A long time from now, in a galaxy not so far away, the chickens are in charge. In SumomGames’s PC space shooter Humans Must Answer, players get a peek into the possible (but hopefully not probable?) future through the eyes of a surprisingly intelligent chicken alien pilot. It is a dark time for humanity, as the chickens appear to possess a lot of firepower.
Your ultimate mission is simple: blast your way through the Yolk System (or, as we lowly humans refer to it, home sweet home) to investigate a distress signal emanating from the blazing Yolk at the heart of the system. Apparently, alien chickens are a pretty advanced species, as your gaudily fowl-shaped starship, the Golden Eagle, can be upgraded multiple times, with several choices of weaponry and ammo. The army appears organized as well, with an oddly human-esque ranking system and familiar archetypes, including the silent protagonist, the tough-as-nails, battle-scarred Colonel Ram, and the nerdy Professor Bez.
The story is mildly entertaining, and counting how many ridiculous chicken-related puns the writers managed to work into the game could make for a great drinking game. Gameplay is pretty typical, with nicely streamlined controls that cover a variety of actions – including switching between energy and matter ammo, placing turrets, and turning on slow-mo – with minimal memorization required.
It’s a good thing the controls are easy, because most of your brainpower will be required to overcome the Humans Must Answer’s biggest flaw – the frustration factor. The game features four difficulty levels to choose from, ranging from easy to very hard, with each subsequently higher level featuring a higher score multiplier. Even easy, however, is a challenge, and not necessarily in a good way. Level design suffers from depth of field issues which make telling the difference between what’s in the foreground and what you’re about to crash into rather problematic. Before long, missions start to feel more like mazes with cheese at the end (and lots of traps) than exciting intergalactic battles.
The poor design is especially annoying in light of the lack of a lives system or health bar. One fatal crash instantly sends players back to the beginning of the level – do not pass Go, do not collect one hundred golden eggs. The enemies don’t cut you any slack, either; even the small ships that appear in the first level are legitimately deadly foes. Don’t be surprised if you’re killed during the less-than-user-friendly tutorial – in alien chicken world, Death is a frequent visitor.
Like a Fabergé egg, the game may be lacking internally, but at least it’s got a gorgeously gilded shell. One of the highlights of Humans Must Answer is the beautiful environmental design, with each level featuring a new and soothingly beautiful backdrop for your intergalactic misfortunes. Character design is equally well-done, and the main menu interface is expertly crafted to feel like a high-tech spaceship’s dashboard. All the while, a nice soundtrack full of moody space music provides the perfect sci-fi atmosphere.
All in all, Humans Must Answer doesn’t break any particularly new ground in the arcade-style 2-D shooter genre, though the chicken perspective is a fun, if occasionally overindulged, twist. It is a small step for man (and chickens), perhaps, but one giant leap as far as developers’ first releases go, and indicates future potential. Great things may yet come to pass in SumomGames’ future, if subsequent projects are properly incubated.
Fans of intergalactic poultry and curious humanoids alike should at least take advantage of the beta demo available on the developer’s blog – after all, it’s free. For more intrepid intergalactic heroes, the full game is available for $10 on the official site. Humans Must Answer is also currently up for voting on Steam Greenlight.
[review pros=”Beautiful graphics, moody sci-fi soundtrack, good character design, user-friendly controls, mildly amusing narrative” cons=”Flawed level design, frustrating gameplay, high difficulty level” score=70]