Tricone Lab Combines Puzzles With Hard Science

I was terrible at science at school so it’s just as well games like Tricone Lab [official site] exist. It’s a puzzle game in which you “interact with the elements of a microscopic organism” en route to solving what it throws at you. As intimidating as this may sound, success hinges on the simple principles of thinking logically and how well you’re able to grasp its systems. Perhaps if games like this were a thing when I was at school I wouldn’t have failed Standard Grade biology.

Developer Partickhill Games has just released Tricone Lab on Steam Early Access and I suggest you learn more about it from them, not me, in the trailer below:

While encouraging lateral thinking, each puzzle has only one solution meaning you’ll arrive at the same conclusion each time eventually. That said, in order to solve each puzzle, you’ll need to interact with the components and structure of each organism – a process which can done/floundered with in any order you like until you strike it right. In doing so basic resource nodes are required to be combined with catalysts and whilst I’m aware this is beginning to sound like one of the many classes I slept through in my formative years, the game talks you through each newly introduced concept so as not to overwhelm you with jargon. As you progress, different elements are introduced.

Granted single-player looks fun, but the mention of a level editor in the above video has me most interested. As it stands, Tricone Lab already offers 100 fully-formed levels but is using Early Access to build on this level authoring slant, where you can expect to make your own custom puzzles and publish them for others to pore over online.

Tricone Lab is out now for Windows and Mac on Steam Early Access for £8.99.

5 Comments

  1. Jambe says:

    I fear I’ll be in over my head quickly, but this looks too neat to resist.

  2. mukuste says:

    But does it really use/teach scientific concepts, or does it just use the trappings of molecular biology as window dressing for a puzzle game? Somehow I suspect the latter. I mean, “the simple principles of thinking logically and how well you’re able to grasp its systems” applies to basically every puzzle game, ever.

    • partickhill_games says:

      @mukuste

      Hello, I’m the developer of Tricone Lab! The game is not intended to teach biological concepts. It’s not supposed to be an educational game, except in the sense that it promotes logical thinking, which as you hint, all good puzzle games should. At all times during development, my priorities were “gameplay first”. The puzzle design is central to the game. The biological connection was sort of accidental, as I’ll explain below.

      I set out to create a topological puzzle game where the player has to reason about and change what’s connected to what, in order to solve each puzzle. The reasoning is supposed to be quite subtle / lateral at times. One challenge was making sure the play area adapts to the changing topology, and my solution to that was the wibbly-wobbly fluid environment which you can see in the video. Accidentally, I ended up creating a game that somewhat had the look and feel of a micro-organism, and everyone who looked at it commented on that.

      I also had to put names on the game concepts that would stick. So I used “cell” from microbiology to refer to an enclosed region, because that fitted conceptually. I also pinched “catalyst” from chemistry / molecular biology because again that worked. Everything else is just named for what it is: “border”, “breaker”, “constructor”, “replicator” etc.

      There are some accidental, loose senses in which the mechanics are connected conceptually to real cell biology. Larger proteins (compound nodes in the game) are assembled from smaller pieces (resources in the game) by specific catalysts, which persist after the reaction. These large proteins perform a range of different functions, as compound nodes do in the game. There can also be metabolic pathways inside cells that disassemble proteins and other molecules, which would be equivalent to the negative cells in the game.

      • Molay says:

        So the tldr would be: I made a game about biology by accident.

        That’s pretty badass if you ask me :D

  3. partickhill_games says:

    Yeah, pretty much! Sorry for the screen screed B)