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Hackstage Pass by Player Three


Coding is a hot topic, whether it’s Google pushing for a new generation of coders or the UK Government adding programming to the curriculum; computer science is officially a good thing.

Hackstage Pass isn’t the BBC’s first foray into coding games but the neat thing about this effort is the sheer playability. It’s a game first and a teaching tool second. No carts before the horses here. Run different DJs through a classic platform environment and when you hit trouble, hack your way out by tweaking gameplay values like jump height and forward movement.

Playable on various platforms, two modes cater for different tastes, one with plenty of levels and the other a fiendish endless runner. The interface takes some getting used to but it’s the simplest we’ve seen and really drills home the basics of programming.

Why we love it

  • Simple system that doesn’t overload the player
  • Great example of HTML5 going multi-platform
  • Playful art style

Play it online via most devices

You Can’t Write Proper English Under Pressure by UsVsTh3m


You Can’t Write Proper English Under Pressure is a simple game where you work against the clock to see if you can spot mistakes in English text. It’s as simple as that. Don’t feel too smug yet as you’ll quickly realise that however good your reading and writing skills are, it’s incredibly hard to perform under pressure. The levels are short and sweet so there is a quick sense of achievement, but the difficulty increases swiftly as you progress through the game. One for Grammar Nazis with nerves of cold, hard steel.

Why we love it:

    • Simple but effective format
    • Clean design, particularly the countdown
    • Deceptively tricky challenges to keep you on your toes

Play it online

To Be Or Not To Be by Tin Man Games


Ryan North’s To Be Or Not To Be lets players answer the most famous rhetorical question ever posed, and in doing so players immediately begin the process of ruining Shakespeare’s Hamlet. By comparing their decisions to the original – via the ‘Hamlet-o-meter’ – the game deftly teaches the art of storytelling, pace and character development through increasingly farcical situations that arise directly from mischievous player choice. It’s a triumphant example of making failure fun – who wouldn’t want to try sending a central character to his death just to see what happens?

North’s writing is excellent; every scene is handled with wit and plenty of surprising chain reactions ensure that repeat play is not only highly rewarding, but irresistible! A compelling layer of strategy, built on subtle character attributes and statistics, encourages countless explorations of scene, plot and character combinations.

Why we love it:

  • Brilliant, laugh out loud dialogue
  • Makes failure fun, whilst subtly teaching Shakespeare’s craft
  • Wonderful character design and art

Buy it here

Transmission by Loju

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This smart looking game takes players on a journey from the humble telegraph through to cellphones and satellites in a series of increasingly fiendish puzzles based on a simple click and drag mechanic. The aim is to transmit packets of data between specific points based on the quirks of each method of communication. Easily digestible learning tidbits are sequenced between levels and while you may not remember it all, the basics of data transmission will stay with you. Superb sound design adds depth to the pared back visuals and the in-game feedback is also top notch.

Why we love it:

  • A distinct, highly polished look and feel.
  • Easy to start playing but plenty of depth for the pros.
  • Gorgeous responsive sound design.

Get it for iOS or Android or Online

Dragonbox Elements by We Want To Know


Dragonbox Elements is a tactile new Maths game with a focus on 2D geometry. The aim of the game is to help the player recognise and interact with a variety of geometric shapes.
One of the joys of the game is that the player literally draws out the puzzles by tracing over a number of set co-ordinates that form the basis of each challenge. Once a shape is drawn out it spawns a monster! These geometric gremlins are able to affect the geometry on screen when the player highlights certain properties around them such as the matching sides of an equilateral triangle. Each time the gremlin finds themselves at the centre of newly highlighted bit of geometry they evolve into a new breed of creature complete with new powers that can affect the gameplay. Once all the key shapes have been revealed the newly evolved gremlins can escape their mathematical confines and the level is completed. The game has a pleasing difficulty curve although the lack of a help function can (on occasion) leave you scratching your head for the appropriate action. Nevertheless DragonBox Elements is a polished and intriguing way to look at geometry for students of any age.

