CodeCombat Review

Logo for CodeCombat kids coding course

“For the price, Codecombat does a great job at imparting important concepts in computer science and does a fine job teaching Python/Javascript coding while kids play through their interactive, RPG-style game.”

What We Like

Free to start, affordable subscription for extras
Can be a good option for homeschooling parents due to teacher controls, testing and monitoring
Large number of levels offer good opportunity to develop advanced skills and drill developed skills
Unskippable step by step process excellent for impatient students

What We Don’t Like

Kids not into RPG Style fantasy games might have trouble engaging with the program
Inability to skip levels might cause frustration with more experienced coders
Not the most cutting edge graphics

What is CodeCombat?

CodeCombat is a company that offers schools and at home parents freemium courses to help kids 9 and up learn the basics of computer science and coding through an expansive role playing (RPG) video game. They currently teach a selection of text-based coding languages, notably Python and Javascript. Users choose which they would like to learn.

How much does CodeCombat cost?

CodeCombat itself is free.

Instead of paying for the course, parents can subscribe to a premium account, where they can unlock more levels, special items/characters and power ups and the ability to create their own levels by paying $9.99 per month or $99.99 for lifetime access.

This price certainly puts CodeCombat on the more affordable end of the coding course spectrum. Some people are a little put off by educational software using a freemium or pay-for-extas approach, seeing as it is a key payment model in many mobile games. But we’ll take a stand here and say that it actually presents an easy and affordable way to get into authentic coding that’s increasingly an important part of modern education, and that even with a $9.99 subscription it can be more affordable than most competitors.

What Age Group is Codecombat for?

CodeCombat is aimed at kids aged 9 and up, which is typical for most authentic coding language courses.

What Programming Languages Does Codecombat Teach?

Currently, Codecombat teaches its students Python and Javascript, as well as some CSS. The company says it plans to offer Java in the future as well.

While it doesn’t have as many language options as some other competitors, such as teaching C#, Ruby or others, Python and Javascript are often taught in schools and are both powerful, relatively easy to read, high-level programming languages.

How They Teach Coding for Kids

CodeCombat immerses its students in a fantasy role playing video game (RPG) made up of over 400 levels. Students create their own custom characters and, at the start, learn by input codes in either Python or Javascript to control the basic movement of their characters.

Screenshot of CodeCombat's RPG coding game

Overall, we think the RPG style game is cute and fun. It’s pretty flexible, letting kids modify their equipment and create multiple heroes to play around with. The graphics are a bit generic, maybe something you might find on a fantasy game app or the like, but they’re not really the point here. The game, and the coding obviously, are the point.

The concept behind it all is to get students used to code syntax and typing out code commands by essentially drilling them, for example by entering code to move a character around a simple maze.

As students get more familiar with coding and progress through the material, or if they have prior experience and decide to skip the tutorial level, they can then choose various dungeons with different code-based missions. Each of these levels has a different mission that requires the student to create and input code, such as picking up loot or avoiding danger.

Codecombat tries to keep things fresh and encourage students to work on developing their skills by changing level maps, terrains and making battles more challenging. Eventually students enter levels that encourage them to build their own levels or create custom scripts.

Screenshot of a custom script being programmed in the CodeCombat RPG game

Behind the game’s advanced levels and objectives are some advanced concepts in computer science as software engineering, such as string comparison and relational operators, letting students learn some fairly useful and important real-life concepts in coding.

CodeCombat has two account types. One is for teachers in schools, which allows teachers to review code and better monitor student progress and assessments through a teacher dashboard and control the learning experience, and the other is a more unlocked, free style learning experience for parents at home.

We feel homeschooling parents may like the trackable progress of the teacher package, as well as the fact that they can adjust the learning pace by controlling level access, allowing students to skip levels they may be good at. They can also play along, in case they also feel like learning some coding.

One thing we found that could be somewhat annoying is the inability to skip levels. On the plus side, this ensures kids don’t just skip their way past difficult levels. However, it also forces students with an existing background in coding to go over concepts they already know and pursue objectives that are simple to them, possibly causing frustration.

Another issue is that some students, especially those who enjoy spectacular 3d games, may find the game play to be a bit simple and get bored. Considering that the main driver here is imparting coding concepts, which need to be somewhat simple at this level, it might be an unfortunate necessity.

CodeCombat AI League

Recently, CodeCombat has introduced a team-based and educational esports league that it calls its AI League. Essentially, interested students create their own hero characters and join up in small teams, called clans, to compete in a worldwide, head to head tournament battle with other teams.

Students use Python, JavaScript, C++, Lua, or CoffeeScript to pre-program their characters with certain strategies and tactics (dodging, special moves, etc) that the characters can use independently in battle, hence the AI (artificial intelligence) League name.

Similar to other esports tournaments, as teams win battles (tweaking their code along the way) they accrue points and move up the leaderboard until one team is crowned champion.

The battles take place in various generic CodeCombat environments, so the style and design of the game should be familiar to anyone who has completed a few levels of CodeCombat coding. Clans enter a typical 2D CodeCombat world and their heroes brawl it out with various fantasy-style fighting moves (swords, fireballs, spells and the like) until only one team (or one member) is left standing.

While the AI League doesn’t technically require any coding experience and does include several training levels, the fact that it is team-based and competitive means that students will probably want to be somewhat familiar with either JavaScript or Python before they begin. We’d recommend that kids complete a few basic CodeCombat levels before joining.

While perhaps some parents may be wary of signing their kids up for an arena-style fighting tournament, this style of game can actually make CodeCombat a little more attractive to students who aren’t all that interested in RPG style fantasy games. The competition between clans can also be a great motivator for kids to both improve their coding, while the cooperative atmosphere of a clan is an excellent opportunity for students to learn teamwork and code in a team environment, coming up with and executing mutually determined goals and strategies.

How Long Are Their Coding Courses?

There is no real way to judge how long each course is on average. There are 400 levels filled with a variety of activities and objectives that students must complete before progressing. Therefore, it is very dependent on how fast or well a student learns to code and applies their learning to the specific level they find themselves on and it’s challenges.

This is where the inability to skip levels may become a problem for some kids, as students with strong backgrounds in coding might be forced to play through long levels in order to progress to the point where things become sufficiently challenging, causing them to potentially give up.

Does Codecombat Offer Multi Child Family Discounts?

Codecombat does not offer a multi child family discount. Each student will have to have their own account, which can be annoying for parents with multiple future coders, although the core is free and the monthly subscription isn’t all that expensive.

What do I need to get started?

Generally speaking you don’t need much hardware to run Codecombat, which isn’t surprising since it’s not exactly super graphically intensive.

You’ll need a high speed internet connection and a computer with at least 2GB of RAM, although the company recommends at least 4GB. We like the fact that this is a pretty light hardware requirement, since it means most families (and schools) can probably run Codecombat and benefit from it’s learning.

We didn’t, however, appreciate the fact that IPad and Android tablets are not supported, limiting our mobile options. Kids love their mobile devices and aren’t always next to a laptop or desktop device these days and, at least at our houses, there are far more mobile devices than full computers.


Picture of our tech author David

About the Author

David Belenky is a freelance writer, former science and math tutor and a tech enthusiast. When he’s not writing about educational tech, he likes to chill out with his family and dog at home.