Coding seems to be all the rage nowadays. Seemingly limitless articles explain why coding is becoming the new have-to skill, and how not know at least a little code is going to severely limit your future job prospects.
But where to start? There are so many computer languages to learn, and so many ways to go about learning them.
Believe it or not (more than likely believe it), Google wants to help you get a taste of coding, but in a more “non-coding” environment. Instead of a blank command line staring at you, goading you into creating a bug-filled script, Google wants to provide your first taste of coding in the form of- wait for it…..a mobile game.
So they’ve brought us Grasshopper, an Android game who’s sole intent is to teach you basic coding, in the format of a multi-level Android game.
A product of Google’s “Area 120”, where employees are encouraged to devote 20% of time to side projects they deem valuable and potential products, Grasshopper takes you on a puzzle-style game adventure, routing you through very beginner-level introduction to terms and layout, progressing deeper into more & more challenging topics and coding scenarios.
If you ever get stuck, the game gives you quick access to a forum. Here you can investigate others’ troubles and solutions to the puzzle at hand.
When you complete the unit’s series of coding puzzles, you then have one or two quiz-level puzzles to tackle. Once you show your ability by solving these, you take your newfound expertise to the next unit. From here you build on it with the next topic or principle.
Visuals & Sound
The look and sound of Grasshopper, while a unique palette of earthy blues & greens, still has a Google-esque feel to it. The type and backgrounds are very clean & clear, and the limited animations are cute almost to the point of goofy.
Sound/audio is minimal to non-existent. But I actually liked this, being coding is a pretty solitary & quiet endeavor. Also, the silence (I believe) helps with concentration and thinking during a particularly challenging puzzle.
What We Didn’t Like
If there is a gripe with Grasshopper, it’s that using it on a phone leaves the visible code a bit hard to follow. On a computer, the code is strung out in long strings, like intended. Reading left-to-right is a pretty natural affair.
On phones or similar small-screen Android device, it’s a different story. A locked rotation in portrait orientation breaks some code into multiple lines. Specific arrays and other character combinations are broken up amongst two or more horizontal lines. The resulting orphan brackets, parentheses, and alphanumeric strings can make comprehension of certain code particularly challenging. If a landscape orientation was available, it would alleviate a lot of this frustration.