Thursday, September 18, 2008


If you read my review of Bot Arena 3 (here), you'd know that I like games where you program robots to do things. And Light-Bot is very much a game where you program a robot to do things. In fact, despite being completely nonviolent, it's much closer to RoboWar, for instance, than Bot Arena 3 is. It is, however, much, much simpler, so don't go expecting any Robot Odyssey action. Rather, it'll provide a fun little diversion and an interesting tutorial on programming in very limited space.

The basic premise of Light-Bot is very simple. (Note: I capitalized the game exactly as it appears in the title of this post, but in the text I'm going to capitalize it more normally.) You have a robot on a tiled grid, which is initially two-dimensional but eventually has tiles that you'll need to jump up onto (or down from). The grid contains some blue tiles, and your goal is to light up all of the blue tiles. To do this, you give your robot instructions in a very simple programming language (move forward, turn left, turn right, jump, or light current tile; all of the programming is done by dragging little instruction icons into your program body, which is quite simple and intuitive but can be annoying when you want to insert an instruction in your current program) and then fire him up and watch him execute your program, hopefully successfully. If not, just reset, tinker as necessary, and try again until you achieve success.

If that were all there is to it, Light-Bot would be a very simple game indeed (and it would get pretty tedious very quickly). What makes Light-Bot intriguing is that your main program is limited to 12 instructions, which is far fewer than you'll need to solve many of the puzzles. Fortunately, in addition to your main program body, you have available two subroutines, so developing reusable chunks that reduce your total number of instructions is absolutely key. At first, this is pretty straightforward, but in the later levels (especially level 10), figuring out how to make reusable code out of segments that seem inevitably different is quite a tricky task. One thing that would help is a visual trace which shows you which instruction the robot is executing as he runs your program, but sadly there is no such feature.

The game features only 12 levels, most of which are quite short but a couple of which may take you a little bit. The graphics are quite spartan, although the robot is kind of cute; there's no sound effects, other than the music, which will drive you batty in nothing flat; in my opinion, it's just not very good, and it's horribly repetitive.

Overall this is a fun game, but it is a little too much on the simplistic side to be terribly engrossing. Still, it's a cute little challenge to try when you're feeling bored and in the mood for tackling some very elementary programming challenges.

1 comment:

Calvin said...

I think I've played it. Have you read JIG?