The Games Of Christmas ’11: Day 22

Twenty two Christmases, all at once!

As the Advent door creaks open, a pungent smell pours out, causing eyes to water for miles around and entire species of flower to wither into extinction. Sorry about that. Something has clearly gone horribly wrong but we’ll just have to try and put it all back together again, step by step, and hope the reaction isn’t one of total disappointment.

It’s… SpaceChem!

Adam: Space Chem is not for everyone. What a gloriously preposterous thing to say. Show me any game in our stuffed-full-of-goodness Advent calendar that is for everyone. Show me anything in the world – other than the smooth and buttery taste of Bastion Bourbon* – that everybody enjoys. You can’t do it because you’re not everyone and you don’t know the fellow who is.

The reason I place the useless caveat before talking about Space Chem is because it’s the only game I’ve played extensively this year that casual onlookers mistake for some form of punishment or work. Dots zooming around on a screen that looks dangerously like a programmable circuit, with my good self hunched before it, grimacing like a man who has inadvertently sat on a part of his own anatomy. Any interruptions during a particularly complex level can cause me to unleash such a torrent of foul abuse that I may as well be spewing raw sewage in the faces of those who would dare bring me a cup of coffee or a handkerchief with which to mop my furrowed brow.

That may seem like a comment on the obtuse difficulty of the puzzles but it’s not. Not really. Sure enough, as progress is made and multiple complex reactors are required, SpaceChem can give the stoutest of brains a stern workout, but my aggressive streak is fuelled by the intense concentration required rather than the elusive nature of the solution. There are problems, in life and in gaming, that cause me to throw up my hands and admit defeat. I have a very low capacity for solving anything that requires spatial awareness, for example. Visualising and manipulating objects of specific size and shape is incredibly difficult for me. My brain rebels against the notion so I walk away.

I’ve never walked away from SpaceChem because it all makes perfect sense to me. It’s just that later on, the amount of systems in play, all relying on one another, can be very daunting indeed. Combined with the amount of time I can spend on a level, that complexity means that when a task is complete and the circuits are humming away at top speed, there is a relief such as I rarely experience. The 94% of my brain that was devoted to maintaining an overview of how each new link or alteration might bring things to a grinding halt is suddenly free again. I am immediately an intelligent, sentient being again rather than a calculating machine purpose-built for a specific role.

SpaceChem turns me into a machine that is more capable of complex interconnected thoughts processes than the human version of me.

It just keeps getting better as well. Not only the addition of a sandbox mode, which I haven’t had a proper chance to try yet but love the idea of, but the fact that the game tracks stats from every player. Not only does that provide an extra spur for greater glory through efficient science, it also highlights the ridiculous and diverse ways in which its possible to solve each challenge. There will always be someone who has found a more elegant or more insane solution than you thought possible.

I’ve not even touched on the crisp, clean visuals, which communicate everything effectively and with a neat simplicity that fits the world like a particularly snug glove. Or the music, which is fantastic and often stirs me on to greater feats of heroic chemical bonding.

I shan’t leave without mentioning the story though. I often think I’d enjoy more puzzle games if they had a narrative framework, however slight. It’s the carrot that keeps me going, while the seventeen sticks of brain-ache beat my legs into a bloody mess of splintered bone and meat pudding. As long as that carrot looks delicious enough, I’ll drag myself on, with a slug-like trail of viscera in my wake.

SpaceChem doesn’t need that carrot because it may well by my favourite puzzle game of all time. But there it is – a lengthy story that’s very well-written indeed, with a sense of humour and a darkness to it. Although its approach is very different, with text and static graphics as its building blocks, it has some elements in common with Portal 2’s narrative, focusing as it does on experimentation, and an odd and sometimes disturbing corporate history.

I haven’t enjoyed a puzzle game this much for years, if ever. The complexity of solutions combined with the fact they will be your solutions rather than the games is a mark of the intelligence dictating the entire design. To a certain sort of person, SpaceChem is more than just a series of challenges; it’s a set of finely calibrated tools for creating brain-teasing fun of the most satisfying sort.

