Archive for the ‘SpaceChem’ Tag

Indie Games, Part 2!   Leave a comment

Welcome to Part 2 of the Indie Games special! I’ll be covering another two games in this part, with another two games coming in the next part. You know the drill, so let’s not waste time!


SpaceChem is a strange beast. Have you ever owned a game which you can’t describe to your friends no matter how good it is? SpaceChem suits that category perfectly – so much so that I’m struggling to think of what to say. So, here goes.

In SpaceChem, on a basic level – you’re given two outputs and an input. The outputs will spit out atoms – these will either be on their own, or bundled up with other atoms in the form of bonds. The inputs demand that you place a specific molecule inside of it, which is created by making specific bonds between the two outputs. For example, the two outputs might spit out a bond between two oxygen atoms and a hydrogen atom respectively, and the input will demand that you create water for it.

The method you go about performing the construction of these molecules is through a input-based system. If you’ve ever used those robots that ask for a sequence of inputs before it dashes off and performs what you’ve told it to do, you’re halfway there already. The game consists of two grabbers, each of which sit upon their own line. The grabbers will move along the line in a loop, which you get to dictate where it goes. The player can then place specific commands on segments of the line, telling the grabber to grab an atom, drop an atom, wait, signal the other grabber to stop waiting at its wait point, or activate the bonding grid.

The bonding grid is important, because this allows you to construct your molecule. You can activate it on either line at any time, and you can choose to either create a bond, or break it. Players have to juggle their atoms in the bonding grid and time the bonds just right to ensure that everything goes without a hitch.

The pleasure of this game comes from the game’s encouragement to not only find the solution, but find an efficient one. Players can just make a working system and be done with it, but the game will also point out how other people did on their play-through, which encourages the player to make an eve more efficient system to beat their scores. This is, however, totally at the player’s discretion, and there are no punishments for making a slow system – all of it counts.

Another great feature of SpaceChem is that only the outputs, inputs, and their zones are static – the place where the grabbers start, the lines, the commands, and even the bonding grid can be moved and customized. The advantage of such customizable puzzles over more narrow, corridor-minded ones is that you get to develop your own solution to the puzzle, instead of trying to work out the developer’s sense of logic and following it. Here are three solutions to the same puzzle, uploaded using SpaceChem’s YouTube capabilities:

As you can probably see from the above video, the molecule you finish just has to be the same as the demands in terms of bonds between atoms – the actual shape can vary.

This kind of puzzle design is great, because it allows people to find their personal routes for the puzzle and share the knowledge with others. It’s a massive sea full of creativity and “Why didn’t I do that?!” moments which brings out the best of each puzzle.

You might be feeling a little confused right now as to what this game actually plays like. Do not worry, as the creators have also picked up on this and released a very sizable demo for you to try! I highly recommend this game for all people who enjoy being kept up at night because of a good, noggin-scratching puzzle.

SpaceChem can be bought on Steam for £8.99 ($14.99) or the SpaceChem official website for $15 (approx £9) at time of writing. There are demos available, which can be downloaded from Steam or the official website from their respective store pages linked above. SpaceChem comes with a single-player mode, and a custom puzzle downloading feature with a library of user-made puzzles.

Project Zomboid

Project Zomboid is a cursed game. The development studio behind it, Indie Stone, have had several accounts of PayPal and Google Checkout freezing their assets, and even a car blowing up outside of their office, causing a quarantine. On time of writing, the game has been taken offline when pirates found a flaw in the system and pirated the game en masse. To be short, there’s been a lot of issues with the development of this game!

Despite this, the game itself is incredibly solid. Indie Stone is quick to warn you that the playable version of Zomboid right now is an alpha build, and that “This [build] does not reflect the quality, depth or feature set of the finished product. It is not intended to be hours of gameplay and is only a peek at where we’re headed”. They then plead for their alpha testers to “be gentle!”. I find it funny that they put this in, mainly because I can’t be anything but gentle with this game. It’s brilliant, even at a tech demo stage.

Project Zomboid starts with a small story-driven segment where the protagonist has to tend to his wounded wife in a zombie-infested town. The story itself has no weight on the actual game itself and does not need to be followed; it does, however, give a useful and well-needed tutorial to those starting out in the game. When the player finished the story (which comes to an abrupt and short end), the player can then head out into the zombie-infested town and try to survive for as long as they can.

Project Zomboid has no “mission failed” or “you killed an important NPC” screens – the only one that will force you to restart the game is the one dictating your own death. Because of this, Project Zomboid isn’t your atypical zombie-based, story-driven action game. It’s more like a zombie sandbox. Don’t like your wife and want to burn the house down with a molotov? Go ahead! Accidentally let zombies swarm the safe-house? Whoops! None of these cause the game to go “No, no, wait, stop. You’re not supposed to do that. Do it again”. It’s all legit in the games eyes. The only constraint is your own survival.

Your survival will be harder than you first think. Hunger and tiredness play a big role in the game, meaning that players set up safe-houses in order to store their food, have a safe place to sleep in, and a storage house for any precious cargo they found on their scavenge. If you run around and swing a weapon around too much, you’ll become tired-out and find it harder to escape the zombies. Being damaged means taking care of your wounds with bandages and painkillers, else you bleed to death. Getting on the wrong side of some of the town’s now-crazed citizens may earn you a slug in the temple. Having a zombie suddenly come into your vision at close range will panic you. Make one mistake when outside, and it could cost you your life. It’s a deep experience that you can’t find anywhere else in a game, and it is definitely a must-try to those who want a game where they are free to make their own decisions.

Given how the game is in a tech demo phase, it’s definitely worth a try – however, the old method of purchasing the game has been taken down. But fear not – at time of writing, Indie Stone have released the version they took down for purchasers as a public tech demo, which you can download from here! If you enjoy the game, please make sure to keep track of their development and pick up the game when it’s ready to be purchased – after all that Indie Stone has been through to get this game made, the least we can do as consumers is pick it up when it’s released!

Posted June 22, 2011 by galenor in Indie Games, Reviews

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