SpaceChem


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Rating: 4.8/5 (143 votes)
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SpaceChem

JohnBBest of Casual Gameplay 2011The creator of The Codex of Alchemical Engineering and Bureau of Steam Engineering (not to mention the grandaddy of Minecraft, Infiniminer) is back with a full-fledged indie game ready to provide a serious logic puzzle challenge. SpaceChem is anything but simple, anything but easy, and one of the most satisfying puzzle games released. If you can solve its challenges, that is. SpaceChem is a game you'll spend a few minutes learning but weeks trying to master, and its 50+ levels are more than enough to strain your poor brain matter more than it's been strained in quite some time.

SpaceChemIf you've ever played a game from Zachtronics Industries, you know it isn't really possible to read a paragraph introduction and learn everything about the game. SpaceChem is much easier to pick up than previous releases, though, which is encouraging for casual players. Here's a quick introduction to the mechanics, just so you know what to expect. Much like The Codex of Alchemical Engineering, SpaceChem is all about assembling molecules from simple atoms using a series of programmable commands. You work from a grid and two colored WALDOS that function as conveyor belts. By laying commands on to these belts, you can move elements around the grid, outfitting them as instructed by the level goals, and depositing them in the correct positions.

Now, it would be relatively simple to create a machine that does this once or twice. But in a true "games for engineers" fashion, you must build a mechanism that can accomplish this ten times. A repeatable, looping set of programs that builds a perfect molecule and drops it off in the correct grid space. Atoms can be bonded multiple times (depending on their limitations), each bond accomplished by setting atoms on paired reactors and initiating a "bond" command. The red and blue paths can also overlap as well as activate things for each other. Now you're beginning to see the challenge, right? And fortunately for us, this description only scratches the surface.

SpaceChemThere's even a story to go along with your molecule building, and it explains why you're doing what you're doing and adds a nice narrative to the whole experience. And don't worry, an in-game tutorial walks you through new gameplay elements when they arise. In later levels, you'll be working with multiple reactors, each doing its own assembly task and sending its product on to the next reactor for further transformation. The big picture is often mind boggling, but the sense of accomplishment you feel once you pull it off is enormous!

Analysis: SpaceChem is a big step-up from previous releases, adding a lot of shortcut features that make playing the game easier, more entertaining, and more social. Keyboard shortcuts allow you to place commands on the WALDOS with minimal effort, and after completing a level, you're shown stats that are compared with other SpaceChem players. You can even upload your solutions to YouTube!

Zachtronics' games aren't for everyone. These hyper-challenging logic puzzles require a certain mental disposition to grasp, let alone solve or complete in their entirety. Couple with that the lack of any sort of hint feature and you've got a real challenge on your hands. It's the kind of challenge that's fun to figure out, though. SpaceChem requires thinking. Real, honest problem solving, not memorizing a pattern and repeating it over and over again to the end of the game. You must analyze a situation, determine the best route, work on your design, tinker with it, refine it, and finally solve it. The effort you put into each level pays off in that feeling of nigh-euphoria when you solve a puzzle on your own.

SpaceChem is a brilliant game. It's a polished and playable release that's thoroughly challenging, easy to get into, but terribly difficult to master. But when you see that machine you've worked so hard on complete a task, it's a thing of true beauty.

WindowsWindows:
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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LinuxLinux:
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Walkthrough Guide


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SpaceChem Partial Walkthrough: Worlds 1-5

Note: These solutions are by no means optimal, but they should get you through a level or provide some hints towards your own solution. Some are particularly messy and I plan to clean them up eventually. The rest of the levels should follow fairly soon.

  1. Sernimir II

  2. Sernimir IV

  3. Danopth

    1. Everyday is the First Day Solution

    2. It Takes Three Solution

    3. Split Before Bonding Solution

      • A Most Unfortunate Malfunction Overview

      • Reactor A

      • Reactor B

      • Instructions: Wait until the first tank explodes, then press switch B. Wait until the second tank explodes, then press switch A. Wait until the final tank is nearly full, then turn off switch A. Lastly, wait until the boss is alongside the final tank then press switch A again.

  4. Alkonost

  5. Sikutar

    1. Ice to Meet You Solution

    2. Under the Ice Solution

    3. Unknown Sender Solution

      • Exploding Head Syndrome Overview

      • Reactor A

      • Reactor B

      • Reactor C

      • Instructions: Press switch B, until the Blue WALDO in reactor B passes it once, then switch it off. Wait until the atom in reactor B reaches atomic weight 93 (Neptunium), then press switch A. Once the blue waldo passes the switch, switch it off then press switch B. Again, once it passes switch B switch off B and switch on C. Once it passes C switch off C and switch on B. Once it passes B switch off B. Once it reaches neptunium again, switch on A again. This time however, leave switch A on and switch on D. Then wait until the level end.

