Wot I Think: SpaceChem

By Quintin Smith on January 10th, 2011 at 1:50 pm.

Don't worry! It is, on occassion, not quite as complicated as it looks.

When I posted about indie puzzler SpaceChem last week, I wondered if we already had one of the year’s best indie games on out hands. Since then I’ve lost many hours to its incredible chemical conundrums, and I’m very excited to tell you Wot I Think.

Before we start this review, the first thing you need to do, right now, is ditch any preconceptions you’ve made off the back of SpaceChem’s chemistry-related imagery, or the fact that the screenshots look, at worst, like educational software. I can guarantee that you will learn almost nothing of any value, scientific or otherwise, playing this game. Your leisure hours are safe. If I have any chemists reading this, I can also guarantee that you’ll suck at SpaceChem as much as the rest of us. Sorry, chemists.

In SpaceChem you play a new employee of a profoundly sinister interstellar chemical company (called SpaceChem), with the story of your career being told throughout the game through well-written text vignettes. The actual game of SpaceChem is, quite simply, building circuits. Using an intuitive and satisfying interface, you whip up tracks for chemicals to travel down with the objective of carrying an entirely different chemical to the level’s ultimate destination.

At its simplest, let’s say a level provides you with oxygen atoms and expects you to build a circuit that produces a molecule made from two oxygen atoms bonded together (O2). That means you need to build a circuit which collects an oxygen atom, drops it off at the bonder, goes back and collects a second oxygen atom, takes it to the bonder, bonds the two atoms together, then drops the finished molecule off at the level’s output area.

That would look like this:

Starting from the big red circle, those smaller red circles are:

(1) Start
(2) Input zone alpha (causes whatever the level’s input atom or molecule is to be called in- in this case, oxygen)
(3) Grab (this square is where the “input” atom appears, so this instruction causes the oxygen atom we called in to be picked up)
(4) Drop (causes the oxygen atom to be dropped on this grey circle, a bonder)
(3 again) Grab again. See, I’ve just noticed I forgot to put a second “Input zone alpha” prior to this, so this would actually cause my circuit to grab at nothing at all. I screwed up. THAT IS THE KIND OF GAME THIS IS. We’ll continue as if I hadn’t screwed up.
(5) Bond! This would activate any bonders on the map, causing the oxygen atom I’m carrying to bond with the one I dropped directly below.
(6) Drop completed O2 molecule on this, the output zone.
(7) Activate output zone! Any molecules on the output zone now vanish.

See how it links up with itself at the end? That’s vital. You actually need to drop off dozens of finished molecules to complete a level, so anything you design must be able to run ad infintum. Unless you’ve made a hash of a level and are just praying you complete the objective before your machine breaks down spectacularly, but more on that later.

Now, something slightly more complex. Let’s say a level gives you silver and fluoride via two separate entrances, and wants you to bond them into silver fluoride. You actually have two circuits you can run through each level, one red and one blue, so if you used them together, one to drop off the fluoride and the other to bond it with the silver, your circuit would look like this:

Putting these tracks together is absurdly satisfying. It’s not just the pleasant clicking sound as you slip each new piece into place- realisations as to how to make the machine more efficiently, or precisely how to solve a problem bring on a sensation of deep joy, as does watching the completed machine run. When you finish a right bastard of a level, you’ll find yourself watching it tick for whole minutes. It’s the most satisfying thing in the world.

I should point out here that the above levels are simply how SpaceChem starts. Before long you’re knitting together tremendous knots of circuitry, the game having bonded itself with your brain, and the moment you think you’re starting to get the hang of things it introduces a new piece of machinery to pull the rug out from under you. Check this out:

That’s me breaking down double-bonded oxygen molecules and triple-bonded nitrogen molecules like a pro. Since both types arrive at random in the same zone, I’m using a scanner to send the oxygen one way and the nitrogen another. Laying that out again and again, gradually zeroing in on the solution, took me 40 minutes, and I loved every second of it.

Now you’ve got your head around that, I’ll move on to SpaceChem’s coup de grâce. On most levels, each of these circuits are only part of the puzzle because you can’t possibly turn the elements you receive into ones you need in the small space provided. Instead you position multiple factories, each containing a circuit hand-designed by you, and link them all up with pipelines. The result is something as absorbing as molten lava, and it looks like this:

This is where that “Hoping your machine runs until it breaks” enters the equation (jk). If certain elements (JK) of your process run faster than others, pipes can get backed up, and the moment a factory can’t output chemicals from its output zone you inevitably get a collision, ending the simulation. It’s possible to deliberately slow circuits down, but figuring out how is yet another puzzle.

