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MD!
05-11-2011, 09:40 AM
Just wondering, what would you guys recommend if I'm looking for a SpaceChem-esque puzzle or strategy game?

I really loved SpaceChem -- I think the reason it clicked with me so well had something to do with the transparency and fundamental simplicity of the system, but the challenge and complexity that arose from it. I have a really low patience threshold with strategy/puzzle games in which I'm not entirely sure what I'm even *trying* to do, and the process of working out how to do it is obscured by a lack of knowledge (or the tediousness of acquiring knowledge) on what each piece of the game does and how they interact.

In SpaceChem, each piece had a simple, obvious function, the rules of the gameworld were clear, and the difficulty was in applying the tools at your disposal in increasingly complex ways, rather than working out wtf was going on.

(I'm not really meaning to take a shot at other games here -- I'm actually disappointed in myself, because I'm pretty sure there's plenty of the stuff I like going on behind the scenes in other games, for people who are better than me at penetrating their surface complexity.)

Anyway, any suggestions?

sabrage
05-11-2011, 10:17 AM
I watched the SpaceChem tutorial absolutely mystified by what was going on, so your description of the "fundamental simplicity" really makes me wonder what I missed.

Heliocentric
05-11-2011, 11:22 AM
When you finish Space Chem I suggest you donate your brain to scientific experimentation, I'm still stuck on the eighth world.

Alternatively for a transparent puzzler I can wholeheartedly promote 'Blocks that matter', it's simple and can invoke time pressure but it's totally transparent and teaches you to play it. with its gameplay rather than 'WORDS YOU MUST READ'.

I must think on this.

pakoito
05-11-2011, 01:50 PM
Prism: Light The Way for NDS is a good follow-up.

vinraith
05-11-2011, 02:51 PM
Take a look at the Tidalis demo. At first glance it looks like a traditional match three game, but there's actually something much more clever going on there. It has a diversity of modes, but for a SpaceChem fan like you I'd recommend looking at the Puzzle Mode, which essentially asks you to solve an entire grid in one or two very well placed moves.

Anthile
05-11-2011, 03:57 PM
http://projecteuler.net/

CMaster
05-11-2011, 09:57 PM
http://pleasingfungus.com/#!/Manufactoria

Much like Spacechem, it's basically a programming challenge dressed up.

Cable
05-11-2011, 10:24 PM
I watched the SpaceChem tutorial absolutely mystified by what was going on, so your description of the "fundamental simplicity" really makes me wonder what I missed.

Yea I played the demo and felt pretty lost and i'm not normally clueless with puzzle games.
I got the whole game in a humble bundle so i'll devote some real time to it sometime soon and try and figure it out maybe I just wasn't going about it in the right way.

Oh and on topic i've enjoyed the couple of hours i've spent with Cogs so far it's quite a clear and simplistic puzzler at the beginning but builds up complexity on top of that quite well i thought. I don't know if that's quite what you're looking for though.

MD!
05-11-2011, 10:44 PM
Thanks all! Don't have a DS, unfortunately, but I'm checking out Blocks that matter, Tidalis, Project Euler, Manufactoria and Cogs.

@Heliocentric: The trick for me was my natural lack of qualms about creating bodgy solutions. For the difficult levels, my task wasn't "solve this in an elegant, intellectually pleasing way" but "solve this in any manner possible". (Short of cheating or getting help, obviously. But several of my solutions were hilariously inefficient, and sometimes pretty much a result of throwing symbols around semi-randomly until something good happened.)

The guys who should be pressured into brain-donation are the ones sitting there optimising their solutions to everything, including the overwhelmingly complicated levels. I haven't met any of them in person, but I infer their existence from my sense of extreme inferiority when I look at the leaderboards.

@sabrage and Cable: I guess it's partly a personal thing. I have a brain that clicks well with certain types of problem, and is quite an idiot when presented with others. I'm not a real programmer, but that type of logic makes good intuitive sense to me, and as CMaster suggested, SpaceChem is sort of a series of visualised programming challenges. I would say though that even if it doesn't immediately make sense, the learning wall will be small and worth climbing over.

nayon
06-11-2011, 04:21 AM
Trainyard if you have an iOS device http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWtIb7NEYgM it has that programming feel that SpaceChem has. The trailer doesn't really sell it but it's very reminiscent of SpaceChem.

MD!
06-11-2011, 08:30 AM
Ooh thanks, looks interesting. I don't have an iOS device, but I might try to convince my sister to get it for her iPod touch.

Heliocentric
06-11-2011, 11:36 AM
Oh, and how do you feel about bridge building physics games a la World of Goo or Bridge Builder.

MD!
06-11-2011, 09:22 PM
I wasn't aware of Bridge Builder, I'll give it a look. World of Goo didn't grab me. I was pretty sad about that, because everyone was raving about how lovely it was, and I'm not averse to charm and whimsy. But I guess the mechanics just didn't do much for me. I keep thinking I might give it another go one day though.

vinraith
06-11-2011, 10:03 PM
This may be a strangely oblique suggestion, since it's more of a strategy game than a puzzle game (well, more of a board game than anything really) but you might want to check out the "Bronze" demo from Shrapnel as well. It's a tile placement/flipping game, sort of a historically themed and more complex version of Othello or Go. The campaigns are very much constructed as puzzles, though, where it's necessary to figure out the best series of moves by which to end up in control of the bulk of the 8x8 board. No idea whether it would scratch your itch or not, but I thought I'd mention it.

http://www.shrapnelgames.com/Dreamspike_Studios/BRZ/BRZ_page.html

MD!
07-11-2011, 06:26 AM
Man, I am surprised by how much I enjoyed that. I nearly bounced off it immediately because it looked like an RTS/city builder, but I thought, no, have faith in Vinraith!

