In going through to make the list of free games, I came across Citizen Science and was really impressed. I highly encourage a play through.
Well, it looks, sounds, and feels great to play (+1 production value)
There's some interesting science (+1)
There's TIME TRAVEL (+Delorean)
and it takes place in my hometown (+nostalgia)
Your goal in the game is to save Lake Mendota (in Madison, WI) from ecological disaster by gathering information and forming arguments. An interesting topic scientifically, and educationally -- and I was glad to see the game designers were happy to push it over-the-top game-wise by adding in the time travel mechanic.
The stand-out part of the game to me was a little in-game simulator, that would show you what happened to the lake over time if you made some changes. Increase wetland preservation in the past, and then fast forward to see what the lake looks like in the future. That kind of thing. It's a complex simulation - with ten or so parameters you can change, and then about a dozen different measurements you get at the end that represent the health of the lake. I really wanted to dive deeply into this simulation, since there's a lot of meat in it.
My big complaint, though, is that the game didn't encourage you to do this. I never needed to look at the measurements that resulted from the simulation... the game pulled out any information it deemed important automatically. So I could just toggle all the knobs, and my 'inventory' would fill up with the appropriate 'observations,' without me even having to observe. It really diminished what I thought was one of the coolest parts of the game. (Okay, the muskrat with a gold tooth was pretty cool, too.)
These types of environmental simulations are something I've toyed with doing in a game - they are a great way to combine our present-day decisions with far-in-the-future outcomes. I just wish they had done more with it.
All in all, though, I quite enjoyed the game. It took a topic that many people might think is pretty dull, and made it quite exciting.
So what do you think? Did you play it? What did you enjoy or dislike about it?