A friend of mine once pointed out to me that good puzzle games make you feel smart, and the best puzzle games provide a sort of double-blow whereby first of all you feel smart, and then you’re filled with a feeling of respect for how smart the puzzle itself was.

By this criteria, SpaceChem could be the best puzzle game I’ve ever played. You never stop feeling awed by the game’s design, and when you complete a level you feel like some kind of floating, untouchable genius, not fit to eat the food of mortals. On the subject of eating, some of SpaceChem’s more challenging levels taught me that it is, in fact, possible to think yourself sick. I was so involved in these puzzles and found each breakthrough so rewarding yet so utterly draining that I started to feel nauseous. How’s that for a sales pitch?

But facetiousness aside, SpaceChem’s difficulty fast becomes quite intimidating, and I’m sure that lots of people playing the game will end up discovering a glass ceiling relating to their patience, perseverance and honest-to-god mathematical intelligence. Personally, I started getting exhausted at the prospect of what I was expected to do about twelve hours in- long after I’d gotten my $20’s worth, but not even half-way through the game’s levels. I’m sure I could press on if I just clicked the SpaceChem icon sat on my desktop, but that’s genuinely daunting. It’s the mental equivalent of trying to get yourself out of the door to go for a run.

It wouldn’t be quite right to call this difficulty a flaw of SpaceChem’s, because I’m sure the difficulty curve will be as appealing to certain nerdy gamers as it will be off-putting to others. A feature that will please everyone, though, is the powerful replayability of every single puzzle.

Whenever you complete a level a series of simple graphs show up detailing how fast your solution was compared to everybody else, and the same for number of components used. Your solutions are all stored by the game, so returning to your old machines to strip them down and replace convoluted mechanisms with elegant ones couldn’t be simpler. Inevitably you’ll end up creating new problems for yourself along the way, and you’ll have to come up with some new solutions. Which is the beauty of SpaceChem’s large-scale levels- depending on your chosen arrangement of factories and processes, you end up creating your own puzzles. I’d bet that the problems I was struggling with on the last level I played are nothing at all like what the next guy went through.

I’ve probably been talking about mechanics and molecules for long enough that you’ve forgotten that this is still a game with a story. Not only that, though, it’s a game with heart. Love has gone into every aspect of SpaceChem, from the writing and menus to the pacing and various dark surprises that litter the game. The music is exceptional, too- dramatic and confident enough to transform your confusion over why your machine won’t work into a heroic, almost defiant act.

In short, my initial impressions were right. This is an incredible game, and it absolutely has a place in the PC’s growing catalogue of glorious indie puzzlers. Alongside the shimmering, yet evasive brilliance of Braid, or the charming wit of World of Goo, we now have a straight-up genius. There’s no other word for it- like all geniuses, it can be demanding and even problematic, but there’s no questioning what Zachtronics has achieved here. This is top-of-the-line entertainment. If you’re a puzzle game fan, buy SpaceChem immediately. Everybody else should place $20 under a rock or something and download the demo, so that you will have $20 should you realise that you need the full version. I am telling you to place your money under a rock for this game.

Do it!

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103 Comments »

  1. Rich says:

    “you will learn almost nothing of any value, scientific or otherwise, playing this game”
    Indeed. The molecule in the heading picture is wrong for a start.

    Not that this doesn’t look like all kinds of fun.
    I’m only avoiding it because I know how much of my time it’ll eat.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Titanium dioxide?

    • Lambchops says:

      @ Ergates

      As Rich said, Titanium dioxide doesn’t look anything like that. It’s a massive repeating structure and there are several repeating units possible (if memory serves me correct the most common forms are called rutile and anatased). None of these repeating units are made up of anyhting like Titanium double bonded to oxygen. Indeed TiO2 is just the emperical formula But you’d never be able to make those types of structures in SpaceChem. It’s fine for the purposes of a puzzle game though.

    • Waltorious says:

      @Lambchops,

      The “massive repeating structure” you refer to is actually the crystal structure of titanium dioxide. The terms “rutile” etc. describe varying crystal structures of the material, analagous to the different crystal forms of water ice (hexagonal, amorphous, etc.). You are right that most of these structures do not resemble repeating units of titanium double-bonded to two oxygens, but actually have some fairly complex bonding.

