As a game about one of the world's most intractable problems—achieving a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine—PeaceMaker takes pains to turn a simple simulation into a harrowing experience. News photos and footage of riots, victims, and victory parades illustrate your actions. And most of the details ring true: Play as the Israeli Prime Minister, and you'll see your goodwill gestures to the Palestinians rebuffed by militant actions and random suicide attacks, but as the president of Palestine, you'll deal with a suspicious Israel that holds all the cards, while watching your back against Fatah and Hamas. PeaceMaker would make a great classroom game, because it's an educational title in the best sense: You'll learn fast as you scour a real map for clues, and confront real-life images every time people suffer on your watch.
What should be the world's most difficult game actually proves fairly easy. You can't fine-tune budgets, target your strikes, or take more than one action at a time, which means it isn't a strategy title so much as a puzzle game: The average student will quickly learn which actions provoke which reactions, and how far you can push enemies, allies, and your own right wing before you reach the breaking point. PeaceMaker argues that the road to peace lies in taking peaceful actions, but enforcing them with an iron fist: You'll suffer constant setbacks and constant criticism for your decisions, but a few crackdowns and assassinations won't necessarily stand in the way of brokering a final peace.
Beyond the game: True to its theme, PeaceMaker is playable in three languages: Arabic, Hebrew, and English.
Worth playing for: The biggest lesson comes when you switch sides, and witness first-hand the vast difference in power between the two leaders.
Frustration sets in when: PeaceMaker keeps the controls simple, which means it gives frustratingly little information about the status of your orders, the money left in the coffers, or really anything else going on in each territory. This also keeps the replay value limited: Find the right policies, and you'll usually win the game.
Final judgment: PeaceMaker delivers a message of hope - but only by making peace in the Middle East look easy.