Price: FREE (Full version via IAP for $1.99)
Version Reviewed: 1.0
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Most people think of computer programming as something strange and foreign—and I suppose that learning a program language is indeed akin to learning a "real" foreign one. Robozzle, however, takes programming concepts and simplifies a few of them into a surprisingly fun, challenging puzzle game that anyone can learn.
The goal of each puzzle is to collect all of the stars. Your ship starts on one square; stars are dispersed on others. Instead of steering your ship, you "teach" it—aka, program it. You can place commands in the boxes at the bottom of the screen. Each group of boxes is a "function", and you can recursively place calls to functions. For example, your first function, F1, could be "Go straight," and then "F1." The ship would then continue to move in a straight line.
Commands come in a few types. You can either paint tiles, turn or advance the ship, or call a function; all of these may also be specified to only work a particular color of tile. For example: "Turn right on red tiles." The rules are simple on the surface, but you can build many, many complex commands by chaining smaller ones together. Sound complicated? Don't worry; the tutorial makes it easy to understand.
Though Robozzle is initially free, it uses in-app purchasing to unlock the majority of the game. Once you've purchased the full version, you can view solutions to puzzles, read others' comments, and rate puzzles. You also get access to many more puzzles.
You'll want to unlock the full version, too. Robozzle isn't for everyone—it's challenging, even for me, though thankfully you can skip around to whatever puzzles you like. But most puzzles are well-planned, and many can stump you for a few hours or even days. The game itself is very robust, and teaches inventive thinking and programming skills without requiring you to know anything technical whatsoever. The community aspect is also great. If you get stuck, you can view the comments, or go into "step" mode, where you watch your program execute step-by-step to determine where the problem is. The user interface works like a charm; no complaints on that front.
In short? Robozzle is a great game. If you're looking for a different sort of puzzle, you need to give it a chance! If you want to see it in action, be sure to check the video below. Now, I'm going to go back to playing with that space ship...