      However, it is indeed possible to create a single molecule of TiO2 in the gas phase. There are varying reports of what this molecule looks like, with some claiming it has a bent shape, much like water. This would imply that it does not have double bonds. Such isolated molecules certainly do not occur naturally, but one could imagine that in the future (in space, even) it would be much easier to create isolated TiO2 molecules.

      I’m not sure the structures are supposed to be taken literally though; many of the alkanes shown in the game are not drawn in a way resembling their actual structure, i.e. with correct bond angles and so on. They are merely drawn with the correct connectivity (which admittedly is a common practice, but it still doesn’t resemble the real structure at all). They’re written more like chemical formulas than structures.

    • RockPaperCreeper says:

      It may not teach you anything about science, but it most certainly aids directly to logical thinking and structure in coding and circuitry.

  2. Wilson says:

    Thank you for highlighting this game! I almost didn’t bother trying it when RPS last mentioned it, but I did eventually grab the demo. It didn’t instantly blow me away, but I found myself coming back to it again and again, each time being pleasantly surprised by some clever mechanic or neat feature. I bought it not long after. It’s brought out feelings of pleasure I haven’t had from a game in a while, just a feeling of satisfaction and contentedness. I’m not quite sure how it’s so good, but I would highly recommend anyone except die hard puzzle haters give the demo a go.

  3. Bornemannen says:

    Well, you have at least one chemist reading this. Me :)

    Sounds very interesting but I doubt I’ll play this since then I’d be doing chemistry in my spare time and that would feel like work….

    • MartinNr5 says:

      Well, as Quintin points out, you won’t be doing chemistry (unless it has change very much since I did it back in school).

      This is very much “just” a game.

    • Lambchops says:

      Trust me it doesn’t. I can happily spend a few hours working away at a SpaceChem puzzle to relax after a hard day in the lab.

    • Bennus says:

      I’ve been thinking about recommending this to a uni friend (a non-gamer) now doing a chem PhD. But not long after starting the demo I realised it’s not a case of how much he loves his chemistry (and he really really does), it’s how much he likes programming, of which I don’t think he’s done any. So in a strange plot twist it appeals to me more (physics background).

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      Yeah ditto, as a chemist too I can confirm once more that it doesn’t feel remotely like working on any actual chemical problems.

      That being said, once you’re into the mind bendingly complex levels it’d hardly say it’s a good choice as a relaxing game. That, and being told after immense effort optimising it that your solution to the puzzle is at best only slightly more efficient than average, makes it something to tackle only if you want to be challenged.

  4. Wolfox says:

    I finished the demo last night (and I’m definitely buying it), but I came to a realization.

    Mechanically speaking, this is a “programming” puzzle game. The way you set up waldos in different “threads”, and the way you build their routes (loops with stops, branches, synchronization, etc), the way you connect reactors to each other by input/output (in much the same way you connect functions in a functional programming language) – all that is very much like programming.

    That said, the elegance of the UI and the fantastic visual feedback provided in the game make all this much more entertaining (and effective) than, say, writing an actual program in a fantasy language. Still, I’m saying all this because there might be other computer programmers reading, and if you’re one of them, let me tell you: YOU WANT THIS GAME. You’ll have fun and hone your programming skills in the process. Also, I think programmers will have an easier time with the game overall, as the skillset required is quite similar.

    TL;DR: if you’re a programmer (and like programming), buy this game NOW. If you’re not a programmer… try the demo, and buy the game if you like it :-D

    • Rich says:

      The whole thing makes me think of data manipulation software like Pipeline Pilot and KNIME.

    • jd says:

      As a programmer, I completely agree. Solving the demo’s puzzles felt very much like writing an algorithm, applying much the same process that I use when coding.

      Trying to build the whole at once then hoping for success is a fool’s errand. Instead you break the puzzle into smaller tasks, then focus on getting one small component working before moving onto the next.

    • MartinNr5 says:

      Well, I’m a programmer and although I agree with almost all that you write I would like to disagree on the opinion that this is much more rewarding than solving a malicious coding problem or squashing a troublesome bug.

      It is just as rewarding if you ask me.

