur, it might just be an obstacle, or even a red herring. (The same goes for captive humans, although rescuing them is pretty much always beneficial.) Also, recall that spears are necessary for jumping gaps, so throwing them away isn’t always a good idea. With the other goals, you pretty much go for them as soon as you’re able, but with spear-throwing, one holds off.

So basically what I’m saying is that the dinosaur-hunt levels are the most interesting ones, and if one were for some reason going to make more levels for the game, one would be well-advised to use more dinosaurs. Which may go without saying. What game wouldn’t be improved by adding more dinosaurs?

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