SpaceChem, a chemistry-themed, molecular-building game from indie developer ZachTronics Industries, is being offered free for use in schools.
Described on the Zachtronics site as an "intriguing, problem-solving centric puzzle game", SpaceChem uses a visual programming style combined with debugging and optimisation to offer quite a unique gaming experience.
It's incredibly challenging once you get past the first few levels and even offers a little bit of chemistry knowledge with the inclusion of a periodic table and certain molecule configurations.
Created, Zachtronics says, because other educational games "often forget to be fun", the developer says that as long schools contact the company before the end of January 2012, they'll be given a site-wide licence to use the game on any number of educational machines. Interested institutions can email Zachtronics now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zach, the founder of Zachtronics, has said in the past that while the game features fictional combinations of atoms and aliens, that "most molecules and atoms are based off of those from real life. For example, one puzzle requires players to build a machine that combines H2 and O2 molecules to create H2O2 molecules."
The education page of the game's site lists a few other reasons that a game like this would be applicable in the class room:
SpaceChem was also recently updated to include a SandBox mode that allows for the creation of infinitely complex systems. There's also a competition running to encourage players to create the "most awesome sandbox pipeline imaginable." Winners will receive a free retail copy of the game.