    • President Weasel says:

      It’s already spawned a thread on the forums discussing solutions, and trying to squeeze out a symbol or two. I was engrossed by the demo, haven’t bought the full game yet but I am pretty sure I will.

    • Mctittles says:

      As a programmer I think I might have to play this next time I get some off time. I work a lot of hours and after coding all day I usually enjoy playing a non thinking game because my mind is mush :).

      Anyway, the things you mention lead me to another thought. I wonder if something like this could be transferred into a way for people to program. Probably not fast or efficient, but something to put in for say a level editor for a game. That way people could create the game logic and have fun at the same time!

    • faelnor says:

      Yes this is quite similar to things like Manufactoria. Awesome game btw.

    • Sagan says:

      I also agree with you. It’s very similar, except that this game manages to provide you with a more constant stream of interesting problems than real programming does. I would maybe disagree though that this is more entertaining than real programming, simply because real programming is “real” and you get to see something working in the end that you actually need.

      Also, I’ve noticed that I use a lot more syncs than other people. Probably a programmer thing. You bet that my machines could never back up and cause collisions that way, simply because I have a sync after every output.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Does look an awful lot like Informatica….

    • Hematite says:

      @McTittles: It seems a lot like SSIS, only the plot is different.

    • Josh Brandt says:

      Yeah, this is TOTALLY a programming game. It’s not unlike setting up a couple of 2-dimensional interlocking Turing machines.

      I have made it through the first few levels, and man. I wish I was as smart as I used to be.

    • Carra says:

      Downloading the demo now.

      And if it’s fun for programmers, I’m all ears :)

  5. Xocrates says:

    Sadly, I fear I’ve reached my glass ceiling last night.

    I still have the hope that one day something will click inside my brain and I discover a clever and elegant way to solve omega-pseudoethyne on the planet Flidais.

    Watching a solution work to a level you just completed is pretty satisfying however.

  6. CMaster says:

    That does indeed sound very, very awesome.

  7. Level85nerd says:

    Wow that really look awesome! This is exactely what a lonley guy like me needs.

  8. Pani says:

    I like the look of it but I think I’ll have to wait until it drops in price. Then I’ll be all excited about it long after everyone else has grown long bored of it.

    It’s always the way.

  9. Lu-Tze says:

    The summary graphs are a very very succinct piece of game design. They don’t give you some absolute position. The game doesn’t evangelise one particular category over the others. It leaves you free to chase your own improvements, and rate yourself.

    When you finish a level, you might be slow, you might use a ton of symbols, but you did it in just 1 generator, whereas some people were even using 4. 4! Hah! You are so superior to them. Then you finish a different level and find yourself ahead of the curve on the number of cycles it took, and you ignore that you used the most amount of generators and were totally average on the number of symbols because GODDAMMIT YOU WERE FAST.

    But there’s almost always a bit of curve ahead of you. You can see those 5% of people who made it even faster. HOW DID THEY DO IT. And you go in and you tweak, and you cut corners, and you sync sync sync until it flies like greased lightning. And still 1% of people were faster.

    In case it’s not immediately obvious… i’m obsessed. And even if my production line is slow, uses all the available generators and way too many symbols… maybe some of my solutions are elegant in the choreography with which they unfold. I’ve got a little factory here that spins out Methane molecules like some kind of nano-spider. The process is hypnotising, and whilst the rest of the system backs up behind it I can’t bring myself to change it because it’s beautiful.

    • Xocrates says:

      Ah yes, the “Wow, this is an amazingly designed reactor, but the rest of the bloody system just doesn’t bloody work” feeling. I sympathize.

    • Lu-Tze says:

      Oh no, everything else works fine. That’s the problem. Everything else is brutally efficient. Brutal to the point of the process being ugly. But this one factory at the end still has my original design for Methane production, which spins the molecule in such an elegant and hypnotising way that I can’t bring myself to smash it apart to make a more efficient version of it, no matter how much it’s inputs back up and gridlock the rest of the system.

    • Feet says:

      Clearly we need a youtube video of said beautiful nano-spider process, Lu. :P

    • Lambchops says:

      A million times what Lu-Tze said.

      Last night I solved the challenge puzzle “Going Green” with 3 reactors, which I thought was rather good going, only to find that somebody out there has done it in two.

