Game Review #7 Nova Labs Cyber Lab

In the wake of the highly WannaCry virus this week (and the good news for the moment). I thought that it would be appropriate to review a game that teaches you about cyber security!

As a regular internet user I should say that I have learnt about cyber security in order to efficiently protect myself, but to be honest the most I have ever learnt about the topic is from watching tv shows like Black Mirror, and reading fact-perfect Dan Brown novels like Digital Fortress. In reflection I am the perfect person to upgrade my own knowledge of cyber security, and in turn I can teach others.

Nova Labs describes itself as ‘a free digital platform that engages teens and lifelong learners in games and interactives that foster authentic scientific exploration.’ They have currently produced a range of games on various themes and were funded by the Argosy Foundation, Biogen, Lockheed Martin and NASA. I might cover other Nova Labs in future reviews.

The game is made up of four different challenges:

  • Coding
  • Password-Cracking
  • Social Engineering
  • Network Attacks

Visuals: The characters in the game are simple cartoon people and animals that talk to each other with text. The layout is simple and very minimalistic blacks and greys.


A Social Engineering Challenge


Music: No music or sound effects.


You play as a cybersecurity engineer working for one of four companies that you choose at the start of the game. To protect your company from incoming attacks you need to gain stars which you use to buy different types of protective actions. You gain stars by correctly completing three types of challenges:

  • Coding. Players program a robot to move through a maze with drag-and-drop commands. The game uses the Blockly interface which represents the code as a block, and requires no previous knowledge of coding to use.
  • Password Cracking. In a series of duels the player must try and outsmart a computer by choosing a secure password, and successfully cracking the opponents password.
  • Social Engineering. In these challenges you are required to spot differences between legitimate emails, conversations, websites and phone calls.
  • Network attacks. Depending on how well players have done in the previous three challenges, they will have resources to purchase protection against incoming cyber attacks.

There are 3 levels of difficulty, increasing after completing each of the three challenge types. Most of the challenges are fairly easy, but some do require a little thinking to get the best result.

Anyone with any previous knowledge of cyber security or some street smarts will pass most of these easily. I failed only about 3 challenges, but passed them on the second try.


The site includes extra links to information about what employment as a cybersecurity expert is like, quizzes and a video library of 4 videos. Compared to some other games that I have reviewed Cybersecurity Lab does not have as much extra learning content, but there is some if you want to use it.

The game is targeted towards teenagers 12-18 but I seriously don’t think that young people in 2017 will learn very much that they do not already know (especially not people on the upper end of this spectrum). Perhaps another age group that could use some of this knowledge is the over 65’s?

Cost: 5/5 (free)

Fun: 2.5/5

Education: 2.5/5

Contribution to science: 0/5

SCORE= 10.0

You can play Nova Labs Cybersecurity Lab here and find the educator guide here.

All images courtesy of Nova Labs


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