by Chris Hedgpeth
I was a bit worried after the first installment of Low-Cost Game Review that I wouldn’t be able to find a suitable game to follow Mindustry. Thankfully, Zachtronics just released their newest creation: MOLEK-SYNTEZ.
If you aren’t familiar with Zachtronics, the company’s founder and lead designer, Zach Barth, created a game called Infiniminer in 2009 that was the inspiration for the wildly popular game Minecraft. Although Barth abandoned Infiniminer shortly after its launch, he went on to create an array of complex puzzle games, including two of my favorites: Infinifactory and SpaceChem.
MOLEK-SYNTEZ follows in the footsteps of SpaceChem, where the objective is to manufacture molecules at the atomic level by writing simple programs. Where SpaceChem used a square grid and a system of tracks to push atoms around, MOLEK-SYNTEZ uses a hexagonal grid surrounded by six programmable particle beam emitters that manipulate and modify molecules.
You do not need prior knowledge of chemistry to play this game, though it helps. Each level has an objective molecule, which the player creates by using pieces of precursor molecules. Unlike in SpaceChem where you have to program chemical inputs, precursors automatically spawn when no atoms are in the way. Directions are given to the particle beam emitters through a series of icons, each representing a different action. Emitters can add or subtract hydrogen atoms and push, pull, or rotate molecules.
There’s also a solitaire mini-game that unlocks after you finish a few levels. It has nothing to do with the game, but it’s an interesting diversion if you need time to think about why your molecules aren’t going together quite right. I have no idea what the letters on the face cards represent. Instead of the standard A,K,Q,J,10… series, this game uses a T,K,D,V,10… series. Tsar, King, Duke, Viceroy perhaps?
Like all Zachtronics products, MOLEK-SYNTEZ is more of an experience than a game. The drab, black and white computer interface portrays a futuristic but bleak setting, much like the Pip-Boy from Fallout. The ambient music and dark background are relaxing. This is a good game to play if you can’t sleep and you want to make yourself tired. That is, unless you become obsessed with it. I can’t guarantee you won’t.
You can find MOLEK-SYNTEZ on Steam for $9.99 for Windows, iOS, and Linux. I highly recommend this game, especially to anyone who has an interest in programming or chemistry. The 68 levels of molecule building will keep you on your toes for days. Also check out the other Zachtronics games, especially Infinifactory (often on sale for ~$12) and SpaceChem (normally $9.99). MOLEK-SYNTEZ is strictly single-player, but Infinifactory has a fantastic level editor that allows users to make and share puzzles using the Steam Workshop.