      I decided I wouldn’t be defeated, came up with a really elegant circuit, only to find it was impossible for it to actually work. I almost quit in despair, time wasted, then I realised there was potentially another solution. Too tired to work on it I left it but I’m looking forward to going back to it tonight. I need to check whether you can leaved an output pipe going nowhere as long as you don’t fill it up first. If you can then I reckon I can do it.

  10. James says:

    Though I admit I’m not that interested in most puzzle games to begin with, I’d only really consider this at something like $5 or so.

    It does seem interesting, but not $20 interesting.

  11. Zanchito says:

    I’m a programmer, my friend is a chemist. Oh, the burns and competitivity we get from each other trying to design better solutions!

  12. Coins says:

    This is such a great game, the demo has me hooked. Yet, I’m so horrible at it that getting through the tutorial was a monumental achievement. I really wish I was better at it, or it would have been an instant purchase.

  13. Jimbo says:

    I just spent my last $20 buying a rock. So what do I do now?

  14. MartinNr5 says:

    I really loved the demo, might actually spring for this.

  15. radomaj says:

    Better living through SpaceChem.

  16. Daiv says:

    Without RPS I would never have heard of this game and Zachtronics would be $20 poorer. But RPS only got me to try the demo. It was the demo that stuck little waldos in my brain to twiddle my pleasure and purchasing nodes simultaneously (through use of both blue and red tracks and liberal use of the Sync command).

  17. Stuart Walton says:

    Even in the demo the time to reach a solution for each new challenge starts to rise exponentially. I hit the point where I could see that the next puzzle would eat up more time than I was willing to invest. So the demo was really all I needed really.

    The graphs at the end of a level are great. It’s a nice feeling to be ahead of the curve. And even if you you’re not, then the line showing your position is on the left side of the bar that you fall in, so it looks like you’re the best of that bunch (even though you’re not).

  18. Hentzau says:

    This is the best game I’ve played all year. That’s damning it with faint praise at the moment, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if you asked me again 355 days from now it’d still be the best game I’d have played all year. It really is that good. And while it might come with the caveat that it’s targeted at a very specific audience and not everyone will like it, the demo contains a couple of hours of play all on its own and should be more than enough to convince anyone on the fence to jump one way or the other.

  19. Sander Bos says:

    I have played the demo and like it, but it’s no trainyard (iOs only I’m afraid). Trainyard may be a lot simpler in its concept, but that also makes it much more accessible (while the latter puzzles still become incredibly hard).

  20. Lambchops says:

    Like Quinn’s i’ve been coming to the conclusion that this might well be the best puzzle game ever.

    And I love puzzle games.

    Not hit that difficulty ceiling quite yet and considering how much I’ve been enjoying this so far I might just be motivated to break through it.

    The evaluation graphs and Youtube videos sweeten the deal (it’s fun to see and learn from how other people have done things – though I always make sure to complete levels myself before viewing the efforts of others).

  21. Xocrates says:

    And now just because I feel like it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niz3faOxnqA

    (I was actually surprised when that thing worked)

  22. BAReFOOt says:

    > […], and when you complete a level you feel like some kind of floating, untouchable genius, not fit to eat the food of mortals.

    And people wonder why I love to code in Haskell. It’s that exact thing. It’s so incredibly rewarding when you’ve got maybe 20 lines of code, and they do something that feels like 500 lines of C, but yet it includes all rare cases, so that you would trust it to run on your heart-lung-machine. And being a programmer for 20 years, but feeling like it’s the first day when people talk about explicitly-kinded existential quantification of GADTs, applicatives, monads and whatnot. ;)

    > On the subject of eating, some of SpaceChem’s more challenging levels taught me that it is, in fact, possible to think yourself sick. I was so involved in these puzzles and found each breakthrough so rewarding yet so utterly draining that I started to feel nauseous. How’s that for a sales pitch?

    I have known that all my life. It’s simply some form of hunger. In my country, there’s a word for it that unfortunately is untranslatable. Did you also have the feeling of small bubbles rising from your stomach trough your [is it “gullet” or “oesophagus”?]. Eat something, but eat slowly, or you will get some bellyache you won’t forget that quickly! Maybe a soup.

  23. Navagon says:

    I just placed all my money in the bank. But then it’s the account that keeps Paypal fed so I suppose that’s the modern equivalent of bunging it under a rock.

  24. Shazbut says:

    I’m having trouble dealing with such a glowing recommendation and the fact that this game appears to be about as far away from things I enjoy as it’s possible to be.

