There are few games that take over my complete existence for periods of time, where nothing else in the world matters other than taking another turn. The Civilization games will do this, as will most city-builders. Another group of games that I tend to lose myself in for days or weeks at a time come from a small indie developer, Zachtronics. I instantly fell in love with them after my first foray into SpaceChem, and have loved just about everything else they’ve ever conjured up. Their latest is in Early Access on Steam right now and it’s just as good as anything they’ve ever made. If you’re looking for a puzzler that requires actual brain power, logic, and a dose of coding, look no further than Opus Magnum.
Opus Magnum puts you in the shoes of a student of Alchemy in a somewhat steam punk style universe, tasked with using a Transmutation Engine to manipulate elements and create specific compounds. The machine offers you arms, gears, tracks, and more to manipulate the incoming reagents into the outgoing product, following the usual Zachtronics playbook we’ve seen in their other fantastic puzzle games. Like SpaceChem, TIS-100, or Shenzen I/O, each puzzle ends with you being shown how efficient (or, in my case, inefficient) your solution was and compares it to the world. Unless you’re dead inside, having a horribly inefficient design won’t sit well and you will tinker and toy with the simplest of designs to eek out an extra cycle.
This Zachtronics masterpiece has a far more glossy and polished look than their other games, including an ongoing narrative that resembles a standard game rather than the opaque mysteries at the heart of SpaceChem and TIS-100. It’s also huge, with tons of puzzles to explore as well as super challenges to unlock. This game even ties in with Steam Workbench, so you can try your hand and solving other users’ puzzles or generating your own and trying to drive everyone else mad.
A nice touch is the inclusion of a GIF maker, allowing you to share moving images of your solutions in motion. I initially thought it was a waste of time, but have learned to love the function and have been spitting out gifs to other players left and right. Not only is it fun to show someone how your brain works, watching a puzzle solve can be highly hypnotic.
Once again, Zachtronics has an epic puzzler on their hands with Opus Magnum, and it’s still only in Early Access. I can’t imagine what else they’re going to add or polish up, as it seems like a fully matured design already. It also seems like a perfect fit for mobile, so here’s hoping we see an iPad version of Opus Magnum to sit alongside their other iPad ports, SpaceChem (SpaceChem was a victim of the App-ocalypse and is no longer available on the App Store) and TIS-100P.