* Sponsor’s message: Today’s Advent Calendar entry is brought to you by Bastion Bourbon, which puts more fight in you than any other beverage, keeping you hale and hardy against even the toughest odds. I wouldn’t normally sign a sponsorship deal but with Christmas coming, I’ll need plenty of strong stuff to drink and it’s a good excuse to talk about Bastion. I didn’t get to do that yesterday when the others were singing its praises because I was trapped in a shopping centre packed full of people as foolish as myself who had left off buying gifts ‘til there was hardly any time to do so. I was thinking of Bastion the whole time though. I love it dearly.

There are words in the next paragraph that may well spoil aspects of Bastion’s story and since this is a post about SpaceChem, it might be the last place you expect to see them. You have been warned. Skip past the paragraph and picture below if you are avoiding such talk.

Bastion is a game in which an old man tells lies to a kid who stocks up on liquor to keep himself from giving up as he traverses a fragmented world, collecting an arsenal of increasingly murderous and unpleasant weaponry to kill everything that has managed to survive a genocidal act of horror. It’s a game in which the player is rewarded with a pair of bellows which burn the life out of everything natural that grows, walks and flies, and later with a cannon that harnesses the very power that nearly brought about the end of all things, a device that should be dismantled and destroyed rather than turned against other creatures. It’s a game with enjoyable combat, cleverly varied weapon load-outs, a beautifully told story and the best soundtrack of the year.

OK. I’m done. Just ignore that previous paragraph if you don’t care about Bastion or don’t want to risk knowing more than you should before playing it. And then go and play the demo of it. And the demo of SpaceChem if you haven’t already. Then buy them both and have a very lovely Christmas indeed. SpaceChem wins the mind, Bastion wins the heart. It’s been a heck of a year and there are still two more entries to go!


  1. :ghiacciato says:

    God, I REALLY need to play this more often. Especially now with the new sandbox mode.

    • archimandrite says:

      It’s such a brilliant game! I keep meaning to go back to it as well.

  2. Elltot says:

    Spacechem people!

    Now I only half enjoyed it (probs as I am stupid), but at least it’ll shut some people up about it not being on the calendar.

    • rocketman71 says:

      Oh, no, now we’ll complain about SpaceChem not being game of the year :P

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      Spacechem check. DXHR and Skyrim remain.

      I think I’ll be now focusing on WHY IS FROZEN SYNAPSE NOT ON THIS LIST?!

    • Vorrin says:

      Yep, I had a sort of moment of exultation when I saw today was Spacechem, so I won’t have to make good on my threat of losing RPS one reader if that didn’t happen… phew :D

      This game is incredibly ace btw, I think it is the game that most of any other, gives me a serotoninic rush whenever I complete a really hard level, which is quite surprising, I would have more expected that to happen better with, dunno, a well orchestrated and heroic massacre in tf2 or similar, but no, the puzzler wins at serotoninic rush.

    • kinglog says:

      Much like Half Life 2 to me, DX:HR was a good and solid but not great game. It is one of the few AAA games I paid full price for on release and I don’t regret it but it’s not the gaming-life milestone that Deus Ex (or Half Life) were.

      The quest dialogues were irritatingly repetitive. There should never be a dialogue option “end quest” – how hard would it be to say “thank you for your time” or “pleasure doing business”?

      I love Trine and Synapse but hope Synapse gets in – it’s what I always wanted Breach or Deadly Games to be. Trine is great but more of the same.

  3. CheesyJelly says:

    Oh gosh. This is just making me want to play SpaceChem again. And Bastion! If my precious time wasn’t already being deprived enough by the ridiculous Steam sale…

  4. Moni says:

    SpaceChem is basically “Programming: The Game”. If we had SpaceChem and one of those Raspberry Pi things for every student then the future of the software industry would be on really good ground.

    Also YouTube integration is great, every game should have it.

  5. pakoito says:

    I have recently been in several IT interview processes and I must say there was little difference between the code tests and what this game asks of you. I love it but I hate myself for not playing it enough…it got too frustrating around the 7th world.

  6. rocketman71 says:

    FINALLY!!! \o/

  7. pkt-zer0 says:


    This game is great at doing what it does, and there are few others that even attempt to do something similar. Quite possibly the best puzzle game I’ve ever played.

  8. Lambchops says:



    Excellent write up Adam. I skipped the Bastion bit as I’m only a few hours into it now (thanks to all the RPS commenters who assured me it wasn’t like Diablo – you were all entirely correct and wonderful) and don’t want it spoiled. But yeah, Spacechem and Bastion have been bookends to a great year of gaming for me.

