Who remembers the old shareware games from the 90s? How about the ghetto N64 and PSX games that most people forget, like Chameleon Twist or Quest 64 or Blast Chamber? The stuff that didn't
make it into the history books. The stuff that had iffy graphics, slowdown, bugs and difficulty spikes. It wasn't really focus tested or target-marketed. Most people would call it "bad."
If you're anything like me, though, those games stayed with you despite the flaws. They had charm and a sense of discovery, and their problems were only capital-P Problems
if you wanted to see them that way. For you, maybe they were just weird quirks to work around. Maybe you found out later that critics really attacked those quirks in their reviews. After that, maybe you became too quick to dismiss a game for those same reasons.
Playing Humanity Asset takes me back to the old days, before all the critics. Graphically it looks like the 2.5D sidescrollers from the N64/PSX period: stuff like Goemon's Great Adventure and Tomba. Those are not popular reference points for games these days--nostalgia junkies prefer the 16-bit look, for some reason--but that doesn't make them bad ones. Its gameplay also brings to mind games of that period, but mixed in with Mega Man and Metroid influences (it is not
a Metroidvania, though).
Is there brutal slowdown? Yes. Is it a "polished masterpiece" like Mass Effect 2? No. But I uninstalled Mass Effect 2 after 2.8 hours because it bored me. It had no soul. Humanity Asset was made by the Thai one-man-team Browny Application, and you can feel the passion the creator put into it. The levels are interesting and (insanely) varied--you never feel like you're crawling through the same old corridor over and over. There are lots of charming little touches, like the way that every enemy has a name. The list goes on: incredible boss fights, tons of secrets, great music, weapons with vastly different attacks. The game doesn't hold your hand at all (unlike the sanitized "retro" games people make now), but it's easy enough to figure out your goals if you pay attention to the well-designed minimap.
As a translation from Thai by a no-budget developer, Humanity Asset's script is in broken English, like many now-classic Japanese games from the 80s and 90s. Still, the writing has charm, and you can figure out what people are saying when you pay attention. That, by the way, is a big reason for the negativity in this game's user reviews: gamers aren't willing to pay attention anymore. They're trained to be guided by the hand around beautiful, sterilized environments. If you can't play a game without a direction arrow, or without cutscenes, then stay away from Humanity Asset. Its magic will escape you.
For everyone else, I'd recommend it. If it'd been released on the N64, it would sit on the sleeper-classic shelf right next to stuff like Mischief Makers. It's priced a bit high at $10, so grab it on sale--or get it for free, like I did. Once you have it, brace yourself for a messy experience... but a fantastic one, and one that, if you let it, might stick with you for a very long time.