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    Review: Code Master

    September 10, 2016

    Code Master is another great logic-puzzle game from ThinkFun where one or more players must put on their problem-solving hats to win. The goal of Code Master is for players to move their Avatars along the proper path from the start to the end Portal while picking up Power Crystals along the way. There is only one “right” path through each map, and that path must be built using a specific sequence of actions by each player. The game does a great job of presenting intriguing puzzles to solve with basic programming logic, slowly escalating from the easy puzzles all the way up to the brain-bendingly difficult ones.

    To start your adventure, you must first pick one of sixty maps that come with the game, each having a specific difficulty based on what you’d like to attempt, Beginner through Expert. With your quest chosen, before you begin planning you must set the scene, placing Power Crystals and the end Portal in their proper places on the map. The next step is the most important: the planning stage (called Writing Your Program) in which you place a limited number of Action Tokens on your Guide Scroll (a basic flowchart) in order to plan the Avatar’s route through the map.

    On the easiest difficulties, you only have to worry about picking which colored paths you will follow from each location, looking ahead to where that will take your Avatar and making sure to take one-way paths in only the correct directions. On harder difficulties, you must use conditional Action Tokens to determine whether your Avatar will continue on along the Guide Scroll or Loop (a key programming term) back to a previous point on the Scroll, moving back to the decision-point again until the condition is satisfied. Picking up Power Crystals along the way provides an interesting twist to some of the maps, making the eventual path and its resulting usage of Action Tokens a more complex undertaking.

    The final step is to look over the instructions you’ve set up and make sure everything works as you intended it. Then it’s time to Run Your Program and see if the Action Tokens you’ve placed on the Guide Scroll successfully takes the Avatar through the map and to the end Portal, fulfilling any conditional actions or Crystal-gathering along the way. If everything plays out correctly, that program is considered a win for that specific map. And because each map has six levels of play, there’s a lot of fun packed into this little box!

    Code Master proudly trumpets the fact that it’s essentially a very realistic simulation of basic computer programming, and it functions as an excellent introduction of the theme to young players, especially. Rightfully so, the creators note in the rules that when “running Code Master programs by hand, players will build a powerful mental model of how computers operate,” and it teaches sequential reasoning and logical planning, to boot. The game works best for one person (or two people working in concert), but with a little care about not making decisions for everyone, the game can be played with any number of people. In this case, the harder puzzles are naturally better for a larger group to try to tackle.

    So get ready to learn the basics of programming logic as you apply them to an adventure of problem-solving and Crystal-collection in Code Master. ThinkFun has once again come out with great hit at a very reasonable price, and we think it’s going to be one of the hottest picks for this year’s holiday season!

    – Jake

    If you like: Rush Hour, Rubik’s Cube, Robot Turtles
    You’d definitely enjoy: Code Master
    MRP: $19.99
    Designer: Mark Engelberg
    Produced by: ThinkFun