Review by Melissa Powers, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2018


Dungeon-crawling adventure where code is king

Subjects & skills

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (7 Reviews)

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Pros: Writing code to play the game makes coding less intimidating and more fun.

Cons: In-game supports are extensive but text-heavy, and may cause more frustration than relief.

Bottom Line: While not everyone loves fighting ogres, CodeCombat offers a classroom-ready platform and an authentic learning experience.

CodeCombat would make a great platform for a semester or full-year computer science (CS) course or an after-school code club. Teachers don't need to be coding experts, as the curriculum guides are very thorough, but an understanding of CS principles will help teachers support students' learning. If you're unfamiliar with Python, JavaScript, or HTML, just play the game in advance -- you'll learn too. Teachers can play all of the levels through the teacher dashboard in addition to seeing each student's code, plus the "correct" solutions. Periodic in-game challenges serve as assessments that teachers can track and view in the teacher dashboard. As players get more advanced, they can learn to create and share their own levels, offering long-term motivation and development for burgeoning game programmers.

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CodeCombat is an adventure game and curriculum that teaches kids coding fundamentals. Whether they're stuck in a dungeon surrounded by enemies or racing across a battlefield prepared to conquer a foe, CodeCombat puts players into the action. There are hundreds of levels throughout 11 courses including Computer Science 1-6, Game Development 1-3, and Web Development 1-2. Through a robust dashboard, teachers select courses and monitor progress, as well as access comprehensive curriculum guides, lesson plans, cheat sheets, and more. The AP CSP Curriculum & Professional Development Hub is designed to support teachers preparing students for the AP Computer Science Principles exam.

Unlike other hack-and-slash fantasy games, CodeCombat players control their on-screen characters through programming. Want a knight to run down a hallway and taunt an ogre? Write a little JavaScript or Python that directs the character where to move and what to do. Want to roll a cannon across an open field and lob a bomb onto a patrolling enemy? Program the coordinates and launch your missile by calling the correct function. Each puzzle-like level challenges players to win the level by typing in code and running it to see what happens. Before kids know it, they've worked through the fundamentals and some advanced programming concepts and, in the process, outwitted some lumbering monsters.

CodeCombat's "play first" approach gets kids gaming long before it occurs to them they might want to learn computer programming. Fundamentally a game played by writing code, the site never feels like code school. Instead, the code works like a magical language, where properly formatted incantations animate the on-screen characters.

The CodeCombat community has extensive resources for teachers and learners. The teacher dashboard, curriculum guides, progress journals, and "unplugged" activities go a long way to scaffolding learning. The open-source community has also provided a number of translations to meet student needs. An authentic example of game-based learning, CodeCombat is an educational game done the right way.

Overall Rating

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

High-quality graphics make it feel like you're modifying a real game, and challenging puzzles keep players experimenting to find the best way to wipe out enemies.

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

With carefully scaffolded missions, CodeCombat challenges players to write code to control on-screen characters to complete specific goals.

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

Hints and tutorials keep players from getting stuck on tricky code programs, while teacher resources and detailed curriculum guides provide a structure for using the game in the classroom.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Jenny A. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Casita Center for Science/Math/Technology
Vista, United States
Java Script Coding through a gaming world!
This is a great interactive coding website that made it more fun than just coding in general. However, I would say that it would not be applicable for elementary students. If so, you would have to have an after school class to host students who were definitely interested to take part of it. It reminds me a bit like World of Warcraft meets Harry Potter in the realm of Java Script coding.
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