Review: Chip's Challenge

At a Glance

This game is recommended!
While there are many great games out there, this is one manages to be good fun and stay fairly true to Christian moral values.

If you're looking to add a new game to your collection, consider this one!

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Everyone
Genre: Puzzle
License: Commercial
Release Year: 1989
Review Published On: February 10th, 2021
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Steam

Save System:

Which levels you have seen is recorded as soon as they are loaded. However, you cannot save* during a level or select a level you haven't seen yet.

This game does have a pause function: it's toggled with the F5 key or the Pause option from the Level menu.

Summary of
Major Issues:

This game is quite family friendly, as even though Chip can be hurt by various hazards, none of it is treated as more than a bummer.

Screenshots

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Another day, another sliding block puzzle

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Perhaps that was the wrong way

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Solving puzzles old school style



Game Overview

Chip's Challenge originally came out in 1989 for the Atari Lynx, a handheld game console* that unsuccessfully tried to compete with the Nintendo Game Boy and Sega Game Gear. Thankfully, it was also ported* to other systems, including the fledgling PC market. It was later included in Microsoft Entertainment Pack 4 and Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack, which spread it to a much larger audience and helped it become a cult classic. Much more recently, an upgraded version was released through Steam, and that's what I'm looking at today.

Being a computer user in the early 1990s was exciting. Personal computers were just starting to become feasible for the average family. Yet, their often cryptic nature made them the exclusive territory of the nerds and social misfits of the world. You know the type: these were the pimply faced teens with glasses held together by scotch tape, the proud members of the school's chess club, and the favorite targets of every jock and bully stereotype seen in media.

So when the girl of his dreams gives "nerdy" Chip McCallahan an invite to an exclusive computer club, it's not surprising that he'd do anything to join. In order to prove himself worthy of the club (and the attention of its president, Melinda the Mental Marvel), Chip needs to solve 144 puzzles filled with mazes, monsters, and other traps, which is where you come in.

The gameplay revolves around guiding Chip through these many stages. Each stage requires you to find and collect a given number of computer chips, which will then unlock the exit door. Getting to those chips is the trick though, as you'll need to dodge monsters, solve moving block puzzles, and occasionally find keys and other equipment to help you along. For example, if you don't have the swim fins, Chip will always drown in water.

Of course, part of what makes this game difficult is that you can't see the entire level. With the limited viewpoint, you'll regularly find yourself picking a path and hoping for the best, as there's no indication of which paths are safe (and they often aren't). Fortunately, the only penalty for failure is a lower score, as you can always try again.

This isn't an easy game, not by a long shot, but it's still maintained a fanbase to this day. I'd suggest giving it a go if you want to experience some 1990s-era charm, but I think most of today's kids will find it frustrating or boring rather quickly. On a side note, a spiritual successor, Chuck's Challenge, was recently released and seems to be doing quite well, so you might want to look into it too.

Points of Interest

Customizable styles
As this is an upgraded rerelease, you can tweak the game to your liking using the Preferences menu. By default, you can choose the original animated graphical theme, or the more static Windows design. If neither strike your fancy, you can create your own theme with a little elbow grease and a graphics editor.
Steam community features
As you work your way through the puzzles, you have the chance to earn 24 achievements* and collect a set of Steam trading cards*. The achievements* are mostly rewards for completing sets of levels or levels that are widely known to be especially difficult, so just concentrate on the challenges in front of you and you'll have earned them all.
Lackluster victory
As this was originally a game from the very early 1990s, the reward for completing the game is unfortunately, the A Winner is YOU* style text screen. I'm not really surprised by this, as older games just didn't have the resources needed for an elaborate victory dance, but considering how difficult the game is, it's not much of a payoff.

Concerns and Issues

Mild violence
There are a number of ways for you to fail a level, and most of them involve letting Chip wander into danger or get caught by a monster. Although things like drowning, walking into a bonfire, or being eaten by a giant disembodied mouth might seem horrific, all that happens is Chip's sprite* is replaced by a small "explosion" followed by the sound of a disappointed sigh.