God I love Infinifactory.
At the time of writing this is the greatest game ever written about on this site.
Welcome to our first post
Infinifactory is a 2015 3D puzzle game by Zachtronics Industries, which is a corporate pseudonym for Zachary Barth. I do have an issue with people who shamelessly name their companies after themselves, but this is partly driven by the fact that Zachary Barth is one of those people that I am deeply in awe of.
To put that awe in context, Zach Barth single handedly developed a game called infiniminer. Whilst in and of itself not the greatest game ever, it was a huge early influence on Minecraf and. I often think that people who lay the foundations for greatness do not get the credit they deserve.
Zachtronic’s next major project was the utterly brilliant SpaceChem. This is a game that puts the player in a role as a entry level employee of an intergalactic chemical manufacturing company, and tasks you with programming chemical reactions in order to take certain atoms or molecules, and output them as different atoms of molecules.
The surprisingly thrilling world of SpaceChem…
Now as boring as that may sound, what elevated SpaceChem to brilliance is just how well put together it is. The mechanics are brilliantly thought through, the game adds interesting new mechanics and the puzzles are fantastically well balanced. It is a great example of the puzzle genre – every puzzle initially seems impossible, but the sense of achievement on finishing a level is only rivalled by the likes of Kerbal Space Program and Dark Souls. In that sense the difficult curve was perfect.
In another sense, the difficulty curve was steep as hell. I have 34 hours on the steam version, and also played the android version, and I’ve never finished it. The choke point was the boss levels, which ramped up the complexity to stupid levels. However what pushed SpaceChem along was a surprisingly engaging story that was told in comic format. It was smart enough not to intrude upon the game for those that didn’t care but good enough and short enough to be vital to the experience to me.
In something of a pattern, Zachtronics have also made TIS-100, which I haven’t played but is amusingly described by its owner as “It’s the assembly language programming game you never asked for!”. Their newest project, Shenzen I/O, is following a similar pattern.
Infinifactory plays a lot like SpaceChem in 3D. It is described by its maker as “LIKE SPACECHEM… IN 3D!”. You can’t claim the guy doesn’t have insight.
The starkly beautiful world of Infinifactory
It has the same story dynamic as SpaceChem – engaging but unobtrusive. You are an abducted human made to produce block constructions by your alien captors. The subtlety of the storytelling here is impressive – an early tutorial that demonstrates the fate of fellow victims sets the tone nicely by being both amusing and sinister. There is a lot more black comedy present as well – at stages you are clearly producing weapons of mass destruction with the level names like “drone maintenance”.
A “drone” in need of maintenance…
The crux of SpaceChem and Infinifactory is space. With an unlimited playing field many of the tasks would be fairly straightforward, however trying to fit in the correct arrangement of blocks is where the challenge lies. In this regard, the move to 3D really benefits the SpaceChem formula. It’s far easier to see how things are going to move in 3D space and I felt far less plagued by collisions. If SpaceChem was predominantly a game of managing the space in your production area, Infinifactory is largely a game of block placement. It’s very common that you will create the first part of your factory and it will work perfectly, only for you to create a number of blockages in your second phase of the level.
Another resounding success story
This is still a difficult game, and each level can take potentially hours to complete, depending on your skill level. I also feel that my brain works well in 3D space and as such this game plays to my strengths. There are other people for whom this will be absolutely the opposite and the game may be your idea of hell. It also requires patience. Truckloads of patience. It’s quite common that I would start a level, and 15 minutes later reset my progress as I realised that I was barking up completely the wrong tree.
However one of the benefits of Infinifactory’s move to 3D is that it seems to have reduced the number of times that your creation will grind to a halt. In SpaceChem it was pretty common that your machine would work initially, but after a short period of time your entire production line would back up and then crash. In Infinifactory the nature of the blocks means that usually they won’t appear in the level if there is an obstruction, and then will appear when the path is clear. Also Zach was smart enough to make more of the blocks balanced. If you haven’t played either this is a hard concept to explain, but in SpaceChem a lot of the levels would leave you with a lot of excess materials that had to be disposed of, whereas Infinifactory tends to be more a case of ‘take X and Y and make XY’. If that sounds easy, it isn’t.
Hours of work, but immense satisfaction
It isn’t a perfect game. Like most of these games, the music is fantastic but can become repetitive. It is also harmed by the fact that the music is quite similar to SpaceChem, so personally I felt like I had a 34 hour head start on getting irritated by the music. It also gets quite challenging which may or may not be a problem. This is the kind of game that you could play halfway through and not feel cheated or disappointed that you never finished it.
Absolutely. This is a puzzle game of the highest calibre. It won’t appeal to everyone, but if you have a vague interest in programming or block puzzles it is definitely worth a look. If you have enjoyed other Zachtronics games this is a no-brainer, otherwise these games are slightly in a class of their own (I am sure someone will debate that).
Position at time of writing:
1 – Greatest game ever made. If the only game you’ve ever played is Infinifactory.