When people think about learning to program, they often focus on the language they are learning and the specific commands they will be using. But the true art and skill in programming comes from understanding the logic to follow and from being able to create efficient code without adding unnecessary steps. That’s one of the reasons I was excited to hear about ThinkFun’s Code Master Programming Logic Game. When they ask if I’d like a copy for review, I knew it was a great match to our focus on STEM games and activities.
Code Master is a single-person logic puzzle game in a similar vein to other ThinkFun products. It has 60 levels of increasing difficulty. The game is geared toward ages 8 and up, and I’d say that’s a pretty good starting place. While some kids at the low end of the spectrum may find early puzzles to be simple, the harder puzzles should provide plenty of challenge for most players of all ages. The game retails for $19.99 at Target. If you have younger kids, consider starting them out with Robot Turtles, instead. We purchased that via Kickstarter, but it’s now available from ThinkFun as well.
Code Master comes with a Guide Scroll, Map Book, Avatar figure, Portal figure, blue Crystals, instructions/solutions, and a handful of Action and Conditional tokens that are used to create the “programs.” While things may seem intimidating at first glance, each puzzle shows where to place the Avatar, Portal, and Crystals on the Map. It also tells you which Action and Conditional tokens to use for the level. The Guide Scroll shows you the structure of the program you’ll be creating. In the picture below, it’s a simple line, but they become more complex as the game progresses. Once the initial pieces are laid out, the player has to figure out how to arrange the tokens on the Guide Scroll such that the Avatar makes it to the Portal in the correct number of steps. As I mentioned, the early stages are fairly simple, but they do become more challenging over time. It’s important to remember that the game is not about actual programming, but about the logic that takes place when a program is run. In other words, it’s about learning to think like a computer. Old-school computer users and Minecraft aficionados will also appreciate the pixelated artwork and gaming language used throughout the experience.
- The level progression feels smooth and natural, so each level serves as a tutorial of sorts for the one before
- There’s a good range of difficulties from easy puzzles to extremely challenging
- It fills a particular need for low-tech activities that help kids (and adults) think logically
- The Avatar and Portal pieces are too large for the Map
- The solutions could be hidden a bit better, maybe printed upside down, or even in a separate book. They are easy to stumble across as you’re reading the directions
This gets two thumbs up for being being a STEM-oriented game that’s also fun and technology-free. It’s a quiet activity for rainy days, vacations, indoor recess, etc. I also think it could be fun for kids to design their own puzzles for each other. This isn’t necessarily something that kids will play with every day, but the sort of game that comes out now and again when they’re ready for some down time. As a bonus, it fits nicely into our friend-birthday budget…
Right now, Code Master is available exclusively at Target.
Disclosure: We received a copy for review purposes. There was no compensation and the opinions contained in this post are my own. This post contains affiliate links.