Learning can be fun!
Oddly enough, hearing such a phrase kickstarts a mental preparedness for something dull. The idea of an "edutainment" game is more times than not lacking strongly in the -tainment portion of the name. While there are exceptions to this, the bar for success is undeniably higher. Algo Bot does a good job of raising past that bar.
Algo Bot is a puzzle game, you control a small robot aboard a human colony ship named Algo Bot. Your job is to maintain the ship while the humans are in cryogenic sleep. It's not a learning game in the traditional sense. Its main goal isn't to make me learn, but to be enjoyed. The learning comes from the game's main premise being about something with educational value: Algorithms.
The player doesn't directly control Algo Bot. Instead, you give them a list of commands to execute in order. These commands consist of things like "move forward," "Rotate left," and "pick up item." The goal of each level is to determine the correct order of commands to complete the task. Once you're familiarized with the concept, they introduce functions, variables, and other programming-like ideas. This is where the educational part comes in.
Programming theory is a crucial aspect of nearly all computer science careers. Whether you're developing software, fixing computers, or preventing hackers, you need to understand how computers and computer code works. The problem is that it's extremely complicated. There are hundreds of programming languages, all of which have different rules and restrictions to them. The vastness can be overwhelming. Algo Bot does it's best to introduce some of these concepts without scaring the player.
The graphical aspect of the game is fairly on par. The 3D world of unintimidating technology was a nice change of pace from the industry standard. If it isn't a 3D game trying to be intense, it's a 2D indie game. The happy style of Algo Bot reminded me of games like Mario and A hat in Time. Its maximum quality leaves something to be desired, however. Despite the game's young age, it visually felt a few years old.
The writing was better than I had initially expected. Algo Bot had a healthy number of characters, each with different personalities. Enough is going on in the world you're in to drive your actions, while most puzzle games leave just enough story to have an excuse for it. This extra zest for the game would be what kept me the most motivated to continue.
There's more to be felt than just good vibes, however. A considerable difficulty spike in the latter portion of the game rained on my algorithmic parade. Logically speaking, the game has to get harder. If puzzle games were always easy, they wouldn't be fun. Even so, there was a loss of enjoyment when the puzzled began to prove too difficult to complete.
Algo Bot is a happy little robot game that teaches you some basic programming logic concepts without making it a bore. The graphics were nice but unimpressive, and the oddly engaging story was put down by an unexpected difficulty curve. Don't expect to feel any strong feelings about this game. With a surprisingly low price tag of $9.99, Algo Bot is a nice experience, and I recommended it to someone who enjoys being mentally stimulated, or just likes learning. That's why we've decided to rate it the following.
Algo Bot released February 14 on Steam for $9.99. It was developed by Fishing Cactus, and published by Fishing Cactus and Plug In Digital. More information can be found on the game's official website.