    • trjp says:

      I’m with shazbut – I spend my life creating complex systems (be they websites, apps, games, stories or whatever) – what I do not need is a complex way of relaxing/having fun.

      People say that instead of wasting their life on MMOs they could have written a book/play/film etc. – the thing is tho, that’s nonsense because you could have done that at any time. Here tho, the same level of thought/effort/planning might actually create something useful!!

      A puzzle game is Drop7 – this is way, way beyond that and it’s territory I have no desire to revisit.

      p.s. making the tutorial explain WHY and not just what would be a great start…

  25. pupsikaso says:

    I’d like to stress two things that aren’t praised with enough weight in this article.

    One being the writing. This is very good fiction writing here. Not very good as in good writing for games, but just good writing in general.This is good as in good writing that you’d see in a short story anthology and the like.

    And two being the music. It simply can’t get enough praise. I mean the music alone is worth the $20. I really can’t put my thumb on it, because it sounds so familiar, yet this is original. It defies explanation. It starts out as an epic to some piece you’ve heard somewhere before, a movie, or something on the radio, or some grande piece from another game, and just as quickly as that familiarity hits you it is dispelled as it quickly turns around and starts doing it’s own thing.

  26. Chirez says:

    Man, I would really love to comment on this post and give you all links to some great flash games made by the same developer, but apparently I’m not allowed to, so… yeah, not sure what to do now.

  27. Fox89 says:

    I’m not a big fan of puzzle games. I like console style RPGs like Final Fantasy (amongst other things of course!), and when it gets to a puzzle I go “Oh here we go, time to grit my teeth and get this over with”. But after such a great write up I decided to try the demo and…well, I’m astounded. I’m still only on the 3rd bit of the tutorial but it’s absolutely genius.

    Gonna have to buy the full game now. Thank-you-very-much RPS for bringing this to my attention, I’m running out of money and now I have to spend more. Curse you for trying to enrich my life with brilliant but obscure games! :)

  28. Alex Bakke says:

    “A friend on mine [...]”

    ON WHAT, QUINNS

    ON WHAT

    …D:

    _____

    I managed to get into the demo somewhat, although I quit in frustration at some point, the second level I think?

    I’ll definitely return to it at some point, probably when I’ve levelled up in brain-o-mancy.

  29. brog says:

    This game is absolutely fantastic. I’ve been working through it very slowly over the last few days in between other things.

    Just got to the first “challenge” level, saw how you obviously need all three reactors to do it and it’s quite easy, did it without much trouble, then get to the stats and see.. WHAT.. someone did it with just ONE reactor? Then I went back and looked at the problem again, thought about it, and realised that yeah, there are two inputs, two outputs, it’s not that complicated really; I could visualise how it might work. Actually getting from my vision to the solution was.. not easy.. but I did it!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?hd=1&v=vZdztSor95s if you care; ’tis a pity that the recordings show the strategic view rather than inside the reactor.

    The problem I had with Manufactoria was that it felt like the physical laying-things-out-on-a-grid got in the way of the interesting computer-science puzzles; I felt like I was repeating assignment problems from CS220 with stupid constraints added. I’m not getting that feeling here so far at all – figuring out how to arrange things to fit on the grid makes me feel smart, rather than feeling that the game is stupid. I highly recommend it to any human.

    • Lambchops says:

      If I’m remembering the levels rightly I’ve seen a solution for that one that used just one Waldo, never mind one reactor! Mental.

    • Xocrates says:

      @Lambchops: And after a quick check, I find out it’s actually possible to change which entry/exit an instruction activates.

      I feel stupid now.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Heh – I accidentally fufilled the one-reactor requirement for the first challenge level on my first go, just because I didn’t realize that you had more than one reactor available. When the “challenge completed” notification popped up, I was surprised, then chagrined shortly after.

      Sorry the space constraints in Manufactoria got in the way for you, also. (Speaking as the creator.) I was pretty new to game development at the time, as well as the engine I was using; in retrospect, adding some form of scrolling (so there could be levels larger than fit in a single screen) wouldn’t have been too difficult, but I was intimidated by the prospect at the time. I hope you can forgive me!

  30. Ergates_Antius says:

    Whilst a knowledge of Chemistry might not help, I wonder if some experience of chemical engineering/process design might?

    Maybe we should send a copy to Dolph Lundgren and see what the says.