    I still have a fear about starting playing Spacechem again though – I just might not stop.

    • President Weasel says:


      I agree.
      If you are reading this and have not played Spacechem, I really, strongly recommend that you play Spacechem. It is deeply absorbing, and capcable of delivering great joy as you find solutions. The Youtube integration is brilliant, and you can play it any way you like – just finishing the levels, trying to find the solution with the fewest moving parts or the one that does it the quickest, or playing at the same time as some friends and comparing solutions.
      Don’t be put off by the screenshots, it’s a lot simpler to play than it looks (although some of the later puzzles are properly byzantine).


  9. Lambchops says:

    Oh and also for those not interested in Spacechem why not have some idle speculation – Human Revolution or Skyrim? Which will prevail?

    Having no intention of playing Skyrim and having only got to the first hub of Deus Ex before getting fed up of mouse lag I don’t particularly feel in a great position to comment but it seems like a close call. There’s been praise and complaints about both (crap UI for Skyrim, awful boss fights for Deus Ex). i wonder what will tip the scales one way or t’other.

    Personally I reckon Skyrim’s going to nab it. Place your bets now!

    Then go download the Spacechem demo! You damn well should be interested.

    • Phinor says:

      Skyrim is winning GOTY awards everywhere so it’d be nice to see Deus Ex get some award recognition but I’m quite sure Skyrim is the RPS GOTY just like it’s everywhere else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that choice. Both games had some technical issues and among those issues were mouse problems so at least that’s even :)

      On the other hand, I’m not enjoying Spacechem at all. It’s just one of those games for me..

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      Certainly: Skyrim
      Possibly: Frozen Synapse, Human Revolution, Magicka, SpaceChem, Trine 2
      Dead Island made it in, so…: The Stanley Parable, Gemini Rue, Rock Of Ages, Limbo

      Still tipping Skyrim for the big one.

      To be honest I still think the other slot is a lottery at this point. DX:HR is the obvious one, but there’s a bunch of great games which still haven’t had a run (including many not listed above). Besides, if I remember correctly DX:HR didn’t get the warmest of RPS receptions upon release – positive, but not glowing. Whereas Synapse and Trine 2 were both showered with praise. To me that makes tomorrow’s slot a race of at least three.

      I also wouldn’t rule out a completely random leftfield entry, a la Lego Star Wars, as they do seem to enjoy fucking with our heads.

    • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

      I’m hoping for Deus Ex for GOTY. Partially because it is an underdog for a GOTY award in year of such worthy contenders. Personally, I find the more I reflect on the game and think about it, the better it becomes (always an excellent sign, much like my opinion of System Shock 2 or The Witcher 2) whereas Skyrim unfortunately exposes more of its artifice and the vast world, filled with promise becomes smaller and too familiar.

      Don’t misunderstand me, I still think Skyrim is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played, but Deus Ex; the sheer achievement of such a game as a debut from a studio which had to be created and staffed during development, yet whose developers are now comprise my favourite studio is an astounding achievement. I mean there are developers that have worked ceaselessly for over a decade, never quite coming to terms with deadlines, aesthetics, environmental storytelling, quality-assurance and, or writing, yet Eidos-Montreal got it right the first time (except for boss fights, which in fairness only comprise a fiftieth of the game).

      Even the Missing Link DLC, shows a degree of developer introspection that I have seldom seen, everything about it rectified criticisms of the main-game; more reactivity to lethal or pacifist playthroughs, a compelling boss character who could be left alive and more verticality in the level design.

      I would go on, but I should probably save more thoughts for HR‘s calendar mention.

    • Knufinke says:

      The way they report about any boring shit loosely connected to Skyrim it would be a miracle if anything else is No.1, really.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      I liked both, but if you compare epic fail boss battles and that 3 button pick your ending vs. crappy UI and characterless companions… DX deserves second place.

      I’m also surprised Magika isn’t getting the love, it technically qualifies as a Jan 2011 release date.

  10. Tams80 says:

    Are all you whiners happy now? Spacechem is on the list and is a great game. Now stop your postulations of what other games will be on the list in the comments and leave them in the forums.

    I really should play more Spacechem.

