Saturday, September 15, 2012

SpaceChem Mobile [Zachtronics Industries] - $5.99

Puzzle games are some of my favorite types of iOS games, but unfortunately, with the crazy amount of them that’s available in the AppStore, like so many other genres, it’s kind of hit & miss when it comes to finding one that’ll keep me interested all the way through. However lately, there’s been a couple that I’ve sunk my teeth into, and just can’t get enough of. Splice, Blast-A-Way, Oh Hi! Octopi!, Linkies, Slydris and one that managed to slip under my radar when it was released because I didn’t have an iPad at the time, SpaceChem. I was introduced to SpaceChem by a fellow Touch Arcade member when praising Splice, and I’m incredibly glad that it was brought up, because the Zachtronics Industries release has definitely gotten it’s hooks into me, and I’ve been loving every minute of it. 

Originally a Windows, MAC and Linux game, SpaceChem has players create and bond specific molecules through an assembly line using waldos. You’ll need to set up when and where molecules are created, picked up, bonded, moved, dropped off and cleared, as well as control how the assembly line is structured, putting twists and turns into it, while making sure that both the red and blue waldos do not collide with each other. It does sound a little confusing, but once you get into the game, and start to understand how everything works, then the core gameplay becomes a lot easier to understand, and you can primarily focus on solving each level. 

SpaceChem contains over 50 levels, and granted, for a puzzle game, that’s about the average, but SpaceChem happens to be one of the most difficult puzzle games you’ll ever play, and there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to complete the game. That’s not to say that the game is frustrating, though it can be at times. More to say that it’ll constantly make you feel inferior, if not humbled, no matter how good you might think you are with puzzlers. But the drive to complete the game is definitely there, if for no other reason than to be able to say that you did it. With no GameCenter, there’s not really any other bragging rights, but you are able to compare your end level solutions with the average of other players via charts showing how well, or poorly, you’ve preformed. 

Starting off each stage, you’re given a compound which you’ll need to try and create with the two waldos. Each waldo is able to create a certain molecule, and you’ll need to figure out how to turn those into the solution, and have the waldos create it a certain number of times (usually between 4 and 8), without any mishaps happening in the assembly line. In the beginning, you’re given icons for creating the molecules, bending the assembly line, grabbing and dropping the molecules, syncing the two waldos, bonding molecules and clearing the line. Syncing is an extremely important part of it all. You’ll be able to stop a waldo from progressing along the assembly line until the other waldo reaches a certain point at all sync spots. This is essential in making sure that the two waldos do not collide, and that molecules are bonded correctly. As you make your way through the game, you’ll be exposed to pipelines, sensors, recyclers and more. It can become overwhelming, but since you’re completing each level one tiny step at a time, each placement of an icon getting you closer and closer to the final solution, it all becomes very manageable. 

The graphics and sounds are fairly minimal, but fitting for the game. It’s nothing you’ll want to show off to your friends who are graphics whores, but rather to your friends studying physics, science, biology, advanced mathmatics (if you have any), or others that might enjoy science related games and crazy puzzlers. In fact, SpaceChem has been introduced in some academic institutions for teaching concepts behind both chemistry and programming. If that’s not an incredible recommendation, I have no idea what is. 

Priced at $5.99 and available for the iPad, SpaceChem Mobile is priced $4 less than the PC/MAC/Linux version, and it contains the full section of player-created ResearchNet puzzles as well as a modified campaign made just for the iPad. Granted, SpaceChem is not for everyone, and is in a sort of niche genre. You can’t deny that there’s not many science/program related games out there, and even fewer created for the iOS. But for those of you who are willing to take a chance on it just might wind up with one more puzzler to add to that favorites list, even if it does make you feel stupid. There’s not another game available in the AppStore that will give you the same kind of gaming experience.  


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