Humans Must Answer has been out for a little over a month now, so the question may be as to why I’m putting this review up so late. Well, the short and honest answer is that I was too busy having a good time playing the game to write about it. Lame excuse, I know, but that’s just the reality of the situation. I’m a huge fan of shumps, and fellow fans will know that while the games are awesome, there isn’t much variety to them after getting through the first few stages. The biggest draw of shumps is usually the challenge they offer and the level of precision the player develops over time. That is still the case in Humans Must Answer, but I felt the game added its own unique touch to the genre that will provide lots of extra challenge for shump fans. I should preface this by saying I played the game on the hard difficulty. I need you to know that because there is a chance the game may not be as fun on lower difficulties since the big draw of the game is the challenge.
You may see a lot of references to hatching or eggs because, well, you play as chicken. You’re a pilot of a chicken-shaped ship, and before you scoff at the idea of playing in such a spaceship, this is the greatest animal-inspired spaceship since the Great Fox. You are accompanied by Colonel Ram and Professor Baz, and their only function is to provide dialog and help move the story forward. From time to time they may offer advice for specific levels, but most of the time they just banter.
Your ship is equipped with an energy weapon, matter weapon, special ability, and later on, the support weapon. The energy weapon is what you will be firing most, but unlike most shumps, it is not unlimited. Your energy weapon will deplete as you are using it, and you will need to lay off the trigger to allow it to recharge. With the way the levels are laid out and enemies deployed, you never want to be in a situation where you need to let your energy weapon recharge. If you do, you’re gonna have a bad time. Your matter weapon packs a harder punch, and is great for ripping down enemy shields. The downside is that your matter weapon doesn’t recharge on its own, so unless you find ammo throughout the level, once you’re depleted that weapon is done.
You have options when it comes to both energy and matter weapons. Early options include either using an energy weapon that shoots energy bullets or one that shoots a steady stream of electricity, while early matter weapons may be bullets or perhaps a weapon that shoots like a shotgun; giving you a wider spread at the cost of range.
Besides having your onboard weapons, you can also deploy turrets that will shoot either energy or matter projectiles. I’ll level with you: I thought this was pretty lame at first, especially since the first few levels are a piece of cake to get through without using the turrets at all. After about four or five missions, however, shit got real. There will be times where enemies are coming at you from multiple angles at the same time, and your ship just doesn’t maneuver fast enough for you to handle all of the enemies on the screen.
You could always handle enemies on one half of the screen then try to handle the other enemies, but leaving enemies on the screen for any period longer than you absolutely have to usually results in them filling the screen with bullets; making it hard to retain what health you have. The bottom line is that smart and fast turret deployment can mean the difference between life and death in the game. By the way, there are no checkpoints. If you die you will go back to the beginning of the stage.
Each weapon is upgradable, and if you are worried about trying out a different weapon after you already upgraded one, the good news is that money put into one weapon comes back to you if you switch to another weapon — allowing you to upgrade the new weapon chosen. Other aspects such as armor and special abilities can be purchased and upgraded as well. Special abilities allow you to do things like deploy a shield around the ship or slow down time in a pinch. You obtain currency through collecting silver eggs, but that isn’t enough to get upgrades. Before you can spend the currency on certain upgrades, you need to have enough golden eggs to unlock the upgrade for purchase. This helps set the game’s pace, since there is really no way to horde golden eggs.
You get eggs in two specific ways – the most common way is based on your score at the end of each level. Depending on how well you did you will get a certain amount of eggs (both gold and silver) for completing the level. The other way is to pick up gold and silver eggs throughout the levels, and in the beginning this is a pretty simple task. There is quite a bit of scenery you can destroy, and the reason you want to destroy it is because those canisters or electric billboards may be holding an egg. Once you get past the beginning few stages, however, you will begin to notice it takes a bit more effort.
Instead of just blowing something up and retrieving the egg, you may need to time a turret deployment so that it blows up the object in just enough time for you to catch an egg as it’s falling off screen. You might need to disable a series of lasers before squeezing into a tight corridor, grabbing the egg just in time to avoid being crushed by the constantly moving screen. To be fair, you don’t NEED these eggs. However, not going for the extra eggs will definitely slow your progress when it comes to getting upgrades, and if you slack enough, perhaps progressing into new levels since you need certain amounts of golden eggs to unlock them.
One thing that put me off was how slow the game starts. Based off of the first few levels I assumed the game was going to be boring. I didn’t like the speed of the ship, I wasn’t impressed with shot patterns, and overall it was yawn inducing. Honestly, if I wasn’t reviewing the game I’m not sure I would have continued playing it. A few levels in, however, things change. It feels like the game actually starts here; that the game is finally trying to kill you for real.
The combination of enemy types starts to come into play as some dart at you while others sit back, firing at a distance. You’ll soon find that some enemies don’t keep the same firing pattern; with some enemies, the longer you let them live, the more complex their firing pattern becomes. There was one specific enemy that had a pretty simple firing scheme until right before it self-destructs, firing bullets in every direction. Having one of them do that wasn’t an issue, but three or four at one time while new enemies enter the equation can make for tense moments.
Enemies also pack different types of weapons. Most enemies will use energy weapons to move in a linear direction, but other may use fast moving matter weapons that pack a stronger punch, or perhaps shoot mortar-like shots (which can cause a problem if you can’t predict the arch). Bosses are huge and pack a lot of power, but typically tend to be easier than most levels since you only need to worry about the boss or there are very few other enemies in the level.
Enemies aren’t the only thing you need to worry about, however.The levels themselves are designed to be hazardous – Tight corridors, lasers, missiles, and gun turrets are common. It’s also not uncommon to have to trigger switches to open pathways. May not seem like much of a problem, but dealing with all of that while you have other enemies flying and shooting around the screen can make many of the levels brutally hard. Each level is only about 2-3 minutes long if you push all the way through, but most players will start over from the beginning countless times due to the difficulty of the game.
Just when I thought the game was hard enough I was given another weapon that, while it helped, gave the developers an opportunity to throw more bullets my way.This was the support weapon. It is a ball of energy that shoots out, and by default it will disable enemy shields. However, if you shoot the support weapon’s attack with another one of your weapons, it will transform into another type of projectile. If you hit it with an energy weapon it will turn into a vertical streak of lightning which is not only great for stopping charging enemies, but also hitting enemies and other things that are either above or below you and through solid objects.
Shooting it with a matter weapon turns it into a streak of energy that sends bullets traveling both above and below you so that you can finally take out the missile and energy turrets that line the floor and ceiling. You’ll also find yourself hitting a lot of switches with it. The challenge with using the support weapon in this way is timing. You will need to time the support weapon shot and following matter shot pretty well to make sure you hit your targets. The worst thing is that if you miss your targets and need to do it again (if you even have time to do so), that means you’re now wasting even more matter ammo, which as I mentioned earlier, doesn’t recharge automatically.
I was very surprised that I ended up liking this game, as the beginning was pretty boring. Even though the story isn’t the greatest (like you play shumps for story anyway…), Humans Must Answer makes up for it with versatility and challenge. Each level feels different and you will need to use all of the tools you are supplied with, in addition to fast reflexes, to make it through the game. I felt a sense of achievement with every level I completed, and I think that is the most fun for shump fans. I wouldn’t say this game is for everyone, but if you’re up for the challenge, Humans Must Answer is a good time.