    4. Sorry, World 5 Challenge walkthrough isn't yet completed.

50 Comments

Just to say that mac version requires Mono Library (erk !) whoa re available here http://ftp.novell.com/pub/mono/archive/2.6.7/macos-10-x86/3/MonoFramework-2.6.7_3.macos10.novell.x86.dmg

consider it before choose to download or buy the game

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I bought Spacechem, and I do enjoy it.

I have two critical comments.

1. Aesthetically, its not as good as Codex of Alchemical Engineering. The music is great, mind you. But one of the awesome things about games of this type is sitting back and seeing your giant machine operate, with all of its moving parts and all of its complexity. Spacechem SPECIFICALLY stops you from doing this the way I'd like to, by breaking everything up into little subroutines inside each reactor. Yes, I know you can watch from the outside perspective, but that isn't nearly as cool since all the moving parts are shrunken down to a tiny portion of the machine.

This means that while I will enjoy the intellectual challenge, I will probably never show off my accomplishments like I did with Codex. Seeing a working machine in Codex is pretty cool. Seeing a working machine in Spacechem is just kinda blah.

2. The tutorial levels, while nice for teaching you the rules of the game, do next to nothing in terms of teaching you how to actually beat levels. The first few times you have to pick up multiples of the same element and use them in one reaction, you will probably be quite confused.

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I disagree that that second point is bad; the rules are all you really need to know. I think figuring out the rest is more fun than being told how to do it.

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That doesn't seem like much of a sale -- did it end less than a day after this was posted?

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Yes it did. The game was released a couple days ago, and we tried to get a review up as quickly as we could so at least some people could take advantage of the discount.

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Ted- I'm not asking for a lot. But go through the training modules- even at the point in the game where I am, at the first defense mission, there are no examples in the training modules of a command being used twice as a line crosses it from two directions. I didn't realize this was possible for quite a while.

I think that's within the realm of what's reasonable to just plain tell a player.

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Isu the Mule Author Profile Page January 3, 2011 5:28 PM

When I get to the second reactor level on the demo: "There's Something in the Fishcake", The game just quits. It happens right as I place a reactor. If anyone has the same problem and/or knows how to fix it please tell. I was gonna buy it but if it doesn't work...

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Isu: We're currently investigating this issue; if you email me at zach@zachtronicsindustries.com I can let you know when we have a solution for it.

Zach Barth
Zachtronics Industries

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Patrick - I thought that was implied by "Waldos execute instructions when passing over them", but that's fair.

Incidentally, you don't really need to do that for a while. Even "It takes three" is possible (if more complicated) with each instruction only having one line through it.

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Also, by "more complicated", I mean "less complicated", because my original solution was kind of ugly.

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Alright, one more.

There's three types of optimization. But the game only records one. And when you compare your work to the work of other players, you're comparing apples to oranges as a result- some of the people on the chart for symbol use were playing to minimize cycles, for example.

I should be able to record one solution for each type of optimization. At best I can make a youtube video.

I like the game, I just feel like some of these were kind of obvious.

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I downloaded the demo, but it instantly crashes after the loading screen three seconds in (SpaceChem with a load line under). Just running plain old XP.

Disappointing that I can't play, given the compelling games the author has put out before.

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Anonymous January 4, 2011 1:44 PM

I understand it isn't possible to view your solution compared to others in the demo? (as the screen where it should be displayed shows only "Data Unavailable")

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Anonymous- That was my experience. The demo did not permit me to view comparison with other players, but the full version does.

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Engineering games present problems to the player that are a consequence of the rules of the game environment and the various limits you have to work within. As a player, part of the fun is developing techniques to overcome those problems.
If the documentation gave a technique to deal with that problem (grabbing twice from a single location), that would spoil the challenge of the game.
It's notable that this particular problem can be solved using only what you already know about the game rules by that stage, away from the computer, but for some problems experimentation may be required.
The truth is, there's probably more than one technique to solve the problem, and another part of the fun is going back later and looking at the solutions of others to find all the different techniques they used, and the pros and cons compared with yours.

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The 3-day special offer was targeted at die-hard fans of the developer, who were anticipating and eagerly awaiting the game before it was released.

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I keep trying to play through the first tutorial level, but it won't let me place the first instruction (an input put in the highlighted square). I can pick up the instruction, move it around, but it won't let me place it... I don't know what to do.

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Gryphon78 Author Profile Page January 5, 2011 8:11 PM

I went to buy this game during the sale, but my paypal was low on funds so I paid using an e-check. It just cleared today, and I received a payment anomaly message. I assume this is because the price is changed?

