That’s Gas: SpaceChem Available On Steam

A pyramid scheme, yesterday.

As long as we’re talking superfine indie games, SpaceChem, the finest puzzle game 2011’s seen to date (and arguably the finest indie game, too) has arrived on Steam. Anyone who hasn’t yet tried the demo (available in Windows, Mac and Linux flavours) should physically drop what they’re doing to do so immediately. Yes, even if it’s tea. I don’t care if it’s tea and you’re drinking it directly above your child. What’s your child doing there! Download this demo!

What are you even doing here? Look, have you read my Wot I Think yet? It goes like this:

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?

And, because I’ve got nothing left to give, here’s the trailer again.


  1. gutenbergn says:

    Should give the game a pretty big boost in sales. Really good for them and totally deserved.

  2. Jad says:

    Back when this game first came out my computer was dead so I couldn’t try it out. Now my computer is undead, but my videocard is still fried. So, basically: is this game playable on a computer with a nice processor but really shitty onboard integrated graphics? It looks like it should. If so: I will download the demo the moment I get home.

    • Colthor says:

      Works fine on my laptop’s integrated Intel X3100 or whatever it is. It taxes your brain, not your graphics chip :)

  3. stahlwerk says:

    Yes. Thanks for reminding me that the demo is waiting in my MacBook’s steam library. Will play it later this evening. I hope it doesn’t mind GMA 950.

    Edit: Battle report, re: GMA 950 graphics. The Game runs (sadly not a given with most mac games in steam), and it does so well… -ish. There’s occasional stutter in cursor movement, and the window + decoration + menu bar seems to be just a tad taller than the 800 pixel of most apple 13″ laptops. Fullscreen mode solves that problem, of course, but relies on the hardware’s scaling, which looks like ass.
    Fun game, and I will buy it, but like Tacroy VVVV I fear for my productivity.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Battle report, re: GMA 950 graphics. The Game runs (sadly not a given with most mac games in steam), and it does so well… -ish. There’s occasional stutter in cursor movement, and the window + decoration + menu bar seems to be just a tad taller than the 800 pixel of most apple 13″ laptops. Fullscreen mode solves that problem, of course, but relies on the hardware’s scaling, which looks like ass.
      Fun game, and I will buy it, but like Tacroy VVVV I fear for my productivity.

  4. President Weasel says:

    The demo is free, so please try it out if you are
    a) Jad
    b) not Jad, but haven’t tried Spacechem yet.
    I really enjoyed the demo, and even though I “temporarily” stopped playing the full version after only a couple of levels, I still feel like I got more than my money’s worth just from the demo. Please, please try it if you’re on the fence. Then restart the old Spacechem thread on the RPS forum and we’ll discuss it with you.

    • Tacroy says:

      I bought SpaceChem recently because it’s at $15, which was my purchasing price for the game (I seem to have a moral objection to spending more than $20 on games, it’s kind of weird).

      Anyway, I started playing the full version, but I just couldn’t do it – I’m taking a class that’s basically electrical engineering design, and my brain only has enough resources to either do the homework for that class or do SpaceChem; although SpaceChem is significantly more fun and interesting, if I play it I won’t do the ECE homework, and that’s bad :(

    • Sassenach says:

      I took a break at the space station’s final stage so that I could mull it over and figure out how on earth I was supposed to do that with only 3 reactors. That was over a month ago, I reckon. The thing is, I think I could probably manage to figure out what it wants me to do, but the shameful prospect of having to admit being definitely bettered by it is too much to contemplate.

    • Thants says:

      The demo is free, so please try it out if you are
      a) Jad
      b) not Jad, but haven’t tried Spacechem yet.

      This game is so hard, you’d have to be Fraa Jad to beat it.

    • Blackberries says:

      Sassenach – I am in much the same boat. I think I may have finally hit my difficulty ceiling with the finalé to Atropos Station. I spent what was probably a full hour puzzling over it, but I’m really stumped. I had to resort to YouTube solutions to prod me in the right direction for the stage immediately prior to it, too, but I wouldn’t like to do that twice in a row. I may return to it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever crack it. I get the feeling this one requires some very precise solutions.

  5. aequidens says:

    It’s like Pipe Dreams and Atomix got a baby.
    It doesn’t look like it needs much of a videocard.

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      could run fine, but somehow i couldn’t run it at netbook resolution 1024×600, maybe that’ll be fixed in the future.

  6. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    I would hope that those who bought Spacechem directly from the developer would be able to activate it on steam at some point, even if that is not the case yet. Y’know, in an AI War kind of way…

    I’m not that far into the game myself, and am completely and utterly stuck at the moment. But it was immense fun and very rewarding. Steam has it listed as “casual”, however whenever i played it, i couldn’t do anything else, even some music in the background distracted me from my scientific pursuits and had to be turned off.

    • liance says:

      I can confirm that activation is available from steam for all those that bought the original game. All your saved games are preserved as well. Hooray for chemistry!

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      This is most excellently news indeed. maybe I’ll nw get around to overcoming that intelligence barrier by pure determination…

  7. Morph says:

    Might be the only game where I got stuck trying to do the tutorial levels. Afraid to say the game made me feel so much like an idiot I gave up.

  8. airtekh says:

    I did try the demo of this back when it was first announced, but after the first few levels it started to feel like I was doing homework.

    I also have an inherent dislike of games that tell me: “Well done! Your solution is adequate, but look how much it sucks compared to these other people.” It makes me feel like I shouldn’t have bothered at all.

  9. drewski says:

    I’m definitely going to pick this up eventually, but it’s not quite at impulse buy level just yet.

  10. MiniTrue says:

    No, that’s terror.

