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Developer: Zachtronics Industries
Price: $5.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.11d
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

PC/Mac indie gaming fans might recognize the name SpaceChem. It’s a puzzle game that’s widely regarded as one of the best indie titles of the year. Having played the iPad version, it’s clear to see why but that’s not to say that SpaceChem is a game for everyone. On the App Store, it particularly stands out as a challenging title with nothing else like it out there.

The idea behind it is that the player takes the role of a Reactor Engineer whose task is to create circuits through which atoms and molecules flow and eventually synthesis chemicals. It’s a lofty idea and one that at first feels intimidating. The tutorial is comprehensive and it needs to be. There’s a huge amount to take in. Mass producing chemicals is about as easy as one would imagine it would be in reality and instructions are very detailed. At its most basic, players have to bring together two elements then output the correct compound. It gets much more complex than that though with the need for red and blue ‘waldos’ which can be manipulated and programmed to complete numerous instructions.

The depth of options for manoeuvring and manipulating the chemicals is extensive. At first, it’s bordering on scary, certainly compared to so many other puzzle games available for the iPad. Players will initially feel a little dimwitted in the early stages. I certainly felt that way until it all began to click. It’s not long until players find themselves having to combine numerous reactors, programming everything in sight and even warding off enemies. It’s a brainteaser in the purest sense of the word, even more so given the fact that there’s practically an unlimited number of ways to complete each level. With 40 levels available as part of the campaign plus 100 more available in the player created ResearchNet section, there’s plenty to do here.

SpaceChem isn’t the most beautiful of games but it’s certainly complex. Controls are easy to use and the concept is perfect for the iPad screen. Unlike other games on the App store, this isn’t one that can be played in brief doses while commuting. It needs plenty of time to sink in and a similar amount of concentration. It’s a whole new way of thinking. SpaceChem is rewarding though and the 40 levels to work through will definitely keep players busy.


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