Game Review
CodeCombat

Dungeon crawling adventure where JavaScript code is king

  • JavaScripting tells on-screen characters what to do.

  • A built-in debugger and a context-sensitive help system keep players going.

  • Solo levels help players hone their skills and multiplayer matches increase the challenge.

  • A variety of levels keeps the game interesting.

Quick Take
Pros: Writing code to play the game makes coding less intimidating and more fun.
Cons: Without some coding experience or coding support, players may find the game complicated at first.
Bottom Line: While not the first to blend coding with play, CodeCombat offers a stable, engaging, and accessible model.
Learning Scores
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Programming game characters using streamlined JavaScript makes it easy for kids to get into coding, and the challenging game will keep them playing.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Plenty of code games and platforms let players code games; CodeCombat provides a unique hybrid that deftly blends play and learning.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

As an Open Source project, CodeCombat depends on the community to support the game's development. At this point, that community is just developing momentum.

Our Review
What's It Like?

Whether they're stuck in a dungeon surrounded by enemies or racing across a battlefield prepared to conquer a foe, CodeCombat puts players into the action. Unlike other hack-and-slash fantasy games, CodeCombat players control their on-screen characters through programming. Want a knight to run down a hallway and taunt an ogre? Write a little JavaScript that directs the character where to move and what to do. Want to roll a cannon across an open field and lob a bomb onto a patrolling enemy? Program the coordinates and launch your missile by calling the correct function. Each puzzle-like level challenges players to win the level by typing in code and running it to see what happens. Before kids know it, they've worked through the basics of variables, flow control, and JavaScript syntax and, in the process, outwitted some lumbering monsters.

Is It Good For Learning?

CodeCombat's "play first, learn later" approach gets kids gaming long before it occurs to them they might want to learn a little programming. Fundamentally a game played by writing code, the site never feels like code school. Instead, the code works like a magical language, where properly formatted incantations animate the on-screen characters. While many educational games have tried to make learning more fun, this is a game in which the real challenge is to make fun more educational. So while the game could use more educational content, the growing CodeCombat community promises to expand resources for teachers and learners. In the meantime, teachers would do well to check out this site to see an educational game done the right way.

How Can Teachers Use It?

CodeCombat would make a great platform for an after-school, game-based code club. Because the game focuses on play, rather than on learning coding, teachers will need to find students motivated by the idea of battling knights and ogres. And because the game emphasizes doing, rather than rote memorization and programming concepts, teachers will need to be prepared to build lessons themselves and help students as they learn how to master the code -- and the game. As players get more advanced, they can learn to create their own levels, offering long-term motivation and development for burgeoning game programmers.

This review of CodeCombat was written by

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