I remember when the only “programming” game was crobots. It was a game where you programmed a robot (in a c-like language, thus the name) to fight in an arena. While I was okay with that, I’ve never been a competitive gamer, and didn’t feel I had the chops to pit my code directly against someone else. I always liked programming puzzles, and that drew me to the Incredible Machine games.
Some of those are logic-programming puzzles and some of them are physics puzzles. The plethora of those (which included games like Angry Birds) kind of separates them out. And while a lot of hardcore gamers are programmers, it’s a narrower market than even that. So it’s kind of cool to find some flash game that fall in this sort of programming puzzle Genre
The first game that I ran into (which was not the first at all) is a game called Manufactoria. It’s probably the most purely programmatic of the games, since it’s essentially about creating a Turing machine, right down to reading and writing from a tape. I enjoyed it, although I admit there were a couple levels at the end that I didn’t finish.
That’s kind of a feature of these games: some of them are freaking hard. They fall within my core abilities, and they force me to think, rethink, and try again. For that reason they may be too frustrating for some people, but they’re also immensely satisfying when you finally do solve them. I don’t feel bad I didn’t finish Manufactoria (although I may someday) but I went as far as I could at the time, and learned some things in the process.
The author of Manufactoria sites Zachtronic’s “Games for Engineers” as his inspiration. JayisGames has reviews of all the games, and links to them. Codex of Alchemical Engineering is my favorite, of them and the robot battle game the least. I found the Russian semiconductor one to be a bit beyond me, for what its’ worth. I’m currently playing SpaceChem, and when I finish the tutorial (or should I say if I finish the tutorial), I plan on buying it.
My main complaint about Zachtronic Institute games is that the tutorials often aren’t. You’re expected to kind of jump in and maybe even have a basic science background before you can quite get it. SpaceChem is better, but not perfect in this regard. Some patience in the beginning is called for — more than modern games typically require.
I want to highlight three more games in this sort of logic puzzle game genre. These are basically similar games,each with their own twist. All of these games involve manufacturing something with a particular design or set of features: tiles with a particular pattern, blocks of a certain size or color, or donuts with the right kind of toppings.
The first is Tile Factory, which was made for one of the JayIsGames casual gameplay competitions. It’s a flash game, with a decent tutorial,and is probably one of the best introductions to the puzzle/logic/programming genre as a whole. It looks somewhat like Manufactoria, but has a different purpose and tool set. Once you’re done with that, and depending on your setup,you might want to try the other two games.
One is The Machine, which is a downloadable game written in Unity. Here, instead of patterned tiles you’re making cubes of various sizes and colors. The challenge here comes from the very limited positions where you can place objects. I bought my copy through an Impulse Game sale, but it has a demo.
Lately, I’ve been playing Rocknor’s Donut Factory, which is an iOS game (at the typical $0.99 price) which plays a lot like The Machine, with a bit more options of placement. Here, the donuts need to be shaped, baked, and sprinkled or jelly filled. Order matters and while there are less restrictions on where you can place items than in The Machine, often those limitations are the challenge of a level.
In searching for links I see that there’s a PC version of Rocknor’s Donut Factory, which just confirms that I don’t know about all the games in this genre. So if you know of some that you like or want to chime in on, please leave me a note here, or drop my a line on Twitter.