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Mission Python: A Programming Adventure in Space Paperback – 18 Sep 2018
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"If you're looking for additions to your computer science education or gifts for your budding programmer, I'd generally recommend anything from No Starch Press, but Mission Python is one of my new favorites."
About the Author
Sean McManus is an experienced computer book author, with extensive experience in writing coding books for children. His children's titles include Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps, Scratch Programming in Easy Steps, and Super Skills: How To Code in 10 Easy Lessons. He co-wrote Raspberry Pi For Dummies with Mike Cook. Sean has been a Code Club volunteer, helping junior school children to learn programming in weekly sessions.
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The exercises in the book are well presented, framed with a captivating Space Station theme from start to finish, and walks through the basic building blocks of a pseudo-3D, top-down adventure game. It covers everything from installing the right software, to drawing levels, adding more detailed graphical effects, moving the player, collision, hazards and more- all of this is broken down into stages and covered in detail making it easy to move on as and when your understanding advances.
The narrow focus of the book on an adventure style game means you'll learn a subset of game programming techniques rather than a broad set of more general knowledge. On the plus side this focus does mean you'll come out of the other end of this book having actually created a game, versus picking up concepts you might not understand how to apply. For me it was exactly the right fit, as I already had a wide experience with programming in various fields and was looking for an introduction to PyGame/PyGame Zero in particular without having to pour over dry manuals and API documentation.
Sourcecode is also provided for download, complete with some really nice pixel-art assets that are a great jumping off point for a beginner to explore other game styles. The language covered - Python - is also widely adopted in many other fields including web-programming, embedded development and scientific number-crunching and all of the tools to accomplish these things are free to download and use, so it's worth getting a head for.
How can you not love a book that starts like that!
Mission Python is a great way to learn Python and how to use Pygame Zero. The book (and game) is broken down into logical chapters that develop skills. Each chapter has training missions so you can think about what you’ve just learnt and further increase your understanding of it. At the end of each chapter, there is a “Mission Debrief” that gives you the answers to these missions. This space theme is continued throughout the book with “Are You Fit To Fly?” sections at the end of each section and, my particular favourite, “Red Alert” sections throughout the chapter, which are great little prompts to mistakes you may, or may not make.
One of the strengths of this books, is that if you need to do something, for instance, if you’ve closed the command shell and can’t remember how to open it, then the author directs you back to the section of the book where you learnt to do it. This happens throughout the book with different things, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers
The attention to detail is breath taking. From the coloured images throughout to the picture of Mars being used being taken from the Hubble Space Telescope and references to what it would be like to be an astronaut! This carries on into the game itself, which is great fun to play, as well as code.
I would recommend this book to anyone (of any age) who wants to learn python or who knows python but wants to get to grips with Pygame Zero.