  31. LoveIsGood says:

    I really wish this was like $5 or even $10 because I’d love to get it, but it’s just too much money for me to spend $20 on this right now.

  32. Dominic White says:

    I liked the demo, but could feel that glass ceiling just a step or two above where I was, so I can’t really justify paying $20 for this right now – I’m pinching pennies wherever possible at the moment.

    Once I either have more money, or the price drops, I’ll definitely be grabbing it though. This game deserves every bit of praise it gets. It’s just not something I’m really smart enough to handle, most of the time.

  33. Synchrony says:

    I got the demo after the last article on rps about this game, played through all the puzzles, did them all again using as few parts as I could manage, and again using as few cycles as possible. still loving the game, so I’ve bought it. brilliant puzzle game, loving every minute of it

  34. Tom Camfield says:

    Grab/Drop the what now in the when? Nie rozumiem :-(

    It looks like the kind of thing where I’d need to read instructions to play, it’s far too late in the day to attempt that. Three day weekend though…

  35. Chirez says:

    SO many people saying ‘nice, but I’d rather not pay for it’, so once again but without links which appear to be the problem with the stupid spam filter…

    Go google The Codex of Alchemical Engineering.

    It’s a flash game by the same dev, and a precursor of Spacechem. Similar mechanics, and similar frustrations. No Synch function tho, so is considerably harder.

    Also check out his other games. Kohctpyktop is a fiendish masterpiece.

  36. Bassism says:

    Oh my god, this sounds so much more incredible than it did when you guys first talked about it, and it sounded pretty cool even then.
    Definitely grabbing the demo (Mac and Linux versions ftw!), and if I don’t find myself immediately frustrated due to my not liking puzzle games much, definitely a buy.

  37. phuzz says:

    Damnit, now it’s 3 hours later and I have to work in the morning.
    Damn you RPS!

  38. TomSmizzle says:

    I played the demo and had a great time, but told myself “oh no, this game will lose momentum 5 puzzles later. No way is it worth bothering with.”
    I have exams to study for.
    That this game is as excellent as its demo implied is terrible, terrible news.

  39. Edawan says:

    Quite an addictive game, but I’m afraid the demo is already testing my patience…

  40. malkav11 says:

    I stare at the screenshots of this game and my brain immediately starts shutting down. Similarly, I fired up a couple of the older Flash games from Zachtronics and I couldn’t even begin to process how to start to play.

    I’ma stick to DROD, I think.

  41. Bassism says:

    Gonna join in with the whole “So I went and played the demo” crowd….

    It hurts my brain in a beautiful way.

  42. TeeJay says:

    What is the opposite of “dumbing down”?

  43. SpinalJack says:

    @McTittles “I wonder if something like this could be transferred into a way for people to program. ”

    You mean like Visio (unity3D) or Kismet (UDK)

    http://forum.unity3d.com/threads/59121-Visual-Logic-Editor-(Antares-VIZIO)-(video-amp-screens)

    Drag and drop coding that’s pretty much as fast during run time as hand written code for the majority of tasks.

  44. Joseph says:

    Worth mentioning: This developer is the Infiniminer guy. As in, the guy whose game minecraft began, openly, as a clone of.

    I haven’t gotten to read the review or try the game yet, running to work, but i didn’t see any mention of that in the article or the comments and it’s kinda cool.

    Edit: Source about the minecraft cloneage, in case this isnt a widely known fact http://notch.tumblr.com/post/227922045/the-origins-of-minecraft

  45. jbgh2 says:

    If you ever have to explain programming to a non-programmer, show them this game. Or just one of the videos.

    I showed to my wife and she thought it was beautiful!

  46. Coded_One says:

    I took a bit of a different approach and seem to have gotten the most efficient single reactor solution of this level on Youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?hd=1&v=6cgIHUb1nZw

    HUZZAH! Jesus Christ this game is amazing.

  47. SuperUnheardOf says:

    This is a thing of beauty, but I can’t get the problems out of my head. May need to self-medicate soon. It seems like it gets a bit easier again once you’re on Haephastus. e.g. The Plot Thickens

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?hd=1&v=nywsBWPUfFk

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  49. ineffablebob says:

    Thanks to this article and the Humble Indie Bundle (which I just barely got before it expired), I picked up SpaceChem. And then spent way too much time last night playing it instead of sleeping. Excellent puzzle game.

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