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7 Billion Humans
Pros: Humorous storyline, cute graphics, easy-to-use interface, plenty of solid programming challenges.
Cons: Students new to programming may feel in over their head without first being introduced to some basic concepts.
Bottom Line: This high-quality puzzle game is a fun way for students to learn effective and efficient programming skills.
Teachers can use 7 Billion Humans in any computer science or critical thinking lesson. Since the levels start fairly simply, students can learn how to use the tools one at a time. But those with no programming experience might do better with first receiving instruction on how programming elements work and a primer on some of the syntax. Older students, though, may be able to play around and figure it out. The difficulty of the levels does ramp up fairly quickly, so some students may want to work slowly, or maybe team up with a partner who's more experienced.
The website doesn't appear to have any forums, but there's a fan community available on the game's Steam site if students get stuck or need additional help. 7 Billion Humans is also available on Mac, Windows, iOS, and the Nintendo Switch.
The world within 7 Billion Humans is a utopia where machines were doing all the work until the humans decided they missed the working life. So, the machines -- who are very amusing and quite snarky -- gave them jobs. And it's the player's role to write code to tell those humans how to do their jobs. This is done through drag-and-drop coding using parallel processing. Each of the more than 60 levels of the app presents a new tool or an increasingly more difficult programming challenge.
A machine-based manager on each level gives instructions for what needs to be done on that level. Their banter also contributes to the storyline, to hilarious effect. There's a built-in hint system for some levels -- just tap the manager -- and levels can be skipped if players get stuck; there's no need to solve one puzzle to unlock the next level. Players can run their program at any time, either by executing the whole thing at once or by stepping through their program, line by line. Students can also increase the run speed for long programs, or slow it down if desired.
7 Billion Humans includes many programming concepts, such as basic movement and operations, if/then/else conditional statements, memory, comparisons, loops, and more. Some of the levels also include pre-written code that doesn't work, and players need to find the errors and fix them (ideally within the given parameters). The commands that players use don't adhere to one specific programming language, but the concepts can easily be implemented in another language later on.
Once they've come up with a successful solution to a level, students can streamline and improve their code to earn one or both of the optional achievements for the level: using a maximum number of lines of code, and having a maximum average runtime. Each level has three "rooms" that can hold different coding solutions (students can copy/paste code from one room to the next), so students won't lose their original solutions when they try to improve upon them.
Students can occasionally access small hints, but they're mostly on their own to solve the puzzles, figure out where they went wrong, and fix any errors. That makes this app more of a puzzle solver than programming instruction, but savvy students will be able to learn the important concepts as they go.