Water 2050 review
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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I like a good management game to dink around on, particularly on iOS. Water 2050 is extra appealing to me because it also has a noble cause. As a game developed in partnership with the Water Environment Federation to alert players to issues surrounding water pollution, it highlights a challenge that we face in the real world and frames it as a tough but surmountable challenge. While I do like the game's messaging and most of its core concepts, Water 2050 is unfortunately pretty rough around the edges and therefore isn't easy to recommend.
Purify the pollution
As its name suggests, Water 2050 takes place in the not-so-distant future, where you are in charge of running a city which--among other things--has a very polluted water system. There's a helpful little engineer named Martin who helps guide you through the ins and outs of running the city, including assigning objectives to help you try and reverse the tide of pollution that threatens the existence of your populace.
You have to balance your pursuit of cleaning up water with a lot of other city management requirements, though, like producing enough food for people to eat, maintaining city happiness, and deciding how to handle emergencies, be they natural disasters, organized protests, or something else entirely. Luckily, you don't just have to manage things how they are. Due to some special research, you also have the power to temporarily travel through time to 2023 to help you take preventative measures that affect conditions in 2050, though you also have to manage the past version of this city and balance your ability to jump between time periods with everything else needed to keep everyone alive and healthy.
Given the focus of Water 2050, your goal is very clear, and--although there are things in the game that distract from water purification that you have to deal with--getting to the win state of the game is very simple. By reducing pollution, balancing your resource intake, and prioritizing water collection and cleaning you'll eventually have the looming threat of polluted water under control.
The more I think about this, though, the same is true for the real world about addressing any kind of existential threat. If people collectively could just look a little further beyond their own personal or otherwise short-term desires to recognize and respond to a problem we all need to fix, it could get done. Unfortunately, it's not so easy to just ignore corporate influence or otherwise manage a whole city like it's a game about water purification. But still, Water 2050 gets its point across and has some neat information about modern water conservation technologies baked right into the game's tech tree.
Water 2050 isn't a game that goes on endlessly. Provided you are able to manage successfully for long enough, you'll eventually research enough tech to filter and/or gather an amount of clean water that outpaces the rate at which it gets polluted. From there, you can then venture forth to another city to save.
Unfortunately though, I don't actually know what happens at this point, as just before I reached the threshold to do this, the game bugged out and gave me an ending saying I ran out of clean water when I had nearly 100% clean water reserves. This would've been a surprising end to my playthrough, but it was almost expected given some of the things I encountered while playing. Time warps bugged out to give me extra turns, I tapped into random events populated with place-holder graphics and text, and sometimes my resources would rise and fall at random between turns. All of this was annoying but manageable up until this end point, but the game-ending bug was particularly frustrating, especially since I had no way of resuming my game from an earlier state at that point.
The bottom line
I wish a game like this with a pretty basic but effective message was built a little bit better. It's hard enough to sell people on a game that might be seen as preachy from the outside, but it's even more difficult when the game doesn't work properly. When it is flowing along without issue, though, Water 2050 is an enjoyable little management game. It's just too bad the game is littered with bugs big and small basically all throughout the experience.