    • Chris D says:

      Very happy, thank you for asking. But come on, the fun of making a list is in arguing what should and shouldn’t be on it. It’s not like talking about it takes up valuable comment space that’s needed for other things. (If it did then surely complaining about people guessing what’s on a list is out for the same reason.) Also RPS positively encourage speculation on the front page features bar. It’s only incorrect guesses that anger horace.

      Anyway, have a mince pie, and you’re right, we should all be playing more SpaceChem.

    • Meat Circus says:

      They forgot about Frozen Synapse. YOU MONSTERS.

  11. ThTa says:

    This game reminded me of doing complex flowgraphs in CryEngine 2. Along with the statisfaction of finally finishing it and wringing out those last few flaws, seeing it in action, then deciding “Well, guess I’ll move on to the next one.”
    And that last bit is crucial, because for all the fun winning a level brought, starting anew seemed to invoke feelings of regression, rather than progression. You worked hard on that last level, getting everything right, and now you have to “start from scratch” again.

    I knew I’d have fun again eventually, but every new level I started after the first few seemed like a hurdle. Especially since it’d take me longer and longer to even get a general idea of what I was supposed to do. But I’m not sure if there’s any possible game mechanic that could resolve that issue, for me. So I’ll still heartily recommend it to anyone.

    And I guess I’ll have to start it up again, now.

    • LTK says:

      But the fun thing is, with each new puzzle you solve, you learn more of the emergent mechanisms that make it easier to complete your sub-objectives, like passing a waldo through an input square twice, synchronizing unbond commands to seperate double-bonded atoms, or alternating a reactor’s output to send two different molecules through one pipe. It’s entirely possible that you don’t know what I’m talking about, and the mechanisms that you learned worked best are entirely different from mine. And that’s fantastic!

    • MondSemmel says:

      Also, you can save and copy reactor designs, so sometimes a well-solved puzzle can make a puzzle later on easier or quicker to solve.

      And on the other hand, once you have solved a few more puzzles, you can often go back to earlier solutions, despair at the complexity and unelegance of what you your previously considered a masterpiece, and improve it immensely within a few minutes.

      That’s one of the reasons Space Chem is brilliant. (And I still haven’t even finished it – I’m halfway through world 8 (of 9).)

  12. Tacroy says:

    Adam’s blurb about how SpaceChem turns him into a rage-spewing homunculus is pretty much exactly why programmers have a bad reputation. I mean, imagine being in that state all day long, except it’s even worse because you’re not dealing with some toy system that was designed by a kind and compassionate man; you’re dealing with a horrible conglomeration of code that has been slowly accreted around a festering wound of a problem space, each layer carefully crafted with all the hatred and despair of people who know what they do is wrong, but they just need to hit that deadline.

    But man, it’s even more addicting than SpaceChem.

  13. MasterBoo says:

    50 hours into SpaceChem on my steam. What a wonderful game. Had to skip the new user-made puzzles though, too much and too complex :P

    Well, I guess the 2 remaining games are DHXR and Skyrim (shame about Frozen Synapse).

  14. Hillbert says:

    Review scores are always fairly meaningless as there is only one true way to determine the worth of a game.

    “What is the average percentage of coffee left to go cold in your cup?”

    On this metric, SpaceChem scores very highly indeed.

    • ThTa says:

      “Review scores are always fairly meaningless as there is only one true way to determine the worth of a game.”

      This cannot be repeated often enough.


      In fact, I think I’ll start applying this grading system to all elements of my daily life. This very comment I’m writing, f’rinstance, may attempt to convey a meaningful message; but its formatting, punctuation and grammar leave much to be desired. The font is tried and true, but has started showing its age. Additionally, it uses odd contractions like “f’rinstance”, which may or may not be fixed with the next edit. Its attempts at humour come off as forced and distract from the overall experience. Finally, the use of caps-lock shows that the creator has had trouble keeping up with the latest developments in commenting.

      Story: 6.2
      Viscerals: 4.5
      Readability: 5.2
      Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

      Verdict: Fans of this genre of comments may find enjoyment and see its potential. But we recommend people to hold off until it drops in bandwidth-requirement and the creator applies some much needed edits.

