Cato's Hike: A Programming and Logic Odyssey

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Cato's Hike: A Programming and Logic Odyssey App Poster Image
Maze puzzler makes learning programming an adventure.

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids can learn the basics of writing a computer program using the command cards. They also can learn more advanced programming concepts such as loops, goto commands, if/then commands, branches, and chaining. Kids will have fun working through the maze and may even not realize they're programming, but these basics will give them a good foundation in computer-programming literacy. The adventure story will appeal to kids who might not usually enjoy programming or logic games, so Cato's Hike: A Programming and Logic Odyssey is a great way to introduce those concepts.

Ease of Play

The section to enter commands is wider than the screen, so kids have to scroll to enter a full line of commands. If they accidentally neglect to finish a line and start entering commands on the next line, their program will stop at the blank. There's no way to delete the empty slot, and kids will have to reenter the program.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cato's Hike: A Programming and Logic Odyssey takes kids on a story-based adventure through mazes to collect hearts and stars and find friends, using the logic of computer programming to guide their character. The backstory is delivered in pieces at each leg of the hike. There are keys to find, doors to unlock, and damsels in distress to rescue. The pop-up commentary that delivers the backstory manages to redeem the "damsel-in-distress" sexism with the comment, "Well, not really. Your friend really just went for a walk and you couldn't keep up." Kids can share their programs via email.

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What's it about?

CATO'S HIKE: A PROGRAMMING AND LOGIC ODYSSEY puts kids in a hiker's shoes (either Cato or his friend -- kids' choice) on an odyssey to find a way through the magical world they've stumbled into and to get back home. Kids use programming commands to tell their character where to move and how to get past such obstacles as water, rocks, and trees, collecting jewels and hearts along the way. To move their character, kids drag command cards into the program. They can work with beginning-level commands, telling the character to walk or jump or turn, or use more advanced tools such as loops, goto commands, if/then commands, branches, and chaining. Kids can save their in-progress programs and email them to friends. A tutorial walks kids through the basics, and a written manual is included.

Is it any good?

Cato's Hike uses a method similar to other introductory programming apps: kids drag commands into a program to learn programming concepts. The adventure story adds a fun element, and the option for kids to create their own maps extends the challenge well beyond the included 60 levels. Kids can share their programs by email, which adds some social interaction and potential for peer feedback -- important in programming, especially when working on a team. Another great feature is the wide age range. Kids as young as five can solve levels using elementary programming skills, whereas teens (or adults) can get more advanced with sophisticated commands and logic. The story is a really fun addition, and even though the writing isn't stellar and the text includes missing words and punctuation, it's still understandable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Encourage kids to replay levels to find more efficient solutions. Discuss how, in coding, there can be multiple successful programs but the cleanest code is the most efficient.

  • Review the written manual in the help section to get an overview of what kids do in the app.

App details

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