This game, is cool.*
(*Warning: the management takes no responsibility for your definition of "cool" being different from that of a complete and utter geek.)
Its a puzzle game, and it happens to nicely embed a number of basic concepts of computer programming. Those of you whom I have cornered at a cocktail party and bored nigh-unto-death about my doctoral thesis may recognise this as a topic near and dear to my heart; these guys did it much more elegantly than I did. I'm not actually sure they were _trying_ to make a game that taught programming concepts - they don't beat you over the head with it, certainly - but the concepts just sort of naturally fall out of the puzzles. The game doesn't teach them to you; you teach them to yourself just in order to play the game better. Perfect melding of content and game.
But here's the thing: the whole point of embedding something educational into a game (still assuming they did it on purpose) is to take something that the player might not find interesting, and drop it in a context that _is_ interesting, so the player will want to learn. What context did they use to make programming interesting? Industrial chemistry. Seriously. I mean, I like blowing stuff up as much as the next guy, but even I would never go so far as to say that making and breaking bonds between atoms was glamorous. It fits the material well, but it seems like it kind of misses the point.
Anyways, you can quite easily ignore that its about chemistry; its just a puzzle where you rearrange patterns on one side and make them look like patterns on the other. I suspect those among you who are already programmers won't be able to resist it; finding _an_ answer is often not that hard, but can you find an elegant one? One that solves the problem in fewer cycles (runs faster?) Or one that uses fewer elements (lines of code?) I'm not sure how much fun non-coders will find it - I'd be interested to know. Its not that you wouldn't be able to do it, its just that its the parallels to coding that keep _me_ coming back to it - its certainly not the chemistry.
Yes, its a computer game, and no, you don't get to blow anything up. Unless you build the right chemicals, I suppose. But if you're in the mood for a clever puzzle game, it might be worth a look. (It has a free demo, and the full game is $15 downloaded from their site.)