    • alexheretic says:

      Firstly let me say that review is unfair. I read that comment when it was in beta and, although it was incomplete, I thoroughly enjoyed it even then.
      You have made the mistake many self-reviewing comment reviews have made.
      This is comment was never meant to be single-comment only, it was designed to be a multi-comment experience. As such clearly it deserves at least 4 out of 5 stars.

    • Grygus says:

      This review of a review of the review process is trite, unoriginal, and unnecessary. The visuals suffer in comparison to the best-looking review of all time, which means it is ugly and unacceptable. There isn’t even an attempt at humor unless your tastes are so dry that you need daily saline infusions. Lastly, it calls itself a review but reviews in 1982 were different and therefore this one is disqualified.

      I award it no points, and the author should be summarily banned and then murdered.

  15. airtekh says:

    Nice to see Spacechem here, it is very good.

    Not my favourite puzzle game this year though, I got more fun out of Portal 2 and Trine 2 to be honest.

    • Vorrin says:

      well, they are both nice games, but puzzlewise I don’t think either can hold a candle to Spacechem.

      I liked Portal 2 a lot too, but if it had been just about the sort of simple and fixed-solution puzzles alone, I probably would have actually despised it. And Trine 2 didn’t work on me, nice graphics, nice animations, nice everything, but I found it boring.

    • airtekh says:

      Spacechem does have some nice puzzles, but I found it to get very monotonous after a while. The same grey background, the same red and blue lines all over the place and the same music on repeat the whole time.

      Contrast with Portal 2 and Trine 2 which are both laced with colour and sound, that’s probably why I like them better. Also, Portal 2’s co-op is probably the best co-op experience I’ve ever had in a game to date.

    • LTK says:

      When the music gets too familiar I just turn it off and play my own music instead. Still got the Spacechem soundtrack in my playlist though.

      Just out of curiosity, how far through the game did you get?

  16. fauxC says:

    I was really enjoying this till I got stuck on a boss and the logic of the game seemed to change. It was probably my mistake though.

    Then when I went back to it I forgotten how to do even simple manouvers and noe feel likeI have to start at the beginning again :(

    • LTK says:

      I had the same problem when I played the demo. You’re right, suddenly the victory conditions are all different, which can be hard to grasp when you’ve invested so much energy in learning the basics. But if you read the instructions on the boss levels carefully, you can always figure out what exactly you’re supposed to do. After I bought the game in a humble bundle, I gave it another shot and did manage to make sense of it.

      Honestly, the boss levels in this game do so much to break the monotony. I bet this game would get really dull if you didn’t have to, spoiler alert for a future boss fight, nuke a giant squid once every few puzzles.

  17. rubybliels says:

    So many things I love about Spacechem.
    The way you solve a level one way, then go online and see that other people solved it in completely different ways.
    Those moments of realization, when you go from “this is impossible” to “of course, that’s how you can do it”, which the game is chock-full of.
    Solving a level in a mess of symbols, then later going back to optimize and realizing there was a really obvious design you hadn’t thought of that is way more efficient.
    The graphs showing your performance compared to other players. I have never felt compelled to replay levels by a high score list. It seems pointless, I’ll never get anywhere near the top. But Spacechem’s graphs compelled me. “Wow, I did worse than average, I can improve that … I can at least do better than average … It shouldn’t be too hard to get to that next peak” ect.
    Having the solution to a level come to you when you’re not even thinking about the game.
    The way that every problem can be broken into smaller problems (reactors in production levels, waldos in reactors, different tasks in the larger picture), so that you are never stuck with nothing to do.
    That really satisfying conclusion to the level as the waldos run your instructions, just nearly missing collisons.
    Clever user made levels, allowing me to make surprising discoveries long after I “beat” the game.

  18. Juan Carlo says:

    I have this game and fully intend on playing it someday….but, I keep putting it off.

    Maybe I’m just scared that I’ll really suck at it. I feel like an idiot enough in my real life, why do I have to feel like an idiot in my virtual life as well?

    • LTK says:

      The beauty of Spacechem is that it makes you feel like a genius every time you complete a puzzle, even if your solution is the most cackhanded and clumsy way to complete the objective. Every level has its Eureka moment, and it’s incredibly rewarding even though the game tells you a second later that you were smack-dab in the middle of the bell curve. Even being average feels awesome.

