Programming in games often ends up becoming a hardcore hacker or programming game that for non techie gamers, might be a bit too much to pick up. Enter Escape String as a puzzle game that I’d label as Programming For Beginners. Its a puzzle game that you can play at your own pace and work out the optimal solution for each level whilst offering an accessible lower entry and lower completion barrier for just completing each level and progressing.
In Escape String you play as a robot that has heard a sentient call from beyond the junk yard and is trying to escape and save itself. As a player you don’t have direct control over the robot. Instead, you’ll need to program the movement string that the robot will take. Left and right move the robot across the 2D plain but down lets it crouch and up is a jump forward. Jump forwards move you further than a simple step forward and so you’ll eyeball how far you need to travel to say a gap before commanding the robot to jump. Early on, traps are static like electric balls and gaps. After the first few levels though things get trickier.
Escape String adds in crushers and enemy patrol robots that move around which returns the game more into a rewind/fast-forward trial and error VHS game. Duck to miss a robot or move back and forward to time moving between crushers and you’ll make it to the end of ever longer corridors for each level. You can programme the robot in sections of up to 15 commands at once but you get 3 lots of them. The game challenges you to find an optimum string (often meaning jumping rather than moving right) but you don’t need to unless you want the unlockable cosmetics and a few achievements. It is satisfying to play and more of a logic based puzzle as there is always a solution you can find through progressive trial and error. There are 40 levels to work your way through which will take a couple of hours.
Whilst there’s little to fault Escape String on, I did find that having the guesstimate how far each robot move takes you to be quite annoying at times. I feel like having a faint gridded graph paper would have helped this problem out – especially when you have enemy robots to avoid alongside crushers and electric orbs. If you don’t mind that design quirk and some workmanlike graphics and sound, there’s a good starter puzzle game for programmers here. Platinum hunters will only need to get to about level 15 too.
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