Spacechem: Not a Review

It's chemistry in SPAAAAAAAAACE!

Spacechem is the latest game from Zachtronics Industries an indie game developer. It only came out recently though I didn’t hear anything about the game until it went up for sale on the first day of STEAM’s Summer Camp Sale and some friends bought it; then they wouldn’t shut up about it. The game looked intriguing though it was hard to tell what was going on in videos of the game. I downloaded the demo and gave it a try.

The menu screen, looks safe.

An earlyish puzzle in the process of being solved.

I’ve been describing the game as a simple scripting language,¬† basic chemistry, flowcharts, and puzzle game mashed into one thing. The board is set up into four quadrants two inputs fields and two output fields. The player has control over two tracks with which they build a flowing script in order to transport, manipulate, combine and tear down atoms and molecules. As the game progresses you’ll have to create multiple chains of these “reactors” to create the desired molecule in complete a level.

A multiple reactor puzzle. Inputs on the left output on the right.

A more complex puzzle in the process of being solved.

What makes Spacechem more than a good puzzle game is the fact that the game keeps meticulous records of every puzzle you complete and how you complete it. This information is then compared with all other players and your place amongst them is shown. So, while any puzzle can be solved in just about anyway there are certainly more efficient ways to complete a puzzle, either using less commands, less time to complete, or less “reactors.” Solving the puzzles is only half of the game. The part that keeps you obsessing and coming back, the part that has me seeing blue and red tracks manipulating atoms and molecules in my sleep is the knowledge that I can do better. That while my puzzle is satisfactory it is not optimal. Therein lies Spacechem’s genius.

The notoriously difficult Moustachium-208 molecule reactor

In the process of being solved.

I heartily recommend the game to those who like puzzle games. If you do get it make sure to add me as a friend on STEAM (falselogic); I’ll want to see how well you do on some of these puzzles. Also, I’ll be on ‘On The Stick‘ next Monday¬† (7/18/2011) to talk about the game!