    • Veracity says:

      There was an interview with Mr Barth wherein he acknowledged this (everybody gets to feel good about themselves) was very explicitly considered when he was thinking about the graphs that loosely constitute the game’s scoring. You can optimize for speed or efficiency, but they’re mutually exclusive, so even a fairly bad solution aiming for one looks much better than a serviceable one that was aiming for the other.

  19. Mitchk says:

    Gotta stop reading these advent calendar posts and their comments; my list of ‘want’ games is getting ridiculous!

  20. Oozo says:

    While I consider myself not the dumbest person alive, I do know that there are certain areas of thinking that I do not excel at (much like what Adam described for himself re: spatial awareness). Somehow, SpaceChem seems to find a direct way into those under-served centers of my brain.

    I tried the demo when it came out, and ran into a wall. I was just giving it another try (since I bought it in bundle), but once again, I find it a bit unaccessible.

    Might it be that it’s not the best teacher there is? I mean, there were points in the tutorial where I was pretty much unable to understand even what the game wanted me to do, much less how to do it…

    I don’t know, maybe I have been spoiled by more intuitive tutorial designs, or I am just a bit dumb. I just think it could be more inviting in those very first moments – it’s easy to see how much potential there is, once you have gotten the basics really down.

    • alexheretic says:

      The hurdle exists, true, but jump it and you’ll join us supping on the sweet juices of relative elitism.

  21. nullward says:

    I know you’re going to say you warned us, but for those who skim quite randomly, it’s disappointing to see parts of an entirely separate game spoiled in reading this posting. If I could suggesting bolding the bit about SPOILERS, I think others who have not yet played Bastion would appreciate it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      I have added more bold. More bold fixes everything. If you read that paragraph and haven’t played Bastion, don’t think of it as too great a blow. It’s a game with enough ambiguity and imagination that my vagueness shouldn’t summarise or cripple the narrative.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      That’s quite a bold statement, Adam.

    • kemryl says:

      Adam’s continuing mission: To spoil strange, new worlds. To seek out new games, and spoil them. To boldly go where no spoiler has gone before.

  22. Carra says:

    The best thing about the game is that you invent your own solutions. Take the solutions of ten people and they will all be different.

    I also enjoyed playing Limbo this year but that’s more of a “WoW” moment puzzler. There’s one solution that the developer came up with and you have to find that one. Spacechem is more about thinking of a solution and then implementing it. And the second doesn’t come easy if you did the first one.

    • LTK says:

      Oh so true. The easy part of the game is knowing how to fit the molecules together. The hard part is figuring out how to fit them together in the limited space of a reactor, with only two waldos, only two inputs, only two outputs, only 4 or 8 bonders, and only five or so reactors that themselves have to fit on the designated construction zone.

  23. LTK says:

    The last puzzle I completed in Spacechem was the manufacture of the ruby crystal. I spent weeks dabbling on the solution, filling my college notebooks with configurations of different subunits for the target molecule, and finally managed to complete it with three control points in one reactor that produced three different subunits, and I had to monitor it all the time. I felt like I moved a mountain after completing it.

    Then I looked up a youtube video with the solution, one that did it with one. lousy. sensor reactor. Makes you feel kind of stupid, but the gratification for completing a particular arduous task is nevertheless substantial.

    It’s really taxing on my brain though. After completing a puzzle I always have to take a break to recuperate.

  24. Outright Villainy says:

    I’m incredibly bad at SpaceChem. Or rather, impatient by nature I guess. If there’s a really difficult, single reactor puzzle, I’ll suss it out and beat it good, but when it comes to several reactors with multiple outputs it all seems like a bit too much effort for my easily distractable brain. The game is ace though, absolutely. I keep coming back to it now and again to see if I can get some inspiration for some particularly devious puzzle, though I’ll usually have to start over because my own half baked convoluted solution will just confuse me more. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone, if just to see what a real puzzle game is like, that puts the puzzle aspect in giant 50 foot neon letters. You have to think. Hard.

  25. Zankmam says:

    O.K., so all of you got your Spacechem… I have no clue about the game, so mneh!
    The aesthetics looks great though, so I am somewhat interest.


  26. InternetBatman says:

    I enjoyed Space Chem for a little bit, but it contains most of the negatives of programming as well as the positives. It’s incredibly fiddly, with some 4 or five reactor levels requiring some major reworks for small problems. A small improvement that would make the game mechanically easier while keeping it conceptually difficult would be if they told you where molecules were going to enter when they were coming from one of your other reactors.