Why we love it:

  • Original and intriguing Maths based puzzle game.
  • Intuitive tactile interface.
  • A gentle and satisfying difficulty curve.

Get it for iOS or Android

The Sandbox by Pixowl


The Sandbox is a free-to-play physics simulator. Players are given access to an array of materials and encouraged to experiment with them. Each material has a unique property and will react to other materials placed nearby. This allows the player to build simple machines, electrical circuits and a variety chemistry based experiments. Whilst the tutorial gently guides you through a variety of in-game possibilities it is the free play mode that offers the player long term fulfilment. The control system makes the most of the iOS touchscreen and offers a simple and intuitive interface which is perfect for experimentation.

Why we love it:

  • Learn about a variety of materials and their properties.
  • Build circuits, conduct experiments and create structures virtually.
  • Save, share and rate your best creations in the online gallery.

Play it online or get it for iOS or Android

Untrusted by Alex Nisnevich


Untrusted is a lo-fi adventure game which challenges you to escape from a series of increasingly cryptic puzzle rooms by editing the very code that is running the game in your web browser.

With its atmospheric electronic soundtrack and authentic ASCII-art aesthetic, Untrusted evokes the feel of classic cyberpunk literature and hacker culture, while also helping players improve their programming skills. There has been a wave of games exploring programming concepts recently, but what makes Untrusted stand out is its focus on getting players to really think like a programmer. With a strong emphasis on reading unfamiliar code and modifying it through the creative use of a limited set of commands, the game helps budding coders to develop the core problem solving skills that are transferable to any programming language.

Why we love it:

  • Retro aesthetic gives the game an authentic hacker feel.
  • Open-ended design means there are many solutions.
  • Modifying code makes you think like a programmer.
  • The game’s code is open source and downloadable.

Play it online

The Great Brain Experiment by White Bat and The Wellcome Trust


The Great Brain Experiment is a Wellcome funded mobile app for android and iOS with a welcoming and friendly art style that hides its serious scientific purpose.

The app packages up a number of psychological tests as a mini game compendium and record the player’s every move, thereby gathering a wealth of information useful in the study of Neuroscience. The games themselves are simple tests of both dexterity and perhaps more importantly, character. They test things like how you deal with pressure, whether you are a risk taker, whether you are impulsive and a number of other character traits.

Why we love it:

  • High production value for a free app.
  • Interesting game mechanics that test more than dexterity.
  • The chance to take part in a ground breaking MME (Massive Multiplayer Experiment).

Get it for iOS or Android

Ouch by Thought Den


Ouch is a simple yet effective micro game built by Thought Den for the Science Museum. Based on the Arcade classic Missile Command, it explores how patients can manage their pain using a variety of methods. An unwitting central character becomes the focal point for a succession of pain impulses that could easily tip them over the edge. Your job is to intercept the pain impulses before they reach the brain.

A positive mood can help make your task a little easier, represented by cute smiling faces that can be used to take the edge off, but you will still need some quick-click skills to place your placebos. When the stakes increase you can use painkillers, but an over-reliance on these will see them become less and less effective. More outlandish solutions include the impulse-blocking spider venom and the reliable smart bomb general anaesthetic.

Why we love it:

  • Simple and appealing art style
  • Classic arcade gameplay, with room for replays
  • Clearly conveys the learning messages

Fort McMoney by David Dufresne


Fort McMoney is a point and click adventure that puts you into the heart of the moral dilemma that is the Canadian oil business. McMoney uses documentary footage to add a deep sense of realism to the game. Taking on the role of environmental detective you meet and greet everyone concerned from the native inhabitants to the executives and politicians that are driving the oil business deep in the Albertan countryside. The framework of the game encourages users to debate the issues with the wider community and for once you get the feeling that there is enough information available in the game to fuel a really constructive dialogue.

Why we love it:

  • Modern take on the point and click adventure
  • Hours of fascinating documentary footage
  • Links to debating forum where the topic can be explored further

Play it online