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Gryphon78 Author Profile Page January 6, 2011 12:20 AM

Nevermind the above, I received my code shortly after posting, thanks for the rapid response Zachtronics.

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Is there something wrong with my memory or 'Nothing Works' challenge was 1400 cycles and now with new game version it's 1000 cycles? Just wondering, what would happen if I pass it on v1002 and then update?

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help_wanted January 8, 2011 9:13 AM

I'm having problems...
On my laptop (Windows Vista Home Basic, I think), it works fine. Just like Isu, on the second production level (There's Something in the Fishcake), once I place a reactor, it closes. On reopening the level, it shows me some error messages (apparently there's some piece of code missing in different blocks, or something), which if I ignore, shows the level map with the reactor in place. On opening the reactor, the waldos are placed on the top left and the start symbols are not there. Aside from that, the speed is fine.

On the family computer (Windows 7), it lags a little at the title and assignment screens, and lags a lot at the proceeding screens. The graphics aren't showing right. The symbols are displayed as squares sunken into the grid squares, and the grid squares display the wrong tiles when there are symbols on them. On starting the simulation, the path and the waldos display correctly, but the symbols don't (they display different graphics) and the molecules don't show (only the letters in them do).

The music is wonderful. The story is wonderful. The gameplay is wonderful. The graphics are nicely done.

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SpaceChem Partial Walkthrough: Worlds 1-5

Note: These solutions are by no means optimal, but they should get you through a level or provide some hints towards your own solution. Some are particularly messy and I plan to clean them up eventually. The rest of the levels should follow fairly soon.

  1. Sernimir II

  2. Sernimir IV

  3. Danopth

    1. Everyday is the First Day Solution

    2. It Takes Three Solution

    3. Split Before Bonding Solution

      • A Most Unfortunate Malfunction Overview

      • Reactor A

      • Reactor B

      • Instructions: Wait until the first tank explodes, then press switch B. Wait until the second tank explodes, then press switch A. Wait until the final tank is nearly full, then turn off switch A. Lastly, wait until the boss is alongside the final tank then press switch A again.

  4. Alkonost

  5. Sikutar

    1. Ice to Meet You Solution

    2. Under the Ice Solution

    3. Unknown Sender Solution

      • Exploding Head Syndrome Overview

      • Reactor A

      • Reactor B

      • Reactor C

      • Instructions: Press switch B, until the Blue WALDO in reactor B passes it once, then switch it off. Wait until the atom in reactor B reaches atomic weight 93 (Neptunium), then press switch A. Once the blue waldo passes the switch, switch it off then press switch B. Again, once it passes switch B switch off B and switch on C. Once it passes C switch off C and switch on B. Once it passes B switch off B. Once it reaches neptunium again, switch on A again. This time however, leave switch A on and switch on D. Then wait until the level end.

    4. Sorry, World 5 Challenge walkthrough isn't yet completed.

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Help needed January 13, 2011 7:33 PM

I'm stuck on the 'a most unfortunate malfunction' level.
I only have the A control available to place inside reactors, though there are buttons for all four when I start the clock. I don't think its solvable with only one switch, but I could be wrong. Anyone know how to fix this?
Thanks

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The A-control can be changed to the other types by right clicking on it.

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I'm stuck on 7-3, "No Employment Record Found". input a has 3 inputs (33% 33% 33%), but I have no sensor to sort them. They don't follow any pattern that I can discern, so how am I supposed to use them?

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And nevermind, turns out there was a sensor. power of the post!

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roomescaper55 Author Profile Page January 17, 2011 6:10 PM

Hello Zachtronics Industries, I want to play all the levels of SpaceChem. So should I buy SpaceChem, or will you make an online version of SpaceChem?

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kurtbarlow January 21, 2011 7:45 AM

Solution for level 5-5 doesn't work. Reactor C have bad sync somewhere and atoms collide.

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Demo links are not working.

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Demo link doesn't seem to work here either (06 Feb 2011).

bio

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(I mean the demo link for the Windows version, haven't tried the other two.)

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Download links updated (they changed when the version changed). Probably not a great idea to link directly to the download files if the name is subject to change.

If the download links again cease to function, you can find links to download all platforms on Zachtronic's Spacechem page:

http://store.zachtronicsindustries.com/product/spacechem

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Johannes March 5, 2011 9:06 PM

Great new game!! Thanks a lot, I played Codex and MOC, quit addicting :) and SpaceChem is great.
Thanks Zach

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can't beat that damn eyed-pyramid :( spent 2hours on it but I dont want to copy the solution : /

Do you guys know how many times it loses parts? like after 15-20 shots the graphic changes a bit, Ive been able to make it lose parts 2 times, Is it the last state?

