Do you remember when I wrote about Gondola? Did you tragically lose a half a day to its rapacious mechanisms?
Well, I nearly didn’t get this piece about SpaceChem written. I didn’t want to stop playing long enough to write it. So be careful, it’ll eat a chunk of your day (or even days) and it’ll eat twenty bucks. You might also be afflicted with high levels of intellectual stimulation and fun. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Something I am often heard to say is that good games let you create your own systems.
SpaceChem is all about that.
It has a great soundtrack too, and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. That’s all you need to know. I’ll get back to gaming now, okay?
Oh… alright… let me just finish this bit off.
What? You’re still here?
Okay, okay. Let’s get to it.
SpaceChem is by Indie developer Zachtronics Industries, and is – so far as I am aware – their first non-free game. Their other games include The Codex of Alchemical Engineering, Rukingenur II, The Bureau of Steam Engineering, and KOHCTPYKTOP: Engineer of the People. Heck, they’ve got cooler titles than most studios have cool games.
SpaceChem “A tale of ungodly profits” is a puzzle game in which you set up systems to move, combine or separate atoms and molecules.
There’s a story that slowly unfolds throughout, and I don’t think it has any spelling or grammatical errors. So, wow.
So, take some atoms or molecules and make other molecules, using a simple toolset to create a sort of nano-tech production line that feels like digital alchemy. With the inputs and the outputs clearly depicted, it doesn’t seem hard.
But blimey, if’n I didn’t feel awesome when I figured out how to assemble formaldehyde. Seriously. And acetylene. I was bursting with pride.
Right at first it is daunting, but you figure out how to accomplish it and move on. You’ll learn more and more, and wind up mastering some clever tricks that you wish you’d figured out earlier.
Always learning. It’s good like that.
But it isn’t just take A (or A and B) and make X. As you go, you’ll actually wind up making chains of facilities, and the order and pattern of your inputs to one may well depend on the order and pattern of your outputs from another. I’m just finding that out, as I struggle to make H2 with three rather disparate hydrogen atoms. I can’t just throw one away, I’ve got to figure out how to layer in another set of states in the bonding process. So… still working on that, and I might have to retrofit the previous parts of the production line.
The images here just don’t do this justice. There’s a video, though, and that might help.
In fact, the game allows you to create and share videos of your accomplishments, and rates the efficiency of your solution on graphs of the aggregate results of other successful players. That’s actually kind of cool.
Sound good: Check.
Music: Won’t grate on you. Check.
Graphics: Functional and attractive. Check.
Makes you think: Several million checks.
Multiplatform: Wincheck, Maccheck, Lincheck.
Cheapish: A most valueful check.
Serious coolness: Serious check.
Fine. Good? Now pardon me. I have to go and refit my molecule pipelines.