Fake Chemistry, Brain-Breaking Puzzles... and Fishcakes...
In recent years, there's been a rising belief that puzzle games are under the dominion of 'casual' gaming - and publishers haven't done much to rectify that. For many new gamers, when you mention a puzzle game, they'll think of Bejeweled
, or Tetris
- games which, while enjoyable, don't wholly embody the logician aspect inherent in the genre.
Zachtronics Industries seems to be trying to revive the feeling of 'cleverness' players feel when they've outsmarted the developers, and in their first 'professional' game, Space Chem
, they've managed to pull off that aim. Their previous titles, such as Kohctpyktop
, have had players railing against their computers for years, trying to come up with even more clever solutions to open-ended puzzles of demonic complexity.
, the latest line of head-scratchers from the group, relies upon the player to pick apart molecules, and reconfigure them into increasingly-complex patterns, from the ever-present H20 to assorted varieties of Unobtainium
. Along the way, the player's forced to grow accustomed to such innovations as molecular binders, quantum teleportation, and sensors which create an 'if' instruction, options which can become just as much a limitation as they are a boon.
All the while, Space Chem
provides genuinely instructive 'Breather Levels', points at which the player can grow more accustomed to the new options available, letting them tweak and toy around with bits and pieces until they're comfortable. The difficulty curve might be steep, but it's never cruel.
And that, perhaps, might be the largest concern. The difficulty ranges, quickly, from 'simplistic' to 'absurd', so that nearly halfway through, players might be tempted to simply give up, lest their brains disintegrate. While the puzzles are always rewarding, they grow demonically hard as planets pass into the distance, and most players will never see the end- a pity, as, without any doubt, the story helps to keep players invested, a tale of a corporation gone horribly wrong.
is a game for players who want a brain-twisting challenge, one which will send neurons sputtering in fear. And while that's brilliantly realized, it truly is a niche game - a grown-up puzzler in a gaming world raised on blocks and gems.