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Robo Instructus Codes its Way Into the Minds of Players

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Robo Instructus

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.

A graduate of Game Development with a specialization in animation. A true love for all things creative especially Game Design and Story.

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Co-op Gaming Shines at EGX Rezzed With We Were Here Together, Phogs!, and Cake Bash

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Co-op gaming

Over the years, jolly co-op gaming has been in decline, especially from AAA developers. Several recent games have been standouts, such as A Way Out, Strange Brigade, and the Far Cry series, though the latest pioneers of co-op gaming will likely come from the indie community.

While exploring EGX Rezzed, the atmosphere was filled with a sense of mutual enjoyment as gamers came together to play a plethora of team-building games. Among these games were some of my personal highlights including We Were Here Together, Cake Bash, and Phogs!

We Were Here Together

We Were Here Together is the latest co-op adventure puzzle game by independent studio Total Mayhem Games.

The title continues on from two previously released projects, We Were Here and We Were Here Too, with the former available on Steam for free. Set amidst a frozen landscape, the first two games centred on exploring a mysterious castle while solving puzzles as part of a two-person team. Players were separated throughout the playthrough until the final moments, which featured a touching scene where the puzzling pals would eventually meet to conquer the remaining conundrums.

We Were Here Together immediately shakes things up by starting the game with both players working together in the same environment. The EGX demo starts off outside of the castle grounds in an expedition outpost where two explorers suddenly receive a distress call from somewhere in the frozen wastes. Players must work together to decipher an incoming transmission and correctly pinpoint the distress beacon.

The location itself is the answer to a series of puzzles, requiring both people to work together. A great example of teamwork is one player adjusting an outside satellite while the other stays inside to alter the radio’s frequency until a voice can be heard. This is where the creative ingenuity from the developers comes into play as solutions are different for each playthrough. The puzzles themselves remain the same, but, by using the same example as before, the voice may only be heard on a different frequency. Similar situations where the outcome changes include changing co-ordinates and figuring out which key may fit a particular door.

Roughly one-third of the game will be set in a shared environment while latter parts will take place back inside the castle in a traditional, separated format. Two paths are laid out later for the players to choose between, providing avenues for replayability. The changing solutions also add to the replay value as it prevents veteran gamers from going back and telling their new partner the answers.

The moments where players are physically apart highlight one of the unique features of the game: the radios. Both characters are equipped with walkie-talkies so players can communicate with each other. Radios are a brilliant immersion tool as the mechanic works exactly as a two-way radio should, with the wielder having to hold down a button to speak and release to hear the other. The radio mechanic is optional, though, as players can simply use a third-party chat. However, the added difficulty and roleplaying add an extra element to an already rather tricky title.

We Were Here Together is a fun shared experience that proves a challenge for even the most seasoned puzzle solvers. The release date and price of the project are unknown at present, but the game will be available on Steam.

Cake Bash

During EGX Rezzed 2019, the Coatsink team had a glorious display full of plush animals, colourful scenery, and even a rather large and comfortable dog bed.

I was lucky enough to go hands-on with Phogs! and play a few rounds of Cake Bash with PR and Events Manager Jack Sanderson. Both games proved to be a real treat to participants, with Cake Bash serving a much-needed helping of raucous fun in a series of mini-games.

Not unlike many beloved party games—such as Mario PartyCake Bash is an up-to-four-player competitive game featuring several rounds of friendship-ending challenges. The design of the title instantly stands out with an adorable and vivid visual style that brings a certain charm to the characters and settings.

Before each round, players choose a character from a selection of delicious desserts as their combatant. During the demo, only two game modes were available, the first of which required players to gather falling pieces of fruit and throw them inside a giant meringue. A single point is awarded for successfully tossing a piece of fruit into the bowl. However, a rare golden fruit, worth ten points, will appear every so often. Competitors must be wary of descending fiery boulders that can briefly daze any dessert. These boulders can also be picked up and lobbed at rivals. Not only can enemies launch these rocks at one another, but they can also punch and beat each other to force someone to drop their fruit.

The second mode available was a race to gather the most jellies to become the tastiest treat. Player avatars run around an arena, gathering multi-coloured jelly beans to cover their chosen dessert, and the sweet with the most treats at the end wins. While the first game mode mainly had the individual focusing on their own points, this round directly pits people against each other as limited jellies can be found, and players can steal them by whacking opponents.

While the game looks stunning, gamers will have to wait until 2020 to get their hands on Cake Bash. The late release has allowed for an increase in scope and additional modes for players to sink their teeth into.

Phogs!

The other title playable at the event was an equally adorable project called Phogs! The game can be played solo or with a friend, as the player controls one or both halves of a two-headed dog. The two heads can be moved independently and are able to stretch, bark, and bite.

Phogs! is set in a dream-like environment where the ground is made up of soft duvet sets and pillows, while the skies are filled with tranquil clouds gently floating in the distance. The level designs are built in a way that eases the player into the various mechanics, offering something new or demonstrating different ways to solve puzzles. Early enigmas would require both sides of the dog to work in unison to pull an object or levers simultaneously. Later levels would add a glowing orb that can be used to remove dark shadowy walls or illuminate pathways to walk across. Even the orbs are based around the idea of working as a team as one side of the dog bites onto the light ball with the other opening their mouth to act as a torch.

The charming personality of the game really shines in the various character designs and their functions within the levels. One of the final missions of the demo featured a sleeping giant that dreamed of bridges in floating thought bubbles. Players could then use the camera perspective to align the dream bridge with a section of a missing platform to cross. Other cutesy critters include wailing alarm clocks that can disturb the giants, preventing them from dreaming up a way to progress. The clocks can be led to nearby beds where they will quickly start to drift off and stop ringing.

Despite the levels being fairly linear, additional tasks can be completed to gain collectable dog biscuits. These tasks often require the dog to present characters with a particular item, for example, bringing a storybook to an owl.

The whole experience with Coatsink was a delight, both games offering a mix of controller-clenching competition and jolly cooperation. Like Cake Bash, Phogs! will also be arriving in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One.


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