Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2018

Algo Bot

Simple coding game a fun intro to algorithms

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
Common Sense says (See details)
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Not yet reviewed

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Pros: Game teaches several basic programming concepts very well; moving Algo Bot around gives instant feedback.

Cons: Difficult to refer to scoring on past levels; supervising robot is mean to Algo Bot.

Bottom Line: This coding game is a fun and helpful introduction to basic algorithm development, but other resources will be needed for more depth.

Teachers can use Algo Bot as a fun, gamified way of introducing computer science algorithms to students. Sequence- and logic-minded students will be able to dive in right away, and those who are brand new to coding or algorithms will only need a quick orientation. After that, the early levels are pretty easy to complete, even for beginners, while later puzzles still challenge more experienced players.

For students who have a hard time holding a long sequence of movements in their mind, or if they keep losing track of where they are in the sequence, have them add the first few moves into the program, hit the play button, and then decide what should come next. If students struggle to decide what part of the code should be put in the function, have them write down their whole sequence of steps to find where patterns repeat themselves; those are the ones best used as functions. Note: Algo Bot does not need to be facing a button or item to press it, pick it up, or put it down, which saves steps in the algorithm sequence.

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Algo Bot is a game where players solve basic puzzles through arranging sequences of commands. You're on Europa, a pan-galactic colonization ship with a sleeping crew. Your job is to guide Algo Bot, a service droid, through the steps necessary to do its job. Its role is to help the supervising robot PAL (who verbally abuses Algo Bot regularly) take care of a crisis by pushing buttons, disposing of other droids, and even moving along conveyor belts. To do these tasks, players program a series of steps that Algo Bot will carry out. The first levels begin with moving forward, turning left, and turning right, but pretty quickly functions and variables get added for more complex challenges. Players click the play button to have Algo Bot carry out their given commands. The goal of each level is to get Algo Bot to its destination on the screen, having carried out its tasks in the most efficient manner possible by optimizing code. 

The game has over 40 levels in five different areas of the ship. Each time a new programming option is presented, the game's built-in help generally explains how it works. Players can also access some extra help by clicking the question mark, but that only gives basic tips. The game can be played in many different languages, including English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Polish.

For an introduction to some very basic computer science algorithms, Algo Bot is a fun experience. There's a light storyline to go with it, but students may end up just clicking through the text. Its visual programming language helps students learn sequential commands, functions, variables, recursive functions, and more, as well as code optimization strategies, visualizing sequences, and debugging. If students have done this kind of programming game before, they'll be able to jump right in. Students new to this format will be helped along by the in-game help and should catch on quickly with only minimal trial and error.

As students run their programs, a triangle steps through their code, showing which commands are being carried out at that time. This helps students see how computers read their algorithms. If there's a mistake in the code and Algo Bot doesn't complete its task or end up in the right place, the game gives an error telling students how to improve their code. But even when students clear a level, if they haven't solved it in the most efficient way possible (i.e., in the fewest number of steps), they can optionally go back and try for a better score. Fortunately, each level remembers the last algorithm entered there, so students merely have to edit their code, rather than begin again from scratch. It's difficult to go back to previous levels to see earlier scores, however. The game could be improved by displaying past scores with the level names that are accessed from the main menu.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

It's good fun to move Algo Bot around, helping it complete its assigned tasks. Students see immediate results from their programmed algorithms, which keeps them working toward completing levels.

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

The game introduces and explains one or two new features at a time. Students learn strategies for using commands, functions, and variables mostly by trying out their ideas and seeing what happens, but this game doesn't dig deep.

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

When students make coding mistakes, the game gives helpful feedback on where the mistakes were, but it's up to students to debug their own code. Students can't easily see previous levels' scores to know which can be improved.


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