Every time I think of this game, I have to giggle. Falling back into childhood mentally like this has a very good reason. When the game first came out, I was still quite young. One guy who went to school with me kept talking about this game, obviously very fond and proud of it. Later, it turned out his enthusiasm was caused by a simple reason: His father had forbidden him to play computer games in general, but he had made an exception for this one -was the only game he was allowed to play, so he had to pretend it's cool. And now that I've written it down, I can be sure I'll never forget this amusing anecdote myself...
Ok, so how cool is the game really? Not very much. It's an educational game which is based on the board game of the same name (I've never played the board game, but the only person I've met who has tells me it's quite different). It was conceived by a Professor who is apparantely very proud of it as his whole life seems to revolve around it.
Basically, the game is supposed to teach the player about the concept of controlled growth and the interconnections between politics, economy and ecology. Each turn, you distribute action points into fields like production and education to improve the overall situation of your country. There are also fields which can't be changed directly, like ecological damage for example. All these fields are interconnected in some way. Again, using the mentioned ones, an increased level of production will also increase the damage done to the ecology. It's the player's concern to learn how to use these interconnections for his own benefit while avoiding their disadvantages.
With just eight fields overall and the connections between them being shown on the 'board', this isn't too hard to achieve. After two turns, the concept has become crystal clear. It's still possible to lose the game, but that's just due to some very strict rules. As soon as one of the sliders goes too high or too low, the game is over - no matter whether it would have reached an acceptable level already in the very next turn again. So you have to take care of the long view as well as the immediate perspective. After each turn, the value of certain fields (like population) are fed back into the next round's action points.
This hardly constitutes as a simulation of the real world, of course. For example, the player seems to be in the position of an 'elected dictator' as he can decide about everything by himself, but when he gets too unpopular ('politics' rating), he has lost. The economic model is way too simplified, too. The main problem for governments these days is that they can't directly influence the decisions of the industry - they can only hope to influence it indirectly through laws and regulations to encourage or discourage certain behaviour. This interesting complexity is ignored completely in the game in favour for for an apparantely completely state-driven model.
What's quite nice on the other hand is the amount of options to create different 'scenarios'. All interconnections can be edited, removed or added and initial values can be set to play a totally customized version of the game. A few pre-built ones (e.g. 'industrial' or 'developing' countries) are already there, too.
This enhances the otherwise slim gameplay significantly as the different ways of starting out each come with their own challenges. Without it, the game wouldn't be replayable at all. However, it can't hide the fact that basically, it's always the same thing. Although it is a nice abstract way to simulate a world, it's not nearly complex enough to provide a real challenge. This game teaches the valuable lesson that one problem can't be solved while disregarding the surrounding aspects, but that's all it does, and while I acknowledge it's probably meant for kids, this is even too slim for them...
Thanks for Johann67 for fixing the broken game files!