May. 13th, 2017

kjorteo: Photo of a computer screen with countless nested error prompts (Error!)
TIS-100 is a puzzle game by Zachtronics. Much like Qrostar, that name alone should more or less tell you what you need to know. In this case, (with the apparent exception that they also made Ironclad Tactics for some reason?) "It is a Zachtronics game" means puzzle games based around outputting the correct solution to the goal by manipulating abstracted variations of worker nodes with instructions that... it's programming. The word we're looking for is "Programming." Here's how this game's nodes and instructions work, now write a program that sorts all the gems by color and puts the red ones on the right.

Zachtronics games tend to start with exceedingly simple and direct "pick up the thing from this square, move to the right, and put it down on that one" tasks, and then escalate to convoluted nightmare code like this. They also tend to have somewhat Lovecraftian stories surrounding these puzzles, like the player character is working on some sort of Lament Configuration and either their sanity or the actual world or both descend to eldritch horror as... well, as your code does. But hey, at least you can look at your cycle count/instructions and space used statistics to compare how optimized your solution is versus those of your friends and the Steam community as a whole!

So there.

TIS-100 uses the abstraction of an old-styled computer with a sort of variant of assembly language, meaning either Zachtronics just gave up even trying to hide that they're making you do their CS 222 homework or you are now somehow playing a game about coding dressed up as a game about coding. The presentation was fairly minimalist by intention as a direct result--ASCII graphics, no music--but it worked well for the general mood.

I confess that I just gave up and used a walkthrough for one particular puzzle: Sequence Sorter, the penultimate one. Now, bear in mind that I've beaten every Qrostar game, beaten every North American Lolo game and even one of the Famicom ones, hundred-percented the first two Layton games... unless it's a genre that I just don't play at all in the first place (Myst-likes, 3D physics stuff, etc.) I tend not to want to admit that any puzzle game is ever just too much puzzle for me. But making an honest to God sorting algorithm in assembly is not a puzzle game. That's an actual programming task for highly-compensated professional software engineers. In fact, I have a friend who is a highly-compensated professional software engineer, with a technical degree and a Project Lead title and everything, and even he said that's not normally something people do in assembly and, you know, maybe just go ahead and walkthrough that one. I got all the others, though, including the actual last level and even the secret hidden puzzle (the ILLEGAL_EAGLE Achievement) to make up for it. So I think that counts.

I'm not doing the user-submitted bonus content, though. I had a peek at that tab and the very first puzzle involves taking two pre-sorted input streams, merging them, sorting that, and outputting the sorted megastream.

You know what? No.

Still, this was fun, and like any Zachtronics game, it gives you a strange sense of pride and an urge to show off your solution compared to everyone else's. If coding in the arrival of the Ancient Ones sounds like fun to you... well, honestly, play SpaceChem. But if you've already played SpaceChem and loved it and just want more, you could do a lot worse in the programming-puzzle genre than this one!

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kjorteo: Pixel-style portrait of Celine's face (Default)
Celine Kalante Love

July 2017

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