By: Derek Yu

On: May 31st, 2010


PleasingFungus’s Manufactoria is alternately stressing me out about old computer science courses as well as reminding me why I enjoy the challenge of programming. In the game you’re put in charge of accepting or rejecting robots based on their input, a sequence of red or blue dots. To beat each level you must devise a finite state machine that will read the input and send the robot to the “accepted” tile if the input passes the level’s requirements. For example, in the devious “Androids!” level, the requirement is “some number of blue, then the same number of red!”

To determine if your machine works, a test is run at the end of the level, sending down a number of robots, some with a fixed input and some with a randomized input. It is possible to design machines that work for the test but not for every possible input… but then you’d have to live in the horrifying shame of not finding a robust solution. (Although that’s probably not quite as shameful as having to look at someone else’s solution for Androids!, cough.)

Since the Manufactoria’s first release, PleasingFungus has taken players’ feedback to heart (TIGSource forum thread) and implemented a lot of crucial UI changes that make the game quite easy to play. However, I think the game would really benefit from better graphics and audio (I enjoyed the classical track playing in the background, but sound effects would have been nice). And the cutscenes that explain the game could also illustrate the mechanics a little more clearly. They add some great humor to the game but are too cluttered, in my opinion.

Presentation issues aside, Manufactoria is a fun game with challenging puzzles that offer multiple solutions. I think players will enjoy not only beating the levels but developing machines that beat the levels optimally (recent versions of the game allow you to share your machines online). It’s a clever concept that’s geared toward programming types but should be enjoyable for anyone who enjoys logic puzzles.

TIGdb: Entry for Manufactoria

  • a name to comment

    That's the worst solution for that problem I've seen. You just put green and yellow writers at the end of the red and blue branches.

  • Derek Yu

    But it looks cool, doesn't it? It's a face!

  • Ezuku

    Good, but some of the wording is bad. Eg, androids, I have no idea what's required of me in that one

  • AGuy

    Pretty fun game, but gets pretty difficult later on! I spent like an hour on a few of them >_>

  • Bearfighter

    Oh, nice! I feel smart.

  • Bearfighter

    Wait, I take that back. I no longer feel smart at all.

  • Lailoken

    Seems clear to me. X blue then X red for any X.

  • robolee
  • joehonkie

    Oooh, is this gonna give me an itch to play Rocky's Boots?

  • Data

    Androids was hard. I got a solution, bit it took me 49 parts. There is probably a more elegant way to do it. Anyone else got part counts for that one?

  • PeterW

    I got 14:

    No idea whether that's optimal, but I guess it's close.

  • Ezuku

    Yeah, I misread it. I thought it was a “write” problem, not a “read” problem.

  • joehonkie

    I hope nobody makes a robodog with a zero-length string, because my test for that was totally slacker crap.

  • Dodger

    The interface (and some of the early comment by Derek in the original post) made me immediately think of Carnage Heart for the original Playstation which I thought was brilliant. However, the game is of course a very different gameplay style.

    Still, I kinda wish there was a Carnage Heart indie game for the PC, only given everything we know now it could probably be so much better than the original Playstation game which was very unique (especially for a console) to begin with.

    Off-topic, I know, but this game got me thinking about it.

  • Loki

    Okay, stupid question.
    How do I view the goal for a specific level?

  • Bearfighter

    Thanks no you I can no longer sleep at night having realized my robodog solution also doesn't work for an empty string. I hope you're happy.

  • Nikica

    Just look a little more at the picture in this post.

  • joehonkie

    Let's hope none of those robodogs go crazy and attack orphans or nuns in cold blood.

  • Basro

    It's on the bottom left of the editor.

  • yossi

    that can be optimized. mirror flip the 3rd R/B branch, move everything from the 2nd & 3rd columns to the 3rd & 4th columns respectively, and route the blue side of the 3rd B/R branch between the green writer and the first B/R branch via a bridge.

    like so:

  • bombboy

    Oh, poop! I feel stupid.

  • Anthony Flack

    This game is devious and brilliant.

  • PeterW

    Oh, there's a bridge? And all the time I was thinking about how useful a bridge would be… Now I feel stupid for not looking properly.

  • Data

    Wow, much much simpler. Mine might be faster, though. I had 0:45. I divided instead of subtracting. Not going to say more. We need a spoiler tag or something.

    (By the way, didn't mean to imply I was the author of cortex command–I'm not. I was just inspired by “Androids”.)

  • Chris.R

    It would be awesome if it had goals for the lowest part count and fastest execution. That would give people something to aim for if they went back to optimize machines.

    It would be neat if goals were created via a high score system (IE the goal would be the best result anyone had managed), but that would require some sort of server to receive solutions. The server would likely have to actually run the solutions itself or you might get fake part count/time submissions.

  • PhasmaFelis

    If you like this, you gots to try Zachtronics' stable of engineering games. (

    Amusingly, his front page right now is pimping Manufactoria. :)

  • Bearfighter

    There does appear to be a high score table, and it does appear to be full of crap (negative 1 million parts?! :|)

  • Sfiera

    I think my skull is a pretty good solution to the relevant problem:

  • StephenM3

    Now that's pretty damn cool.

  • ab

    Zachtronics also shows up in the Manufactoria credits