Developer: Kuato Games
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Hakitzu: Code of the Warrior has an amazing premise: players learn actual JavaScript and use it to pilot fighting robots. As coding becomes an increasingly important modern skill, anything that tries to make that initial learning process fun deserves some respect. However, just because something is a good teaching tool doesn’t mean it’s a fun game.

Each round of Hakitzu pits two human players against each other as they try to hack their opponent’s base three times. To hack all players have to do is move one of their two “codewalker” robots into position but it’s getting there that’s the hard part. Not only will they have to fight enemy forces but, due to the unique control scheme, even simple navigation takes a fair degree of effort. Every action must be programmed beforehand using actual JavaScript. For example, to move forward three spaces players must enter “Move(“forward”,3);” and upload it to the server. Turning, hacking and other abilities must be executed using similar code strings and players can only perform so many actions in a single turn.

It’s an inspired idea and an excellent, approachable learning resource but unfortunately it’s just not an enjoyable game mechanic. The coding gimmick quickly wears thin and soon all that’s left is a slow, basic strategy game where issuing commands is the only real, tedious challenge. The snail’s pace also probably explains in part why it’s so hard to actually find anyone online willing to stick around for a whole match. Add in strange glitches like keyboards not showing up or game’s being randomly reset during matches and it becomes clear that maybe the neat idea here needs a few updates to reach its full potential.

Hakitzu does have one unqualified success though and that’s the design of the robots themselves. Running on Unity, the codewalkers look like awesome scrappy toys and being able to customize them just adds to the sandbox fun. The way codewalkers project their programming out in front of them on glowing sci-fi menus mid-battle is also a nice touch. There are only a handful of environments but each is distinct while still working within the future industrial theme. The music could use a little more personality to match but overall the presentation here is rock solid.

It’s tempting to give Hakitzu: Code of the Warrior a pass because of the bold new ways it attempts to merge coding and gameplay. In fact, anyone interested in coding but has found it too intimidating so far should still probably check it out. Just don’t expect much of a game.


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