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Chuck’s Challenge 3D Review: A Satisfying Return to an All-Time Great
I first played Chip’s Challenge at a friend’s house, as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack. I was more interested in Qix ripoff Jezzball, but I kept running in to Chip’s Challenge everywhere I looked. It seemed to be for every platform and I keep meeting people who had played it obsessively as children. It has been cited as an inspiration for Caravel Games’ Deadly Rooms of Death, and Everett Kaser’s Hero series. Though it takes a lot of its inspiration from Thinking Rabbit’s Sokoban, Chip’s Challenge was marked by a different kind of energy, with strange new game elements, like ice to slip on and pits that can be filled by boxes, introduced gradually. I was immediately interested when I heard that a sequel had been released 25 years later.
Chuck’s Challenge 3D, the long awaited sequel to the classic Lynx-then-everything-else puzzle game, is at its strongest when it plays with its mechanics and creates something strange.There are still plenty of block-pushing puzzles, but the greatest strength of Chuck’s five included level sets is the absurd variety.
Chuck’s Challenge 3D stars Whoop, an alien who kidnaps Chip’s Challenge creator Chuck Sommerville so that the game designer can build new Chip’s Challenge levels for Whoop to solve. Like Chip’s Challenge, Chuck’s is ostensibly a puzzle game filled with interlocking mechanics. There are the standard blocks to be pushed, keys to be collected and enemies to be avoided, but there are also magnetic shoes, slippery floors, treadmills, and fire-spewing creatures that can be pushed into each other’s line of fire. Sometimes enemies attack Whoop, or can be tricked into pushing blocks, melting ice or removing bombs. A level only requires that Whoop and a goal be placed, and levels frequently forgo the keys, doors, blocks and tokens that characterized a majority of Chip’s Challenge’s levels. As the story suggests, Chuck’s Challenge 3D is simply the work of a great game designer let loose with a box of tools.
Much like fellow indie puzzle games Deadly Rooms of Death and Toki Tori 2+, Chuck’s Challenge 3D includes a full level editor and integrated community features. The included levels, with their ridiculous variety and generally low difficulty, feel like a proof of concept for the versatility of the level editor. The editor itself is extremely simple to use, though it seems a tad too tablet-optimized for my taste, and I’ve already found some great levels through the in-game level search. A lot of user levels tend to rely a bit too much on trial-and-error and a difficulty rating would be helpful, but Chuck’s Challenge 3D clearly has legs: the final set introduces a lot of new game elements, and it’s great to see amateur designers explore their potential.
I’m interested to see if Chuck’s Challenge can compete with the versatility and established user-base of the freeware Chip’s clone Tile World, but there is clearly a lot of promise. The in-game search is a bit too general, with a rating system that amounts to “like” or “don’t like” but still translates through some vague method to a 5-star rating scale. With the versatility of the editor, it would have been nice if levels were arranged by genre, or if they were given individual ratings for difficulty, fun factor and aesthetic value. A lot the higher rated puzzles look nice, but are tedious to play, while remakes of Chip’s levels are almost always rated perfectly, regardless of their quality.
The community features are still nicely integrated, though, and I found it was simple to find and play new levels. In addition to the basic search, each week has a new Weekly Puzzle, a level chosen from that week’s new batch of user-made content to receive a direct link from the main menu. Every Weekly Puzzle I’ve played so far has been every bit as good as the core levels, and I expect I’ll continue casually booting up Chuck’s at least once a week, if only to see the new selection.
A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher.