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TIS-100 is the second Zachtronics game to enter and leave Early Access this year. Like Infinifactory and SpaceChem before it, TIS-100 is a brain-bending puzzle game that forces you to solve tricky problems while paying close attention to the game’s constraints. How has the game changed since Early Access, and should you pick it up? Let’s make a final call in our TIS-100 review.
Related Video We did a TIS-100 stream, and you can watch us play on YouTube!
I’ll just go ahead and assume you didn’t read my TIS-100 preview and I’ll do a quick recap. TIS-100 is the story of a weird, old computer that used to belong to your uncle. It’s a machine with more than a few mysteries, but its corrupted programming is preventing you from making sense of them. As you solve the various programming puzzles, you uncover more and more about just how unusual the system is.
The puzzles themselves pit you against difficult programming tasks that require you to work around the crazy architecture of the TIS-100. There’s only a few instructions, just a couple of registers, and each “node” can only hold a limited number of instructions. All of these constraints conspire to make the problems you have to solve all the more complex.
Even basic tasks like storing values are complicated by the system – often times, you can devote entire nodes just to storing a couple of values long enough to finish a computation. Even solving the problems isn’t enough, you’ve got to solve them efficiently to get a shot at setting records or earning achievements.
Much like Infinifactory, TIS-100 entered Early Access in a more or less complete state. The game was functionally complete at the time I previewed it, and the changes since have been quality of life improvements and additional puzzles. There’s no Steam Workshop support this time, but there is a way to import and export puzzles, so there’s still room for infinite permutations of TIS-100 challenges.
Most of the games that follow Zachtronics’ “factory sim” style games can be expressed as programming puzzles. Levels in SpaceChem and Infinifactory are very similar to functions, and the best solutions in these games implement optimal algorithms. TIS-100 strips away the metaphors and leaves you with the most essential elements of the Zachtronics formula. It’s not a game for everyone, but if the thought of solving assembly problems is intriguing, you’ve got little to lose by grabbing TIS-100.