Edit: for fairness and visibility to newcomers who might happen to stumble upon this post.
New review: Recommended!
I had previously downvoted this game, citing many bugs and frustrations with the control scheme and the GUI. But after an incredible show of dedication from the developers in addressing and fixing (nearly) every one of my complaints in the "massive invisible" patch, I'm finally giving the game a thumbs-up. Very impressive, guys! Previously, I felt that this game might have perhaps gotten more attention and understanding as an "early access" title, but now it has earned its status as a finished product, one which can be built upon. I'm confident that the small number of remaining issues left will be addressed, and even if not, they do not detract too much from the game's quality.
The puzzle design of Chuck's Challenge can only be described as some of the best you will see in any puzzle game, and that's no surprise because the game and most of its levels come from the brilliant mind of Chuck Sommerville, the man behind Chip's Challenge. While the puzzles are quite a bit smaller in comparison to Chip's Challenge, they are so deceptively simple that sometimes they blow the mind. You could spend a half-hour tinkering with a stage that's so small and simple and has such few moving parts, and in the end you can only blame yourself for not seeing that one obvious answer that was hanging in front of your nose the whole time. And that's one of the highest levels of praise I can offer to any puzzle game.
The game has some great anti-frustration features, namely the ability to undo any move at any time, and even to replay previous solutions (a brand new feature from the old versions)!! The undo functionality was previously horribly broken and allowed for bad solutions, but the "massive invisible" update has rewritten it from scratch seems to have made it quite bulletproof. Just be warned, if you're aiming for speed medals and records, the rewind feature won't help you much because it adds +5 seconds to your time whenever it is used, but it's great if you're trying to solve a puzzle for the first time and accidentally push a block into a corner or something.
The GUI has been criticized for being designed with touchscreens primarily in mind, but enough improvements and concessions have been made for mouse-and-keyboard users that it's not so much of a problem anymore.
Oh, and let's not forget to mention the level editor. Though the interface is slightly quirky, it's a cinch to hop into the editor and prototype a level idea, tinker with it, then upload it for the world to see into an ever-expanding database of user-designed levels, complete with individual leaderboards. The game has even implemented a new feature letting you click on a specially-formatted URL which will launch Chuck's Challenge and load a custom level automatically. Though it could stand to have a few more features (functionality for level packs, or some way of knowing which custom levels you've beaten), an eternal supply of user-generated content is the heart and soul of a game like this, and it doesn't disappoint.
Some small quirks and bugs still exist, but they are absolutely benign compared to what they were before, and no longer detract from the core of the experience: the bliss of solving awesome puzzles. Overall, recommended for all fans of Chip's Challenge, as well as any newcomer or veteran to the block-pushing puzzle genre.
Here's my upvote, developers. You've earned it.
Unfortunately, that's where the positive points end. Puzzle design aside, nearly every single aspect of this game is ruined by shoddy interface and fearsome bugs.
The ability to undo moves, while very welcome, is so horribly broken that dozens of user-created levels have been made to illustrate all the different ways it can be abused.
Various timing bugs exist in the game which make hunting for the #1 score on the leaderboard pointless. While it is welcome that the game rewards you for even tying the high score, the high score was usually acquired by someone’s lucky run where the timer skipped, started too late, or a rewind glitch was used.
Menus are clearly optimized for touchscreens and are downright difficult to control with a mouse, as an invisible timer will always cause the cursor to leap back to the beginning of the list every few seconds unless you use the mouse to "drag" the screen horizontally.
Thumbnail screenshots for user-designed levels are a disaster, as they frequently change, resize themselves, disappear, and even appear on the incorrect levels. Stats and leaderboards for user-created levels are inconsistent between the official site and the in-game browser; the same level will have different leaderboards and different star-rankings depending on where you look.
The level editor has an unforgivable bug which renders it incapable of telling the difference between a local copy of a level and the server-side copy. In common cases, especially when modifying a level locally after having uploaded it, you can load a level from the search engine and it will load a completely different version of the level for you than it will for other people.
While all that is annoying, the number one sin of this game is its in-game control scheme, bringing back terrible memories of slipping and sliding around in the NES version of Boulder Dash. While movement is tile-based like Sokoban, the main character moves smoothly from one tile to the next, which allows for time-based leaderboards to exist. Unfortunately, this means that if you want to make any kind of quick or complex movements, you need to press the keys a half second ahead of time. Hold the key for a millisecond too long and you’ll go sliding off your intended path and into a death trap. Whereas most Sokoban games (Like Chip's Challenge) use the keyboard buffer to delay your movements, or make the character move slow enough that you can mentally queue your movements, the main challenge of Chuck’s Challenge comes from just getting your character to move where you want, rather than the block puzzles themselves. Even though I conquered this game, I never completely got used to it, and it made in-game movements an unpleasant and frustrating experience from beginning to end. That’s just not what I want in a Sokoban game.
I’ll update this review if a patch fixes any bugs, but for now I’ll say that you should only buy this game if you appreciate block puzzles so much that brilliant level design outweighs bad controls and numerous other flaws. Everyone else should pass.
This was hard for me to downvote. I love block puzzles and I think Chuck Sommerville is a master of puzzle design. His genius lies in the simplicity and elegance of the levels. When a level is so small and has so few moving parts, you can only blame yourself for not seeing that one small element you were overlooking the whole time. I love that. I thoroughly completed this game, gaining nearly all the gold medals and single-digit rankings on roughly half of the levels; cracking the code of the simple yet devious puzzle designs brought me hours upon hours of bliss.