TIS-100 is a programming puzzle game in which you have to rewrite corrupted code, therefore repairing the TIS-100 and revealing its secrets. I must say it is wise to have some coding knowledge before playing this game, as that will make learning how to solve these puzzles a lot easier. However, even if you don’t have prior coding experience you can still enjoy the game, it just may take you a little longer to understand. This is also a good way to develop a basic understanding of computing, and it may also inspire you build your own code. I actually thought that this was a positive point, as its fun for both beginners and experts.
To start off with the game gives you a PDF document and suggests you print it and have it with you while playing for the full experience. I love things like this as the 14 page manual gives you a little backstory as well as teaching you how to play the game. Although this instruction set may seem small, it is enough to understand how to solve these puzzles. I believe having it printed was the better way to go as it meant I could reference it while playing the game if I got stuck, instead of having to keep going back and forth between the game and the document on the same screen.
You play as a person who has received the TIS-100, Tessellated Intelligence System, from their late Uncle Randy. You are given the task by your lovely Aunt Doris to “finish his work”, but first you have to find out what his work was. This is really all you’re given in terms of story at the beginning, apart from the odd notation in the reference manual and in broken nodes.
The system consists of multiple interconnected segments, as I mentioned earlier it is your job to fix said code. Every segment is split up into nodes, and each node can connect to a maximum of 4 consecutive nodes. In each puzzle one or more nodes of a certain segment can be damaged and as a result cannot be used. On each damaged node there is a debug button, which when clicked gives you further story information. You can also use registers to store data, this means you can store data to other nodes and then request them again much like subroutines. Much like coding, you can also debug your code by stepping into your code and by setting up breakpoints.
What I enjoyed about the puzzles in this game is that there can be multiple solutions, meaning different methods can still be correct. The basic puzzles ask you to perform input and output transfers where certain conditions need to be met, but as you carry on the puzzles grow more and more complex. This is all there is in terms of gameplay. But another little thing I noticed was that the sound was used well as it completed the experience, as the booting up effects mode you feel like you were actually coding this mysterious machine.
Overall I’m giving “TIS-100” an 8 as it manages to maintain an even balance of being fun and being educational. This idea of making people learn new skills to solve these puzzles is one I am a fan of, mainly because it could get people interested in coding further. It also comes with a short and sweet set of instructions, whereas in recent times player expect to know the controls within the first 5 minutes of playing a game. While this may put some players off, I quite liked how you had to understand the game before playing it. I recommend this game to people who are involved in computer science or computing, but also for those gamers who enjoy a tough challenge.
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