Robo Instructus is a cute puzzle game that’s a clever introduction to coding

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I have a certain amount of appreciation for those gifted with the ability of “The Code”. I refuse to believe it to be something one is capable of learning but rather an inherited genetic gift, such as kicking a ball well or curling your tongue. I’ve tried to wrap my head around all the programs, numbers and…other coding things. But it’s never made any sense to me. Now, maybe that’s because I’m dumb. Very possible. However, coding can be super inaccessible for someone looking in on the outside, and I’m gonna blame that. Not my being dumb. Definitely not that.

Oh, so that’s how that works!

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Fortunately, Robo Instructus came along and tried to shed some light on the world of programming and coding in perhaps the most user-friendly way possible. The game’s premise is simple, you control a robot who has to reach the end of increasingly difficult pathways filled with dead ends and pitfalls. To move the robot around, the only thing you have at your disposal is the ability to code functions. Whatever you type, little Robo (equipped with a hat, for some reason. Do robot eyes also not like the sun?) will follow your commands. From moving forward, turning and scanning platforms to determine their safety, you’ll have a small yet competent arsenal of commands for Robo to follow.

All these commands must be entered by what I assume to be typical coding language, with the ability to add loops and variables to simplify Robo’s track to their end goal. Whilst initially seeming daunting, the game provides a simple and easy to use glossary of terms and techniques available at any time in case you get stuck or need help remembering how something works. A nice touch is making this glossary remain on the screen while you type in your code, making for an more user-friendly approach. As someone who doesn’t know a thing about coding, I really appreciated this functionality.

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It’s clear from the addition of this glossary and the bright, welcoming design of the levels and Robo himself that Robo Instructus is designed as a learning tool before anything else. An accessible means to teach oneself the groundwork of coding in an environment that’s both pressure-free and accompanied by soft melodic music for “maximum chill vibes, bru”, as I believe they say in Stellenbosch. At the end of every stage there’s a brief recap of how complex your code was, with challenges set to try and reduce said complexity while retaining the same function, but it’s never a benchmark that needs to be met to progress.

If anything, I wish Robo Instructus had a few more stages to test the player. The game will be releasing in Q3 of this year, so there’s still room to add to it, but at this stage there’s not a lot to it. There’s the challenge of trying to beat previous scores, but I could see this expanding to larger and more complex puzzles. Fixing broken code with limited inputs or more variables in a level could really do a lot for the late game in turning this from a learning tool into a coding challenge for those wanting to test their knowledge.

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There’s also something to be said about repetition when learning. The only way to become talented at something is to do it over and over again. What’s that thing about 1000 hours or something like that? I mean, I have my doubts, looking at all you DOTA players out there. But practice does make perfect and Robo Instructus will be having you coding new scenarios over and over again. The levels may be different, but the solutions all seem to follow a similar course. If that’s something that’ll grind you down, maybe wait until there’s a bit more content here.

Yet in its current state Robo Instructus is a neat instruction guide. An accessible lens into a field that I’m sure many find difficult to comprehend. There have been a dozen coding based games released over the years, but I’ve always found those designed for people who have some basic knowledge of coding in the first place. Robo Instructus presents itself as a starting ground, a place to learn before graduating into the big leagues. A welcoming game that just wants to teach you a skill before sending you into the real world. If you have any interest in learning how to code I would recommend checking this game out. You can sign up for the closed beta at the game’s website.

Last Updated: March 8, 2019