By Michael Fontanini / October 6th, 2015
|Title||Chip’s Challenge 1 & 2|
|Publisher||Niffler Ltd., Nkidu Games Inc.|
|Release Date||Original: 1990
Steam: May 28, 2015
You are a young man named Chip McCallahan who wants to join the Bit Busters Computer Club. Why? So he can hang out with the girl of his dreams (Melinda the Mental Marvel), of course! In order to do that, Chip must defeat all 144 puzzles while not being defeated by monsters and traps. The story aspect of both games is very light, but Chip’s Challenge 2 does continue the story from the first game. Both games are retro top-down puzzle games. In Chip’s Challenge 2, the International Brain Games Club has issued a new challenge to Chip, full of 200 puzzles created by its Puzzle Master, Vladimir Gerajkee. Do you have what it takes to solve all of the difficult puzzles and win Melinda’s heart?
The original Chip’s Challenge came out in 1990 on Windows, but it was also on a number of other platforms. It was created in just 10 weeks by Chuck Sommerville. He then spent two years building a sequel, but it almost never saw the light of day. Upon finishing development, he found that the trademark had been sold, and worse, its new owners wanted him to pay the costs of publishing. Unable to afford this, Chuck had no choice but to not release the game. 25 years later, and after almost five years of negotiations with the owners, Chuck was finally able to release the game to fans. The screenshots below show what the original Chip’s Challenge looked like compared to its new Steam version which runs on the Chip’s Challenge 2 engine:
As you can see, the new version looks a bit nicer than the original. This review covers both Chip’s Challenge and Chip’s Challenge 2 together since the games are so similar. Chip’s Challenge comes with nearly 150 levels to test your gray matter and make you scratch your head. The game starts out with some tutorial levels that teach you what many of the game elements do. The early levels are fairly easy, but, as you get deeper into the game, they will get much trickier. The same is true of Chip’s Challenge 2, but that game packs 200 levels of its own and nearly 80 new puzzle elements (on top of all the ones from the first game) making the game that much deeper. There is also a second playable character, which is, of course, Melinda.
Some puzzle elements, such as keys, come in several types. Each type may behave in different ways. For example, green keys (when playing as Chip) can be used an infinite number of times. The two playable characters even have some differences, adding a bit more depth. With this and the multitude of other elements in the game, the puzzle design possibilities are endless. So, that brings us to an obvious question. Can you make your own levels? The answer is yes, but with a small catch. While you can buy the first game on Steam for $1.99 and the second for $4.99, the level editor is a DLC that costs $2.99. However, you can get all three items for just $4.99 if you purchase the Chip’s Challenge bundle, rather than buying all three items separately. The editor does not currently have Steam Workshop support, but the developers have expressed interest in adding this and possibly even letting you make your own custom puzzle elements in the future.
Looking at the screenshots, you may be wondering if puzzles are limited to being 10 x 10 tiles in size. Thankfully, the answer is no; they can be much larger, and the screen will scroll. You will only see a 10 x 10-tile area of the level at a time, though. This is probably to stay true to the original game and may also prevent the player from feeling overwhelmed on some levels. Both games run in windowed mode, with several options for how big the window will be. You can also change the volume of the music and sound effects separately.
So, what exactly is the goal in each level? In the screenshot above, the goal tile is the tile in the upper-left corner that is made of concentric light and dark blue squares. Reach that square and you win the level. There’s a catch, of course. The black blocks touching the goal are chip gates. To open them, you must touch them after collecting all of the chips in the level. Some levels do not require you to collect all of the chips to win, though. Of course, you also have to solve the puzzle on each level if you want to reach the goal anyway.
There are obviously far too many puzzle elements to mention here, but the possibilities are endless. There are red fire boots that let you walk on fire tiles, or blue cleats that let you walk on ice without sliding out of control (Melinda can walk on ice without the cleats, but she’s limited in some other ways where Chip isn’t). So, there’s a nice balance. Items can even be picked up by enemies and will give them the same abilities they do the player. There is an enormous amount of depth to the game thanks to the sheer number of puzzle elements and mechanics that can be used in any given level.
The sound effects are very simple and fit with the retro visuals of the game. The music loops are somewhat short, but they can be rather catchy, too. You can turn off the music or sound effects by turning the corresponding volume setting all the way down, though I prefer playing with the sounds and music on. I did turn the sound effects down a bit though as they were too loud at first on my machine.
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