SpaceChem Game Poster Image

SpaceChem

(i)

 

Extremely challenging puzzler best suited for older kids.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This game encourages players to think logically and creatively as they develop their own solutions to chemistry-themed problems.

Positive role models

A light story presented through brief text sequences includes human characters both heroic and ethically despicable. The player's character is an engineer who sees evil within his company and struggles against it while struggling against an equally evil alien menace.

Ease of play

A lot of players -- kids and adults alike -- may be turned off by this game's inaccessibility. Few puzzle games are harder. Even the training missions are likely to leave your head spinning. The rules are logical but complex, and the simplistic visuals provide only the bare minimum of visual information necessary to graphically represent potential functions and operations. Expect to invest several hours before really getting the hang of things and to be challenged from start to finish.

Violence

Text sequences reference industrial accidents such as malfunctioning airlocks and a rogue robot but without much detail. However, later in the game the text elaborates on graphic moments of death, describing the smell of "decaying flesh" and the explosion of a man's skull that sends "chunks of flesh and blood flying."

Sex
Not applicable
Language

One occurrence of the word "hell."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that SpaceChem is a puzzle game based on logical and scientific concepts. Players design circuits around which custom-designed molecules flow, frequently altered by property-changing "waldos." Its text narrative tells a simple sci-fi story with some mature themes, including descriptions of bloody deaths, but there is no graphic violence. However, the game is so complex that younger players will have a difficult time wrapping their minds around even its most basic concepts. It could prove a good aid for older kids learning about chemistry, programming, and engineering; but others may be turned off before moving beyond the training stages.

User reviews

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's it about?

SPACECHEM puts players in the shoes of a trainee reactor engineer who works to design circuits that act as paths for molecules and their constituent atoms. The player must develop chemical compounds and place commands that change the behavior of \"waldos\" as they move along the circuit grabbing, dropping off, and otherwise manipulating chemical compounds. Molecular cycles are tracked to mark players' efficiency as they work to create specific types of products and deliver them to output areas. As players progress, they eventually work with multiple reactors spread across a planet, where the work from one reactor impacts that of another, creating a complex production map. The current version of the game on computers also supports a sandbox mode in which players can experiment as well as create user-generated puzzles.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

SpaceChem is one of those niche games that only appeals to a select few, but if you're one of them you're likely to be passionate about it. In this case, those people are kids and adults with a natural aptitude for disciplines including chemistry, math, programming, and engineering. The chemistry at work here is fictional, but the logic is similar, as are most of the terms. Working on these "visual program" puzzles -- all of which have open-ended solutions that provide room for creative reasoning -- is like attacking logic problems the same way engineers do: there's no one right answer, but there are more efficient answers. Finding them is part of the fun.

Unfortunately, those who fall outside this group may find the bombardment of complicated rules and unfamiliar terms to be overwhelming and off-putting. This is nothing like Tetris or Bejeweled. SpaceChem offers up some extremely demanding puzzles that you're unlikely to solve -- or at least solve efficiently -- by fluke. Don't be dissuaded by the difficulty; just know you that you need to be up for a serious challenge. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about using logic to solve problems. What sorts of real-world problems have you solved simply by thinking about them and noodling out an answer? Do you think you're good at it? Is this the sort of thing you'd like to do for a living?

  • Families can also discuss science. Do you enjoy thinking about how things work at microscopic or macroscopic levels? Do you find you have a facility for clearly envisioning abstract ideas and seeing how they might connect? Which have you enjoyed more, your classes in chemistry or your schoolwork in physics?

Game details

Platforms:Mac, Windows
Subjects:Science: engineering, chemistry
Math: patterns, sequences
Skills:Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, applying information, logic, solving puzzles
Emotional Development: developing resilience, persevering
Creativity: developing novel solutions, imagination, producing new content
Self-Direction: effort, motivation, work to achieve goals
Price:$9.99
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Zachtronics Industries
Release date:January 1, 2011
Genre:Puzzle
Topics:Space and aliens
ESRB rating:NR for No Descriptors

This review of SpaceChem was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

For kids who love brainteasers and conundrums

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Family Media Agreement