    Number two: that’s terror.

  11. Bennus says:

    Dangery, that’s cheaper than when I bought it during their promotion the other week. I would hope at least more of my hard earned/stolen coffers went directly to Zachtronic Industries than if I’d bought through steam.

  12. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Don’t listen to Quinns, Do not buy this game!
    It will eat all of your free time until all that you can see in front of your eyes is the reactors going round and round and round.

    Of course, if you have copious free time and you weren’t planning on leaving the house in the next month or two then dive right in, it’s great!

    I did spend about a week literally dreaming about this game, it has this way of getting under your skin and you’ll wake up at 4 in the morning thinking “Hey, I know how I could cut an entire reactor out of this level, wait a minute, it’s actually 4pm and I’ve missed a whole day of work”.

    • Blackberries says:

      Oh lord, this. In the fortnight after I purchased it, near every time I closed my eyes I would see Waldos circuiting, grabbing, dropping, breaking, spinning and fusing. In the semi-lucid fuzz of just-falling-to-sleep or just-waking-up, my mind would awkwardly and confusedly try to apply SpaceChem logic to real-world problems. ‘If I get up and boil the kettle at this moment, then I need to make sure I sync when taking the milk from the fridge…’

  13. suibhne says:

    At least Stateside, it’s debuting on Steam at $15 (and is now listed at that price direct from the dev, too). Looks like Zachtronics took the opportunity of the Steam listing to lower the game’s MSRP a notch – it used to be $20.

    • jonfitt says:

      The fact that it’s dropped to $15 for me is as much of a big piece of news as it being on Steam!

      I loved the demo but for some reason $20 put it into the “I’ll buy it later” pile. $15 tips the balance.

  14. Dare_Wreck says:

    I often like puzzle games, but am I the only one who looks at the trailer and can’t decipher what the heck is going on? I felt that way the first time Quinns brought up this game.

    …Oh wait, a lot of the comments on the YouTube page containing the trailer express the same problem.

    • Daiv says:

      Unfortunately there is no simple way to show the game. It’s not like there are cutscenes or flashy graphical effects, and there is no way to encapsulate in trailer form the “I made this”.
      Did you ever play The Settlers? The ones where you build long production chains because you want to build a building, so you need some territory, so you need a sword, so you need steel, so you need iron and coal, so you need miners, so you need bread, so you need a bakery, so you need flour, so you need a windmill, so you need wheat, so you need a wheat farm, so you need water so you need a well, so you need stone so you need a quarry, so you need planks, so you need a sawmill, so you need wood so you need a lumberjack so you need a tree planter? Spacechem is the meticulously-designed version of that production line.
      When Spacechem works it’s like watching ten thousand little ants marching in carefully choreographed dance, to music you wrote.

    • jonfitt says:

      Try the demo! It’s fairly long, introduces things slowly and is well worth trying.

  15. Popish Frenzy says:

    Also released on steam in the last few days: Bit. Trip Runner, Dinner date and Night sky. Been a good week for indies.

  16. Utgaardsloke says:

    SpaceChem is one of the best, smartest games I have ever played. You just feel so good about yourself after solving a puzzle, the game makes you feel that you have really accomplished something after each successful reactor you construct.

  17. Inigo says:

    I would like to meet the person or persons that comprise Zachtronics Industries.
    Then I could repeatedly drag a rusty knife against their genitalia until it dawned on them that perhaps a “reset level” button may just possibly be a good idea, and that an installation program that traps me in an infinite loop of failed unnecessary .net framework downloads is a BAD installation program.

    • Raidhaennor says:

      I thought that too (about the “reset” function) until I discovered the following : it’s possible to select all elements on the screen by creating a square around them (the same way one might select multiple units in a RTS), and then hitting the delete key. This will effectively reset the level.

  18. Vinraith says:

    SpaceChem is brilliant. Now if I could just figure out how to get past those first levels on Hephaestus…

  19. Lambchops says:

    SpaceChem is fantastic. Only reason I haven’t got further through it is that it was consuming me until the early hours of the morning, meaning that I was horrifically tired whilst trying to perform bog standard earth chemistry!

    i will go back to it sometime as i was absolutely loving it and hadn’t hit the difficulty ceiling yet.

  20. zino says:

    Glorious day. I need Steam to keep track of my digital licenses, so this is good news indeed. I can finally play beyond the demo!

  21. Coins says:

    SpaceChem is the best game I can’t play at all. I’m much too stupid for it, but boy is it fun!

  22. MadTinkerer says:

    Hooray! Once again, patiently waiting for Valve to get their act together and approve another good Indie game means that I only have to buy it once on Steam instead of buying it twice.

  23. pakoito says:

    I hate when I have to say, “I would buy this game instead of pirating it if it wasn’t SO FUCKING EXPENSIVE”.

    This is one of those. I’ll just wait for a bargain weekend or something and buy it.

    • Thants says:

      Dude, it’s $15. Complaining about the price seems pretty silly.

    • Dominic White says:

      Not only that, but as far as puzzle games go, it’s pretty huge. It’ll take most people well in excess of 15-20 hours of play, which is fantastic value for $15.

    • adonf says:

      Yeah but think of the money you would earn if you worked during these 15 to 20h instead of playing and add all this to the $15 price tag.

  24. Oak says:

    Game hurt brain.

  25. superjag86 says:

    BTW if anyone bought SpaceChem directly from Zachtronics Store, the key given is valid for use in Steam!

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      This means of course, that if you buy from the developer at, that 1. the developer gets more money and 2. you get to keep more money, as it is 15€ on steam and only 15$ at, and you still get to activate it on steam.