Some recent reviews say the game just got an overhaul and old reviews are inaccurate. I’m here to tell you that as of March 8, 2020 Algotica has serious problems and is not worth playing.
Graphics are great, audio is nice, I really want to like it, but the interface is riddled with bugs. Some levels are barely playable — I just spent 30 minutes fighting the UI on a single level.
Achievement hunters beware: As soon as you launch the game you’ll get 1 achievement, which puts you on the hook for completing the whole game if you don’t want it sitting in your library incomplete.
EDIT: As I fought the game for ~2.5h to get all the Achievements, I realized that it helps if you’re willing to do everything in the UI at a snail’s pace to give it time to catch up with you. I still think the game is a trainwreck at present, so I stand by what I wrote below. The UI remains so un-intuitive that I wrote a Guide to explain it for anyone who does buy the game.
Algotica gives you a simple graphical interface for programming your movements: you click commands (“Forward,” “Turn left,” “Jump” etc.) one by one to build the list of actions you want your character to take. The list displays on the left of your screen. Plan your movements, run your completed program, and get from A to B to complete the level.
You can also write a single sub-function on each level. For example, if you want to walk clockwise around a square, you would want to move “Forward” and then “Turn right” 4 times. Rather than doing this 4x and calling 8 distinct commands, you can write a subfunction that contains only 2 commands: “Forward” and then “Turn right.” Then you call that subfunction 4x to build your list of actions. This saves on “memory” (the # of distinct commands you make), and saving sufficient memory across multiple levels is required to unlock the next world of levels.
The problem is that the game can’t properly keep track of what you’re doing in the UI. It tries to be friendly by allowing you to re-order commands in your list, rather than deleting from the bottom and starting over. It tries to be friendly by letting you drag commands off the list to delete them. But it’s very unfriendly in that it cannot distinguish the two. So if you try to drag a command off the bottom of your list to delete it, the UI thinks you’re trying to re-order it *in* the list, and it starts moving other commands around to make room for it. Then, when you successfully delete it, the UI leaves a “gap” where it thought you wanted to put that command in the list.
Also, deleting one command (e.g., “Jump” at one spot in your list) often causes problems — all the “Jump” commands anywhere else in your list go blank, even though they are still in the list and will be implemented if you run your program — you just can’t see them anymore. So now we’ve got 2 kinds of gaps in the list of commands: “true empty” gaps that just shouldn’t be there, and “false empty” gaps that are hiding commands you can no longer work with.
The list only has space to display ~15 commands and you can’t scroll through the list even though you can program more than 15 commands. So just a few screwups like the ones described above fill the list with true emptys and false emptys, making the whole list useless. Since you can’t see what’s on the list, you can’t fix it manually. You can either use the inexplicably hidden “CLEAR ALL” button to start over, or load another level and then come back to the one you were playing. And god help you if you haven’t memorized exactly the list of commands you want to enter, because if you have to fiddle with it at all, you’ll face exactly the same problem all over again.
“But Genghis, aren’t you just a dummy? How hard could it be to just enter the correct sequence of commands the first time and avoid all these problems?”
Algotica succeeds in capturing part of the “fun” of learning programming: you have to try stuff out to see what will happen before you can determine the correct solution. But the interface doesn’t let you have any fun doing this.
Lastly: The lack of explicit tutorials or tooltips undercuts Algotica’s educational aspirations. You’ll need a basic knowledge of programming logic beforehand to get anywhere.
By Genghis Pawn
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