Robo Instructus is an upcoming puzzle game that focuses on programming to solve challenges. The power of the game is that it gives a simplified view of programming, making a better introduction than simply being thrown into the fray. Syntax is a major part of the process both in-game and out, and Robo Instructus has a system in place that helps point out mistakes in a much more informed way than normal programming interfaces do. Thanks to simplified programming that maintains the fundamentals, the game offers a worthwhile introduction to make players think of ways to optimise code in a fun environment.
The game takes place in a station on a barren, icy world where the engineers of before have died, leaving the player to program a robot to fix what is broken. To do so, the player must move the little machine from one spot to another while interacting with the terrain. Each level is built using triangles that the robot moves through with a predisposition to pick the right side when moving forward. Additionally, each level contains multiple puzzles that one set of code has to solve, which is a great way of challenging the player to optimise their program into working through issues that become more complex. To help with the increasing difficulty, the game starts each level with a small bit of code to give an example of a new mechanic or to kickstart the solution. Furthermore, at any time, players have access to a list of all of the unlocked functions and in-game emails that share more details about the world and code. Those resources become incredibly helpful when trying to come up with solutions to challenging puzzles.
Successfully solving one section of a level feels rewarding, but to then optimise the code to accomplish much more is satisfying. Every function in the game has a corresponding time count that states how long execution takes. At the end of a level, the total time the code takes to complete is tallied up and ranked on a chart. The chart is a great visual cue to show how close—or far—someone is from the sweet spot of the runtime to complete the puzzles.
Some people struggle with programming (ahem), so the progressive difficulty will impact their effectiveness at problem-solving. With the lack of a hint system, players may have trouble figuring out how to put parts of the algorithm together from the information shared about the available functions. This difficulty may be addressed before the game’s release, as not every level is currently present in the game.
A feature that may be nice to have is the ability to save different drafts of code. Players may write a program that solves, say, two of the four sections of any given mission, but then have to rewrite sections to get it to work across all. The problem is that rewriting the code may result in more mistakes, so allowing players to save what they have working as a draft (to then experiment with later) could be a great way to enable them to be more creative without the fear of taking two steps back for one step forward. This addition might also ease players’ anxiety about changing something and then forgetting what the original working code was.
The game is a cold-looking title featuring a robot walking around to elevator music while a blizzard blows. The aesthetics and music are an odd mix, but the package works well, music aside. The music is similar to what one might hear in a hotel elevator: some people may prefer to turn the music down or jam out to their own hype programming playlist instead.
Robo Instructus is a great way to cross the bridge into learning code; while some negatives are present, the game’s ability to simplify programming cannot be overlooked. Sometimes the biggest reason someone struggles to learn code is because they monotonously stare at a screen covered in colourful words with a massive list of syntax errors, all because of a forgotten semicolon. This situation is boring and not very pleasing to the eye, especially when someone does not know much about programming. Robo Instructus gives players an intuitive method to start learning how to write code in a low risk, low-stress scenario. Quality of life changes can be made to ease the difficulty, but the best aspect is already present: the fundamental programming language and error reporting. Anyone interested in computer science should definitely try Robo Instructus to get their foot in the door.