What? Um. Hello. Hello there. You might remember me as the woman who plays MMOs and occasionally RPGs. And yes, those games were fun. There were dragons and elves and treasure and sometimes I rode a crocodile for a mount. But now there are no other games. Now.. there is only SPACECHEM.
Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s true that the game has grabbed hold of my brain and won’t let go. SpaceChem was released in January of this year, and it appeared in the Humble Bundle deal in September. I blythly opened up the game for the first time on Thursday looking for a quick puzzler, and according to Steam I have lost 18 hours to the thing so far and I really have only just begun.
SpaceChem is essentially a puzzle game that uses logic and spatial reasoning. There are two “input zones”, where specific chemicals appear, and two “output zones”, where specific chemicals are removed. Your job is to lay out two tracks that execute commands such as grab, drop, and turn. Yeah, okay, it’s tough to explain but it feels pretty intuitive while you’re doing it. This official trailer helps a bit.
If you have ever done some coding or programming, you’ll recognize the logic patterns right away, although you don’t have to be a programmer or math major to play the game. (Lord, it might help on some levels though.) There is no one way to complete a level, and a great deal of the fun is in going back to previous levels armed with fresh tricks and optimizing old solutions. You can compete against your previous performance, or compare yourself against Steam friends.
The whole game is about trial and error — I end up completely scrapping my plans and starting fresh at least twice every level as I figure things out. SpaceChem is super tough, and few people complete it. I don’t know if I ever will! However, this is truly part of the game’s charm. At the beginning of almost every new level I look at the requirements and throw my hands in the air. “What?! I can’t do that. I’m not some wizard. Man, screw this game.” And then I start poking at it, and then I think about it, and then eventually when I complete it I feel like some kind of engineering god. Seriously, you will possibly never feel as good about yourself while playing a game as you feel when completing a particularly fiendish SpaceChem level.
Most of the rules are pretty obvious, but here are a few tips I picked up that made my life a lot easier as a novice player:
- Almost every command has a contextual menu if you right click it on the board.
- Bond commands do not have to be placed on a bonder.
- If they’re on the same square, the red track will execute a command before the blue one.
- The red track can use the input/output commands for the blue track, and vice versa.
In conclusion, if you like logic and puzzles run to Steam and buy SpaceChem for $15. (There is also a free demo.) If you do, friend me on Steam so I can be shamed by your solutions.
PS: I killed 3 new-to-me Firelands bosses over the weekend, so I haven’t totally forsaken other games for building molecules in space. My general opinion so far is that.. I am still really rusty and sucky at healing, particularly holy. Argh.