Picture this: An anonymous villain stole your identity and is ready to go buck wild and spend your hard-earned money on a shopping spree. Your lifelong savings and everything you stand for is about to go down the drain. But wait! The not-so-smart villain saved your identity inside a super high-tech console, and you managed to get a hold of it. Not only are you in possession of the console, but your Spy Code Squad has the instructions on how to hack and retrieve the hidden information.

Spy Code Hackathon, from Yulu, is a game where players must work together to decode the console. The game is designed for two to nine players ages 8 and up.

One player acts as the hacker, or operator, who directly interacts with the top-secret console. The other players are the advisors, who must decipher the challenges on the advisor cards, then tell the hacker how to break into the different modules. The advisors can look at the cards, but not the Hackathon console. The hacker can look at the console, but not the cards.

There are eight advisor cards, and each card has a series of puzzles and brainteasers on it. The advisor cards are divided among the advisors at random. The advisors must complete the challenges on the cards, and then will get a set of instructions to read out loud to the hacker. Since the hacker cannot see the card with his or her own eyes, the hacker must rely solely on verbal instructions from the rest of the squad as to which buttons to press and which switches to turn to open the console so listening and communications skills are key. It’s a game of teamwork and critical thinking. Everyone has important tasks to complete so everyone is working together and it’s fun for all players.

What really ups the ante is that the console has a timer on it, and the team must break through successfully before the alarm goes off. Players can set the timer to whatever amount of time they’d like, with a minimum of 1 minute and a maximum of 20 minutes. There is a beep for every second that ticks on the clock, adding another challenge to solving the puzzles through the background noise. It’s all about focus and there’s no time to waste!

If the team is able to decode all the modules successfully in the set time, the team wins. After each win, the hacker and the advisors rotate roles so that everyone gets a turn in the operator’s seat. Players can also adjust the timer to make the game easier or more challenging. Even though players are working as a team, they can use the timer as a way to compete against each other by seeing which hacker can unlock the console in the least amount of time.

Some of the advisor cards are easier to decode than others, and players might find different puzzles that they’re better at, depending on their skill sets. For example, one advisor card involves following a maze to get to the correct symbol. Another card contains simple math problems like 45-8 and 43+9, allowing kids to practice addition and subtraction as they play. Another card works memorization skills, such as mimicking the pattern of blinking lights on the console. The hacker will have to rely on different senses, such as sight and sound too. For example, in one of the puzzles the hacker must identify patterns of long and short beeps with sequences of lights. Like other games in Yulu’s Spy Code line, this game will really get the brain thinking!

There are four different modes to play in and eight advisor cards with multiple series of puzzles on them, so the game will stay fresh and won’t get repetitive, even if kids play it a lot.

Hackers get a bad rap, but it really is a good life skill to have!