    • MondSemmel says:

      I don’t understand that request. I think that’s already implemented. Right click (I think) on the right/left sides in a reactor screen, and you can specify exactly what you think will exit your reactor, and where.
      You can also activate tooltips for the “overworld” map with all the reactors, so that pipes will display the molecules you produce.
      Or did you mean something else, and I misunderstood you?

    • InternetBatman says:

      I might have missed a toggle, but when you are fed molecules from a source already created with a level it shows where the molecule comes in on that little guide screen on the right. I could be completely wrong, or have a specific bug, but when you are getting molecules from a reactor you made into the reactor you’re making it doesn’t show where they come in on the board.

      I had to redesign some pretty complex reactors because I was off by a square, even though by algorithms were fine. Which is pretty much my exact experience with programing, I would get the math / algorithm right and all the modules would work right, but it would be hell to make them work with each other. I find the math / algorithm part very stimulating but find the frustrations of making it play nice too much for me to really enjoy programming, which is pretty much my experience with spacechem.

    • MondSemmel says:

      As I was saying, that’s already implemented. In reactors you create yourself, you can manually set your desired output molecules and input molecules by right clicking that “guide screen” (either on the left, or on the right). You can even specify multiple outputs, set the amount of bonds etc.
      For example, on that “guide screen”, you can specify that one H atom leaves your reactor, say, on the bottom left corner of the 4×4 output area. Then you make the reactor so that this actually happens. Then you connect said 1-H-reactor to another one, and no matter whether you connect it to the alpha- or beta- input zone, the 1-H-atom will come in exactly in that bottom left corner, and the “guide screen” there will display it like that.
      Setting the “guide screen” is completely optional, but it helps a lot in levels where you have several reactors.

      I hope that helps. Actually, I think this explanation was part of the reactor tutorial somewhat at the beginning of the game, but I guess it’s easy to miss/forget if you haven’t played for a while.

      (I’m not a native speaker, so I apologize if my explanation was needlessly confusing/complicated. If I wasn’t clear enough to be understood, just ask me again.)

  27. Shooop says:

    Oh fine then, I’ll try Bastion.

    Happy now?

  28. li says:

    I don’t have time to read through all the comments right now, but I want to comment before the post ages too much.

    This is my favorite advent chocolate so far!

    I want to quote Zach from his interview with RPS:

    The combination of clear goals and well defined tools with lots of potential for emergent behavior creates an environment where you are constantly learning and discovering new things. This is something your brain rewards you for

    This sentence might have changed my life..

  29. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Was I the only one expecting Atom Zombie Smasher to be in the top 25? One of the best of the year for me, and RPS *seemed* enthusiastic about it.

    • Lambchops says:

      Can’t say I expected it to be there but it would have been lovely to see it as it was a fine game indeed. But with strong competition to fill the calendar’s indie quotient (Bastion, Binding of Isaac, Dungeons of Dredmor, Spacechem, the also sadly missing Frozen Synapse) it was always going to be tough.

    • drewski says:

      I thought it was a chance, but never anything like a certainty. There was a bit of buzz around it when it came out but everyone seemed to move on pretty quickly.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I didn’t think of it as a strong contender, but it’s a very fun game in it’s own right. It’s especially fun once you have all the artillery leveled up and you can just bomb the shit out of cities.

  30. drewski says:

    Someone let me know when this is on sale. I’m intrigued, but I’m quite stupid, so I don’t want to pay many monies for something I may not be able to make head nor tail of.

    • Chris D says:

      The demo is pretty generous if I recall and should give you a good idea of whether you’ll like it or not. I suspect most people feel the game gets too complex for them at some point before the end, but I also think most people feel like they’ve received value for money long before reaching that point.

      It’s also £4.68 on Steam right now. I know money can be tight around this time of year and there’s a lot of cheap games to choose from them but that’s still a pretty good deal.

  31. rfa says:

    When you complete your first “Impossible” level the feeling is better than the best drug.

    Because you (& only you) did it.

    [I registered ONLY to make this comment]

  32. Donncha O Caoimh says:

    Finally forced myself to play this game this morning and enjoyed the tutorials. Brain feels bruised. I wonder how it’ll cope with later levels?