Video Game TIS-100 (PC) (2015)

Overview: A puzzle game that revolves around programming.

Among the different top-rated Steam DB games in my library, I decided to play TIS-100. While there was some initial investment in simply learning the basics of the programming language, the result was a satisfying puzzle experience.

The first puzzle that familiarizes the player with the node-based nature of the in-game programming language.

I stopped playing after completing the first eight segments.

Steam Game Time: 3.1 hours

+ Novel puzzle game
+ Statistics on solutions (nodes, cycles, commands) lends itself to replay value

A slightly more complicated task: output A minus B at P and output B minus A at N

~ Easier for those already familiar with programming

Comparison to SpaceChem:
It's been a while since I've played SpaceChem (PC) (2011), but I remembered enough to recall the similarities and identify some differences.

Starting with similarities, both games are presented as a series of puzzles where the player's solutions are rated on three metrics: cycles, reactors/nodes, and symbols/instructions (for SpaceChem/TIS-100, respectively). Personally, I found it strategically reasonable to simply first come up with a sub-optimal solution.

The game tells a story via debug messages found in each level.

Although the structure of the two games are similar, their primary game mechanic are logically distinct. In particular, SpaceChem contains a greater spatial component than TIS-100. On the other hand, TIS-100 arguably requires more logic and less trial-and-error than SpaceChem.

Their greatest difference, however, would lie in their respective target audience. In general, I would expect that SpaceChem will be more accessible to the average player than TIS-100. Elaborating, without any prior exposure to any programming language, the player would be required to process the TIS-100 manual and make sense of the various commands - a task that would be approximately equivalent to learning the basic vocabulary and grammar of a foreign language.

TIS-100 stands out from other games I've played recently for it's novel gameplay mechanic. Just like with SpaceChem, I found myself easily spending hours playing the game without even noticing it. Reflecting on the experience, the experience reminded me of solving math problems in undergraduate and graduate school: spending time to solve a problem and reaping the joy of solving it.

Complete levels to unlock more levels.

In the end, TIS-100 won't appeal to everybody, but any programmer would probably enjoy it and I'm certain a fair portion of puzzle gamers will enjoy it as well.

TIS-100 (PC) (2015)

Relevant Links:
TIS-100 Webpage
TIS-100 (
TIS-100 (PC) (
TIS-100 (Steam Store Page)

Each successful solution measured on Cycle Count, Node Count, and Instruction Count

No comments:

Let me know what you think!