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.

So many levels to master.

Try your hand at coding!

Grasshopper has been in beta for a while, and just recently released by Google into the Play Store. Grasshopper helps you learn the basics of Javascript, a primary language used by websites all over the world.

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.

Gameplay

To enjoy Grasshopper, first download the app from the Play Store. Once in the app, you can go through an ultra-short mini-course titled, “What is Code?”. Then you dive straight into learning Javascript, through a sequential series of coding puzzles to tackle. The puzzles are broken into units.

Google spends the first couple of puzzles in each unit teaching you a principle or tactic within Javascript, with an easier puzzle to solve. Then you are given one or two additional puzzles to solve on your own.

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.

Increasing difficulty….

Finishing a puzzle.

Completed unit!

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.

Overall

Grasshopper is generally a very, very good introduction for total beginners of all ages into the world of coding and Javascript. Google has done a great job at making exploring coding very approachable. The visuals are easy on the eyes, and plenty of chances and ways to master any given topic. If you have an itch to try out coding, or if your kiddo would like to try it out, Grasshopper is a highly-recommended option.

Download Grasshopper from the Play Store here.