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Here's a thing/hint I didn't find obvious at first:

Let's say you put the red "start" facing left on position 2:1 (second square starting from top left) and put a Bind- on 1:1 without any arrow, it will get stuck on the Bind- and do it over and over again. I thought the instruction was activated when it passed over it, but it seems it does it again if it can't move.

And I also didn't find it obvious that bind(+,-) can be used not only on the bind circles, same goes for the sensor. I found all this stuff on a solution for "no thanks necessary" on youtube, I would have brain damage by now without it :P

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@zhaDe: The eye pyramid will change its graphic twice, then you have to keep shooting it a bit more before it falls and dies. So you're almost there.

If you don't want to copy the solution, then try just looking at the pipeline layout, so you can implement the innards yourself. Or, try this gentle hint:

You have three elements in your input, but only two pipes out. You'll have to put two elements into one pipeline and sort them later.

I never found any use for your first fact. It stops you from using one waldo for anything else, and I usually *don't* want my atoms constantly being bonded or unbonded, since it's harder to organize.

The fact that you could use bond instructions anywhere was pointed out in the tutorial.

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Anonymous April 7, 2011 10:43 PM

Your reactors in "no need for introductions Overview do not work at all. In Reactor A you have sensor commands that are not on sensors. and you have no output for the single H. You clearly made these on paper and never tried them.

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JIGuest (not sure if you are being serious or not - but I'll bite).

I haven't tried the solution you mention - but I had a look and it seemed reasonable to me.

The hydrogen is going somewhere it just hasn't been labeled on the pipes.

Because the excess hydrogen is just getting shunted into the storage containers which lead nowhere - an interesting if slightly wasteful solution:)

Also sensor commands do not need to be on sensors, just the atom being sensed! A useful trick to know.

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Anonymous April 12, 2011 6:21 PM

In "No need for introduction" when the UOH enters it outputs through the top exit without stripping off the U.

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JIGuest - spoilers probably not necessary but just in case.

The U is de-bonded almost straight away - blue track inputs HOU then goes to the - bond which removes the OU bond.

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Hello, I have 2 questions.

What is MOC? I'm intereted in games similar to spacechem.

Also, I'm confused by the Nothing Works puzzle. I've tried looking at solutions but the images are all too small. The problem I'm having is that 3 hydrogen atoms are being output from one reactor into another, and unless I'm mistaken, you can't output 3 atoms to a single square in the output grid. So you have to output them using 2 or more squares. This is causing all sorts of problems in the input reactor, namely that atoms are colliding with each other in the input grid. I feel like I'm missing something obvious... can anyone help? Thanks.

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Cubeydoom May 2, 2011 3:11 PM

for Exploding Head Syndrome Overview -

I am really confusing the Instructions, please give me how to do step by step clearly....

Spacechem is not easy game.

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Anonymous May 18, 2011 4:09 AM

The solution to Alkonost #4, no ordinary headache, while good enough to pass the game test does have a problem. If left run long enough, and many nitrogen molecules appear in a row, the Nitrogen output between the reactors will become jammed, the next time the output is attempted it will fail, and the next molecule dropped in the output slot will run into the previous one that is still waiting for the full pipe.

If I ever figure out how to post my solution, I'll do it if requested. It looses just a bit of efficiency but a string of N2 molecules (or O2) of whatever length will not cause it to fail.

I did like some of the techniques used in your solution and will probably use them in some of my future puzzles.

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The 5.5 walkthrough doesn't work. Follow it and you'll see. I triple-checked all reactors. Either something is missing on reactors or on your own explanation, after leaving witch A and D on, at some point a single H atom will reach the launcher and the process will fail.

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junkmail May 28, 2011 3:15 PM

can't beat level 5-boss. Any help on how to make plutonium?

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I love this game. I just got it from Steam last week and I can't put it down. I understand there is a level builder available. Where/How do I access it?

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im stuck on the 3rd level crossover

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bubblecamera Author Profile Page October 8, 2011 9:54 PM

Got the iPad version yesterday. Up to Alkonost Level 3 and loving it. Kind of reminds me of Manufactoria, which I also loved, so that just makes this all the more cool. Being an amateur programmer myself hasn't really made this game much easier, but hey, I like a challenge. Kudos to Zachtronics!

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lightOfDay Author Profile Page October 17, 2011 1:19 PM

junkmail, The way I made plutonium is by making a reactor that made H2, but when you hit the A control it It would use hydrogen to raise the atomic number of another hydrogen atom until you hit the B control. If you understand how to build this reactor then all you have to do is hit control A, wait till it gets you have plutonium hit control B, turn Control B off again, then when you get plutonium the second time hit B then A. The reactor will then make H2 after that. Don't be worried if your base is almost destroyed because that's going to always happen.

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Demo download links broken

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