Little Alchemy is a fascinatingly complex, yet amazingly simple game that is available for free at the Chrome Web Store. It allows you to combine different elements, to see what kind of results are possible and accrue points by discovering new combinations.
Little Alchemy is one of those enigmatic games that is deceptively simple but astoundingly compelling and fun. The basic concept is to combine different elements to make new ones, and you gain points for every new combination you find.
See? Simple. However, the concept barely scratches the surface of what the game is really like when you play it. When you first load the game, you’ll be taken to a screen that consists of two parts.
The workspace, which is where everything happens in the game’s mechanics, as well as offering ‘menu’ options and abilities like changing settings or getting help and instructions is on the left. To the right is the list of your currently available elements (which has a handy search function for when you get too many to keep visible at once).
To begin, you get four elements, the super basics: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. From these four basic elements, you will be able to combine them with each other to create new elements, and then combine the new ones with each other and with the basic elements to create even more new ones. The objective here is to gain as many points as possible, and while the game doesn’t actually have a timer built in (hint, hint develeopers!) I personally find it amusing and fun to try and get as many new elements as possible in as little time as possible to challenge myself even more. In the upper right corner of the workspace you will see your current score compared to the highest possible score, slash separated. At the time of this posting, the max score is 270, and for each new element you gain one single point. Of course, you start with four points for your basic elements, but after that you’re on your own to make them rack up. Since you can only combine two elements at any one time, but you can have as many elements on the workspace as you want, your avenues are limited while still being open enough to entertain.
This game appeals to me on many levels. The simplicity is almost elegant, really, because the concept and the game play itself are so damn easy to grab ahold of mentally and just run with it instantly. Even very young children can grasp and enjoy this game and while it may not be entirely based on accurate representations of the real world’s mechanics, some of it is educational to the younger kids. For one thing, it promotes logical and critical thinking along with analysis and association skills. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that these are four basic elements to developing a ‘wunderkind’ in the nurture vs. nature discussion. One way I think of Little Alchemy is almost like Chess Solitaire. You’re playing against only yourself, but each move you make opens specific other moves subsequently, so it can be effective and helpful to try and think at least a few moves ahead, especially if you’re going with the personal time challenge, whether it’s because you choose to or because you have only a little time to play at the moment (is the mandatory coffee break really only ten minutes by law now?!) because the boss is giving you the hairy eyeball. For example, you could start by combining water and earth, which gives you mud. Now you have five elements to work with. Now, you can just experiment with the mud but trying to combine it randomly with other elements, but that can be time consuming, as opposed to trying to logically work out which elements would work best to combine with mud. If you combine mud with water, for instance, you get nothing new, just wetter mud supposedly. However, if you think ahead, and logically figure that adding fire to mud might make a brick like in a kiln, then you can save time by skipping the mud and water combo in favor of going straight for the fire and mud to get brick. Now you have six elements and the choices before you have become even more varied and possibly time consuming.
The Verdict: This is one of my favorite casual or browser games. You can see the possibility to lose track of time playing it. I am always a fan of games that are easy to jump into and start getting instant gratification from,and this one is better than most, in my opinion. Within moments, you’re combining and getting new things and there’s that desire to just try one more combo before quitting for now. Hopefully the developers will decide to add a timer but even if they don’t you can always just time yourself like I do. In any case, the game is a lot of fun, educational in some ways, and totally free! Additionally, you have the option to create a login and password so you can save your progress and even sync it between all your capable devices. Until next time, my friends!
Get Little Alchemy here.
[Ed: There is also a great free Android game called Alchemy similar to Little Alchemy]