CodinGame – Coding Escape [Hivemind Review]

Coding Escape is a selection of online escape games created by CodinGame.

For this review, we played The Steam House and Finding Sherlock – The Apartment. At the present, these are the only games publicly available, and they’re both free. You’ll need to create an account to see these. They aren’t immediately visible on the website.

An illustrated study beside a code editor.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Play on demand
  • Point-and-click

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 2-4

Play Time: less than 1 hour for each game

Price: basic games are free

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

Players choose to play as coders or non-coders. Gameplay is fairly standard: make connections to solve puzzles. Non-coders solve everything manually, but coders have the chance to write lines of code that will provide solutions to the puzzles when given the correct input. There is a shared screen for all teammates to see.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Brett Kuehner’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.
  • + Graphics are attractive and generally clear
  • + High quality audio
  • +/- Some of the coding challenges are easy, others are harder, but difficulty levels seem random rather than progressively increasing as you’d expect from a game that teaches coding
  • – The system of attaching “inputs” to programs doesn’t add much except confusion
  • + Multi-player interactions and synchronization worked well
  • +/- Settings were nice, except it wasn’t clear why programming made sense in those environments. This would benefit from additional story justification.
  • – Writing programs simply to decode/ transform data is not very fun. It would be more entertaining to write code to control a machine and see how it ran with different inputs.
  • – When a program worked, that puzzle and code vanished from the game, so it was not possible to show teammates the solution.
  • – The endings are weak and could benefit from additional excitement. There were moments in the middle of the game that were more dramatic than the finales.
  • + Basic games are free, and if the concept sounds interesting, worth a try

Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

Coding Escape offers enthusiasts with some coding knowledge the chance to combine their skill sets across a few multiplayer games. For those of us who do not code, the game offers a more standard manual approach to puzzle solving. Our team played both Steam House and Finding Sherlock. Having both coders and non-coders in the same space felt odd, and it came down to the puzzles. Some seemed geared towards coders, where long processes could be broken down into code. But when coders and non-coders were working on the same puzzle, it felt more like competition than collaboration. I found Steam House to be the game that better exemplified the collaborative aspect, as there were more puzzles to work on at a given time. Ultimately, Coding Escape presents an interesting idea that seems fit for coders or non-coders, but maybe not at the same time.

Cara Mandel’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Coding Escape was an interesting premise. Admittedly, I’m not a coder so my participation in this game was intentional to see how it fared for the non-coding sector. I’m pleased to say it was still fairly enjoyable. It’s a clever concept. Using a point-and-click interface and an escape room conceit, players have to solve problems by entering coding commands in their language of choice. There is also a non-code-based input option for players like me. That said, this is definitely a game meant for coders and those aspiring to learn how to code. I enjoyed watching my adept teammates write complicated strings of code while another teammate and I manually solved in a race against them. At times, the manual solves were indeed faster, but a bit tedious. I could see the benefit of writing a program to just solve for those answers. I’d recommend this as a fun team-building experience for folks who are skilled coders but perhaps escape room novices. That would likely be a good combination and make for a fun experience.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

Coding Escape offers an intriguing concept — small coding challenges integrated into a multiplayer point-and-click escape room. At first glance, Coding Escape has a lot going for it; their games each have an eye-catching art style, and they support a wide range of coding languages. Unfortunately, the two games our team played suffered from an unpolished user experience, uninspired gameplay, and an apparent lack of commitment to either a technical or nontechnical audience.

The UX problems we encountered were annoying but easily fixable. Small circular icons overlaid on static illustrations visually clashed with otherwise nice artwork. The back button was inconsistently placed and sometimes hard to find, and the pause button felt like it was where the back button should be. Endings felt jarringly abrupt and anticlimactic.

On a deeper level, I was deeply disappointed to find that the coding challenges weren’t really designed as puzzles at all. In many cases, it was actually quicker to implement solutions by hand than it was to code them (and I’m a fairly quick coder). This reveals a core existential quandary: Coding Escape is trying to make their games accessible to mixed teams of coders and non-coders, but by doing so, they’re designing bland tasks which neither are especially fun to do by hand, nor actually take advantage of coding, since they are equally solvable by hand.

What drew me to computer science and software engineering is the inherent puzzliness of algorithmic thinking, and I hope Coding Escape would lean more into this natural intersection. The traditional whiteboard coding interview format is often criticized for being too puzzle-like — and yet those sorts of fun coding quandaries were nowhere to be found in this format where I’d most expect them. That said, we only played the 2 games Coding Escape has publicly available, and it’s possible the 7 others they’ve released exclusively for corporate team-building lean more in that direction.

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