Google’s Grasshopper helps you learn basic coding through play.
Coding seems to be all the rage these days. Seemingly limitless articles explain why coding is becoming the new must-have skill, and how not knowing that 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 learn them.
Believe it or not (believe it more than likely), Google wants to help you get a taste of coding, but in a more “non-coding” environment. Instead of an empty command line staring at you, prompting you to create a bug-ridden script, Google wants to give you a first taste of coding in the form of a mobile game.
So they brought us Grasshopper, an Android game whose sole purpose is to teach you basic coding, in the form of a multi-level Android game.
A product of Google’s “120 zone”, where employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their time on side projects they deem valuable and potential products, Grasshopper takes you on a puzzle-like game adventure, leading to an introduction to very beginner level terms. and layout, progressing deeper into increasingly difficult topics and coding scenarios.
If you ever get stuck, the game gives you quick access to a forum. Here you can investigate other people’s problems and puzzle solutions at your fingertips.
When you complete the unit coding puzzle series, you then have one or two quiz level puzzles to solve. Once you’ve shown your ability by solving them, you take your newfound expertise to the next unit. From there, you build on it with the next topic or principle.
Visuals and sound
Grasshopper’s look and sound, though a unique palette of earthy blues and greens, still has a Google-esque feel. The type and backgrounds are very clean and clear, and the limited animations are cute almost to the point of goofy.
Sound/audio is minimal to non-existent. But I really liked it, coding is a pretty lonely and quiet business. Also, silence (I believe) helps with concentration and thinking during a particularly difficult puzzle.
What we didn’t like
If there’s a problem 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 long strings, as expected. Reading from left to right is a fairly natural affair.
On phones or similar small-screen Android devices, it’s a different story. A rotation locked in portrait orientation splits code into multiple lines. Specific tables and other character combinations are split into two or more horizontal lines. The resulting orphan brackets, parentheses, and alphanumeric strings can make some codes particularly difficult to understand. If landscape orientation were available, that would alleviate a lot of that frustration.