Played the tutorial and then the demo campaign (on Historical, which seems to be the 'fair' level -- are the campaigns in the full version balanced around this, or are there higher levels that handicap the player? I'm guessing that's not necessary, given that it could be done by map design alone).

I'm keen for more, but also a bit of a tightarse so I'm still mulling over the purchase. I presume you would recommend it given I enjoyed the demo? Anything I should be aware of regarding the AI, number/diversity/quality of campaigns, difficulty levels etc?

And thanks for all the other suggestions, everyone -- so far I've bookmarked Manufactoria as a possible direct replacement for SpaceChem, and decided to use Project Euler as an excuse to learn Python.

vinraith
07-11-2011, 06:38 AM
There are 10 campaigns, I believe "historical" is actually the hardest setting, but that only really reflects how much time you're given to complete a campaign (that is, how many times you can afford to fail) and so in the early (easy) campaigns it's really not at all relevant. The scripting and map design increase in challenge as the campaigns go along quite nicely, and each civilization plays quite differently, so it does an excellent job of staying fresh. The AI in the campaigns is deliberately heavily scripted, so that the maps play consistantly to allow the player to "solve the puzzle." However, in the tournament and survival modes (which are quite robust on their own merits) the AI is free to play it's "best game" if you set it to do so, and let me tell you its best game is a hell of a lot better than mine right now. The designer of the game has a history in AI programming, so that's definitely not a weakness here.

For the sheer volume of content and the uniqueness of the design I think it's worth the asking price, but that's me. Frankly, keeping small teams that make these sorts of games in business is very much in my own best interest, so I don't mind the price tag.

MD!
07-11-2011, 06:59 AM
Sweet, thanks for that. I don't know if the developers of the various indie games you advocate here have you on some sort of kickback program, but they should.*

And yeah, regarding the price, it's not a question of justifying $30 for this versus a similar expenditure on some sort of 'AAA' release -- I know I will have more fun with this, I just have to think a bit before spending $30 on any game. (Too many rash purchases in the past, combined with not a whole lot of disposable income at the moment. Not that I'm complaining, obviously I'm fortunate to be able to afford games at all.)

*Note: In case my tone doesn't carry via text, that was a joking way of saying you're good at targeting and justifying your recommendations. I'm not actually accusing you of being in the pocket of Big Indie. :p

vinraith
07-11-2011, 02:58 PM
@MD!

Believe me I completely understand. $30 is not an impulse purchase. I think it's absolutely worth it, but whether it's worth it to you and within your means right now only you can say. Regardless, I'm glad you enjoyed the demo, it's always nice to get the word around on obscure but brilliant little strategy titles. :)

As to kick backs, I should go have a chat with the Arcen guys about that. :p

DigitalSignalX
07-11-2011, 03:50 PM
I really wish Little Big Planet would come out on PC. The puzzle vids on youtube are awesome.

Vexing Vision
07-11-2011, 04:01 PM
The one thing I genuinely love about Space Chem - apart from the appealing simplicity of the mechanics, sorry, I studied turing-engines once - is the ability to design my own puzzle solutions. They're mine. I am not required to find the perfect move. I am not required to spot the exactly three things I have to click in the correct order to solve the problem. I can design my own solution, which may very well be entirely different from anyone else's solution.
That makes the game so very, very appealing to me.

Do any of the suggestions in this thread scratch the same itch?

riadsala
07-11-2011, 06:31 PM
The one thing I genuinely love about Space Chem - apart from the appealing simplicity of the mechanics, sorry, I studied turing-engines once - is the ability to design my own puzzle solutions. They're mine. I am not required to find the perfect move. I am not required to spot the exactly three things I have to click in the correct order to solve the problem. I can design my own solution, which may very well be entirely different from anyone else's solution.
That makes the game so very, very appealing to me.

Do any of the suggestions in this thread scratch the same itch?

YES! Very much so. I wish more puzzle games, (and more puzzles IN games) were like this.

I always felt the puzzles (such as they were) in HL2 came close to this sort of thing, but then it's like the developers shied away from it and just made another see-saw balance puzzle.

pakoito
07-11-2011, 07:01 PM
The one thing I genuinely love about Space Chem - apart from the appealing simplicity of the mechanics, sorry, I studied turing-engines once - is the ability to design my own puzzle solutions. They're mine. I am not required to find the perfect move. I am not required to spot the exactly three things I have to click in the correct order to solve the problem. I can design my own solution, which may very well be entirely different from anyone else's solution.
That makes the game so very, very appealing to me.

Do any of the suggestions in this thread scratch the same itch?I recomended Spacechem to most of my classmates because deep down it is a game about programming, and can help you improve. Avoid deadlocks, keep the flow, make recursive calls...

Peter Radiator Full Pig
07-11-2011, 08:47 PM
I love puzzle games, but I still havent found one like SpaceChem, though I tried one today that seems to allow you your own solution.
Made by Derek Yu, he of Spelunky fame.
Its called Diabloka (http://www.derekyu.com/?page_id=158).
Im not saying its quite the same, or as good, but it seems to have scope for your own solutions.
That was one of the best things about SpaceChem. There was no one right answers, just different ways of getting things done. I also love optomising my puzzles, though I think the fact that all my puzzles need to have low amount of cycles and symbols keeps me from really getting a good score in both. I usually do well enough according to the leaderboard.

riadsala
16-11-2011, 04:40 PM
Oh, I forgot to mention, Frozen Syanpse has a surprisingly good single player campaign, and can be thought of as a series of puzzles that need a solution.