Posted: October 27, 2014
Huge nostalgic trip for me. When I was young (can't remember when, when I was 8 years old or so I guess?), I used to play this game called Chip's Challenge. It was a timed puzzle game with Sokoban elements. I never quite got to finish it as the levels grew too difficult for me near the end, but I remembered it fondly as one of the most favourite games I used to play. Hell, I remember being incredibly jubilant when my father helped me to beat Blobnet. Yeah, that infamous level with all the blobs.
Fast-forward to 2013/2014 and a talented team of programmers was assembled (may not be an accurate depiction of events) by Chuck Sommerville, the original Chip's Challenge creator, to work on the spiritual sequel. With the original sequel
being put in stasis for years due to a publishing issue, we have this game in its place.
With Chuck being the brains behind some of the puzzles (and he even appears as himself in the early game plot!), there is an overwhelming sense of familiarity immediately (for those who've played Chips). The predominant element in Chuck's Challenge, as is the case with Chip's Challenge, are Sokoban puzzles where you have to push blocks into specific positions. There are a few other nice puzzles based upon the mechanics with which the creatures move.
Most of the game elements remain, just re-skinned for generation Y gamers - for example, the Teeth creature in Chip's Challenge that chases you around is now known as Snappy in Chuck's Challenge (and whose primary feature is still his teeth). There are a few new game elements as well - one that blows gas that makes you fail the level if you go within range, for starters. Also, coloured blocks with coloured pressure plates - you have to push all the correct coloured blocks onto the plates to open the gate. In terms of variety, it's a huge step-up from Chip's Challenge where you only had one type of block.
With the 16/10/14 Flummery Update, the game now boasts 150 main levels - roughly the same as the original Chip's Challenge had. The difficulty was kind of inconsistent - as usual, easy levels at the start, following that you get levels that vary between frustratingly hard and medium-ish difficulty. Thankfully, (and this is one of the advantages that Chuck has over Chip, I feel) the game allows you to rewind the puzzle, at the cost of adding 5 seconds to your time. Why is adding time a "cost", you ask? Well, in Chip, (most) levels were timed so you had to do it quickly. Here, times only serve as an indicator as to how well you compare with the rest of the world. There are medals now awarded for being as fast as possible, great for speedrunners. (Luckily for now, none of the achievements are medal-related.)
For the first time, Chuck's Challenge has an in-built level editor. You can create your own levels for others to play, and the Flummery update introduced support for the Steam Workshop. This is a far cry from Chip's Challenge where dedicated players made maps using third party software. Still, there's no function for making level packs, but at least making levels is now a lot more easier.
Despite the nostalgic feels, this game isn't quite perfect. The game has oversized big buttons in the menu, giving it the feel of a mobile port. It's one of the better ones there, but scrolling the menu proved a bit unwieldy. Just a minor nitpick, though. A slightly more major nitpick (to me, at least - maybe there's someone out there who likes it) is the cheesy story behind how Chuck created levels for Woop (the alien that you control). The sound effects when the characters speak are cringe-inducing, and the story seems rather pointless. Thankfully it only lasts for the first few level packs.
Still, this is mostly an improvement over Chip's Challenge in terms of almost everything. There's even a weekly puzzle to complete if you get bored. Oh and hats. Oh yes. Hats. I do miss Chip, he had this charisma about him. But Woop does have his own charm about him, and I gradually grew to like him, and causing him to die in all sorts of manners, and dressing him up in various hats...you get the point.
When to buy: It took quite a while but the game and DLC finally got bundled - if you're short on cash, trade for the keys. This is however one game I'd recommend buying at full price if money is no object. :)