These days, the thought of a European crime story is more likely to make you think of Sarah Lund's jumper than an elaborate art theft, but that is exactly where you find yourself at the start of "Die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra", a game for learners of German.
I love what the Goethe Institut have done here: the game's free to play online and also available for iPhone, iPad and Android (all free). What a way to get your practice in!
The story is that of art investigator Vincent Mirano. Like in any detective story, the whole set up is a bit silly. His job is "researcher" at a fictional but seemingly super-funded institution investigating art fakeries. So far, so fun, and it sets the theme for this game. Vincent receives a mysterious email from Germany and decides to visit the country and investigate the Sky Disk of Nebra. The story is cute and maintains your interest, if slightly ludicrous. it does put Vincent in all those typical German learner situations: directions, descriptions, hotels and restaurants. Quite why the story could not have been set all in one city isn't clear, but at least it lets players practice the word "airport" and look at a map of Germany lots of times.
In terms of using the game as a learning tool, I'd say this will suit learners with at least 6-8 months of language learning behind them. The fab part is that even if you're really advanced this is likely to hold your interest all the way through. The audio is great, all voice-overs are done by native speakers, and you can go through most dialogues several times. The exercises aren't too difficult and won't slow you down as much as getting stuck in the story - I think I spent half an hour trying to work out how to go shopping!
A free and fun 90 minutes for German learners from advanced beginner's level upwards. The story is interesting, and I loved some of the characters in particular. It's also kid-friendly and doesn't rub the educational aspect in your face. Well done, Goethe Institute!
Download here: Lernabenteuer Deutsch: The Sky Disk from Nebra