July 5, 2015

Code Master ~ A Programming Logic Game {Product Review}

We are always on the lookout for educational games. Games that are not only fun, but incorporate learning are really the best games you can play because they get your brain engaged. When I learned about the programming logic game, Code Master by ThinkFun, I was intrigued to see how it worked, and if it would be something our family would enjoy.
Code Master~ Programming Logic Game {Product Review}

Product Summary

Code Master is the brain child of ThinkFun. ThinkFun is the world's leader in fun games that "stretch and sharpen your mind." Code Master is a programming logic game designed for ages 8 to adult. It is a single player game that encourages planning, sequential reasoning, and problem solving skills. At the same time, the player is also learning coding concepts like loops and conditional branching.

The goal of this game is to use programming logic to help your avatar collect power crystals and then finish at the portal, but the trick is that only one specific sequence of actions will lead to your success. There are 60 different levels ranging from beginner to expert included in this game, making it a great game for the whole family to try.

Code Master is exclusively sold at Target (Retail $22.99) at this time.

How Did We Use the Game?

When I got the game, I began at the beginning...reading the directions. The directions are very concise and explain the rules and goals of the game very clearly. The purpose for every piece included in the game is also explained. The next thing I did was break apart all the pieces so that I could begin.

All the items included with the game
Baby Britches helping me take apart pieces
Colorful and easy to read directions explaining about all aspects of the game
The first step for playing the game is to decide your level to begin. You can pick your level by looking at the map book. The map book is your game board in this game.
On any map (there are 10 different ones) there are 6 different levels ranking from easy (green) to expert (red). On this first map, you can see there are levels, 1, 11, 21, 31, 41 and 51. For the sake of example, I am going to pick level 21. If you look at the photo above, you can see that level 21 uses scroll 2- The scroll is your programming guide. The guide scroll tells you what your programming order will be, including whether or not it will have conditional token spaces or not.

On this particular scroll, I can see that the path will be a straight movement, without any circular movement, or conditional tokens.

Speaking of tokens, the level info also tells you what tokens (or colored paths) we will need to use to solve this map. For level 21, there are 1 red, 3 green and 1 blue tokens. This tells us that we will need to take 5 paths to solve our map, and that we can only take 1 red path, and 1 blue path, but that we can take a green path 3 times.

But what are paths? Here is a snapshot of map 1 and you can see what I mean when I say red, blue and green paths.
Every map has paths of these three colors and a series of numbered stops. Map 1 has 6 numbers from 0-5.

The next information I glean from my level 21, is that my avatar (the red piece), needs to start at 0 and that my portal (the gray piece) will be at 5. I can also see that in this level, I need to also pick up two crystals before getting to my portal--these crystals will be set on number 1. This tells me I have to get to number 1 two separate times to get each crystal as the game denotes you can only pick up one crystal at each stop.
picking up a crystal
Okay, once you have your avatar, portal, crystals (if it calls for them) positioned, and tokens and guide scroll out, you are ready to start. Now you need to look at your map and the position of each object, and using your guide scroll determine the program code using your assigned tokens. This is where the logic comes in. You need to look at the map and the paths you are allowed to take and determined what order the paths need to be completed in. Once you have made a decision, put your tokens in place on the guide scroll and then DO IT. Work through each path color according to the order you decided on. If you are successful, you will end up at your portal. If not...well you will need to re-order your tokens and try again.
Little Britches working to figure out Level 7's programming code
The goal is simply to get to your portal, collection crystals along the way if they are required...but having to use limited paths makes it challenging.

This level 45 adds two conditionals: a troll and a crystal count
Beginning in level 30, the last of your intermediate levels, the game throws in a conditional token. These tokens are either trolls or number X and they add an extra element into your game. These depict a yes-no question that will determine the next instruction you will do on your Guide Scroll. If you would answer "No" to a question, you would follow the red x path, if you answer "yes" you could follow the arrows leading from the green check mark.

You still follow the same method for setting up your game, but you need to add these hexagonal shaped conditional tokens (as designated by your map level) to the Guide Scroll. This really takes it up a notch in the challenge of determining your paths, because there are a lot more options.

I started with level 1 and just worked my way through the levels. At about level 15, I decided to start jumping ahead levels to see how I did. It was definitely more difficult as you went up levels, and there was only one level that I just could NOT figure out. Thankfully, the directions include the answer key to every level.

My boys couldn't leave me alone to play by myself for long and before I knew it, they were asking if they could try. Because the game is very straight forward, they picked up how to play quickly and Little Britches (Age 9) set to work.

Even Baby Britches (Age 4 1/2) gave it a shot and was able to do the first level without any assistance!
As of today, we have still yet to work through all 60 levels, and each boy asks for more time to play it. Love-Of-My-Life is also interested at giving it a go, declaring single player logic games to be his favorite.

What Are Our Thoughts on Code Master?

I think I can say that the general consensus is that we really like this game! I enjoy personally challenging myself to work through the levels and find I give a little "whoop!" when I realized I coded it correctly. Little Britches is slowing working through all 15 green (beginner) level challenges and is doing very well. He gets excited when he figures it out on his first try. Baby Britches has managed to figure out the first 2 levels all on his own which I am just delighted about--I mean he is only 4 1/2! With guidance, he can work through figuring out a few others, which is great.

As to the make up of the game itself, the map and guide scroll books are wire binding with glossy cardstock pages. The tokens are made of chipboard, and the crystals actually can snap together. The avatar and portal piece are durable plastic that are large enough for the smallest hands to grasp and move.

The one thing we are all in agreement over--the game pieces need to be smaller. As it is right now, each base on the portal and avatar measure at least an 1" across. This makes it more challenging to see the paths when on the more advanced maps and we usually have to move them completely out of the way to be able to see all the paths. I think the piece bases should be only a smidge larger than the numbered circles. That would keep the pieces from interfering with the path calculations.

I would also recommend having a few extra of the tokens or conditional tokens in case they get lost.

I really don't have any other cons because this game and the set was very easy to play right out of the box and the directions were clear.

Would I Recommend This Product?

Absolutely! It really is a great way to fire up the brain into thinking about problem solving and sequential reasoning. I think this game would be a good precursor for something like chess later on. I like that this is a single person product, but it is possible to work together to figure out the proper path sequence. Because this is single person with limited pieces, I think it would also be a good game to take on a road trip or vacation. There isn't a big board to maneuver or tiny game piece to loose--though the tokens could get lost.

Speaking of getting lost, I like that the pieces aren't "critical" to the game's success because if any of them does get lost, it would be pretty easy to whip out an alternative item for an avatar or portal--or even the tokens themselves.

As for age appropriateness, I definitely think 8+ is correct, but if you have a child who enjoys logic brainy games that is younger, I think they would be able to play this one as well--remember my 4 1/2 year old can even do the first 2 levels without any help. It's definitely something every member of the family could enjoy.

ThinkFun has released several new games this year--all geared towards "igniting your mind" and I am definitely going to be checking them out. Especially their new Maker Studio: Gear set! I am happy that I learned about ThinkFun and will be keeping my eyes open for more of their products.

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