Microsoft's research and development arm has launched a browser-based game which aims to encourage interested parties in taking up programming, putting the player in search of code fragments in order to progress through its levels.
Code Hunt, as the game is entitled, puts the player in the position of having to find and correct fragments of code missing from the given program. When the correct code fragments are found, the code can be completed and the level won - although most levels have multiple solutions, and additional points are awarded for more elegant ways to complete the given task.
The game concentrates on two languages, Java and C#; players have the choice of going through the game concentrating on a single language, or broadening their horizons by playing through once with each language. The interface itself emulates an integrated development environment (IDE), offering everything from syntax highlighting to keyboard shortcuts in order to make the experience as fluid as possible.
Microsoft Research claims that players running through the game will learn a variety of programming-related topics, including arithmetic operators, conditional statements, loops, strings, and search algorithms. The company goes so far as to state that even skilled programmers well-versed in the languages on offer will find something to keep them amused - and perhaps learn a thing or two new along the way. At the end of each level, an automatic grading system offers points based on correctness and quality of the code.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of Code Hunt, however, is its extensibility. An Extras section allows the player to design his or her own levels, or play levels designed by others. The entire codebase is also available for licence from Microsoft, which claims it canb e used to run small- or large-scale coding competitions with either private or public visibility.
The game is available to anyone with a modern browser at the official website