Who knew recycling could be so much fun? You know, all that sorting of bottles, cans, paper and plastic.

Well, believe it or not, but the recycling craze that’s sweeping much of the country has even caught on in the computer game world – and it’s a unique game that doesn’t “recycle” ideas found in the other casual games you download these days.

Developed by Hawaii’s Ohana Games studio and published by iWin, Recyclorama lets you run your own recycling plant, where you must sort through a number of incoming materials and process them quickly for the trucks who are waiting to haul it away. This process requires four main steps – and yes, they’re all up to you to perform. The first is to click on items, such as newspapers or cans, when they roll down the conveyor belt. Then you must drop them into a large washer and wait for the cycle to be completed. Once they’re ready, you need to click on the pile and then drop it into the compacter. When it’s finished, you can pick up the bundle of compacted materials and give it to the correct truck before it drives off.

Recycling materials falls into one of four areas: metal cans (red), plastic bottles (green), glass bottles (blue) and papers (white). Depending on which trucks are waiting for you – a red truck picks up metal, a blue one is for plastic, and so on – you must focus on these materials only and let the rest slide on down the conveyor belt. If you have the time, you can also pick up other kinds of waste, such as banana peels and hamburgers, and dispose of these in the trash. Along with food scraps, bonuses will roll out on the conveyor belt, which gives you a bit of extra cash for clicking on them, and it goes towards your overall score (like many other “micromanagement” games, such as Diner Dash, your goal is to reach a certain dollar amount by the end of the day). These bonus items include necklaces, gold statues, MP3 players or an “X” as a double or triple score multiplier.

Throughout some of the levels you’ll also achieve “rewards” you can view at any time from the game’s main menu. For example, if you recycle enough metal you will collect enough to build two new mopeds or six mountain bikes or even a car. Or perhaps you’ve processed enough plastic to make 500 Tupperware bowls or enough paper to save one tree.

The game gets wildly addictive (er, this is meant as a good thing), especially as you fall into a kind of rhythm when clicking on items, dropping them into the washer, then the compacter, and then truck. When you hear a certain chime, it means the truck is about to leave and you must soon move onto the next recycling job. Things get tough when the trucks need you to collect a minimum number of items per load, or if you mistakenly create a bundle of recycling and the truck leaves, you either have to place it on the shelf or ditch it in the waste.

As fresh and fun as Recyclorama proves to be – heck, I’d pay to see the grin on Al Gore’s face by playing this planet-saving diversion – there are a few drawbacks. For one, the game starts in Hawaii and then you’re whisked off to New York, and then to other cities. But you soon realize that the game itself really doesn’t change. That is, over time you’ll get more conveyor belts, additional washers and compacters, and extra spots on the shelf in case you have a surplus – but the game-play itself doesn’t really evolve to keep you interested. It would’ve been a good idea for new kinds of equipment to arrive or even the ability to purchase new equipment and other upgrades with the money you’ve earned. Recyclorama also lacks in the graphics department – that is, the visual are, well, ok, but it doesn’t compare to most other casual games today. One more beef: the game didn’t work with Windows Vista.

But despite these shortcomings, Recyclorama is a challenging and gratifying casual game that is sure to appeal to fans of “micromanagement” games and Earth lovers alike!