Some 90’s PC Gamers might remember Chip’s Challenge. I first played it in “The Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack“, which was so long ago it came on a floppy disk. It included a bunch of “classics” such as Ski Free, Pipe Dream, Rodent’s Revenge, JezzBall and some other stuff. One game stood out though – Chip’s Challenge. A really nice tile-based puzzle game with 151 levels.
Chip’s Challenge 2 has actually existed for years, but it got trapped in purgatory due to licencing and publishing issues. The game was basically held ransom for an unspecified, but obviously significant, sum of money (allegedly 6 figures). 15 years later, it was finally released from publishing hell and into the hands of the general population.
So in 2015, Chip’s Challenge 2 finally saw the light of day and people like me were super excited to play it. Actually, looking through my Steam library, I only played it for three hours. I decided to jump back in and play some more.
In the interim, the developer, Chuck Sommerville, created some other similar games to fill the Chip-shaped void some of us had in our hearts, so we got to see Chuck’s Challenge and Chuck’s Challenge 3D. Honestly, I had never heard of these before the release of Chip’s Challenge 2, and I haven’t really explored them, but I’d like to at some point.
The Story of Chip’s Challenge
Chip’s Challenge is a pretty simple game at heart. It’s a grid-based puzzle game with plenty of hazards, locks and keys, a few enemies, buttons and switches, pushable blocks and a bunch more stuff. With just a handful of tiles, this game ends up having a huge variety of puzzles including block pushing puzzles, mazes, some levels where you have to run around quickly to escape enemies, amongst other things.
This game is called Chip’s Challenge because you play as Chip, but also because you have to collect computer chips to unlock a chip socket and get to the exit. Not all levels have chips, so in this case you just go to the exit without worrying about them.
There’s actually a token story for this game as well – our hero Chip wants to join the Bit Buster’s Computer Club, but Melinda the Mental Marvel demands that he must complete their challenge to join. Therefore this game is canonically a computer game. In the sequel, a series of puzzles have been put together by Vladimir Gerajkee, the puzzle master at the International Brian Game Club. Chip and Melinda team up to beat the new challenge ahead of them.
Chip’s Challenge 2 is more of the same game, but with more tiles giving yet more variety of levels. It features some decent puzzles and it seems to have a lot more “one screen” puzzles than the previous game, where the level is so small the camera will not pan. I like these levels, they tend to be a bit more focused and remove the frustrations of some of the older levels, where you’d spend minutes working on the level only to fall victim to a monster or some other hazard and have to start over again.
I think the levels get off to a weak start, but past about level 10 I really liked them. There were lots of head-scratching puzzles, plenty of silly levels where you have to just run from tons of enemies and plenty of tense moments. You get to play as Melinda in this game too, and her mechanics slightly differ from Chip. In later levels you can switch between the pair and it adds another layer to the puzzle solving. Melinda can walk on ice like normal ground, but being a female, she will refuse to stand on dirt or gravel without hiking boots (this comes from the game, not from me).
Some levels have a good sense of humour, like level 23 – “Tricked You”, where you pass by a series of ways to get to the exit, only to find out they’re all blocked off in different ways. This is followed by level 24, with the hint “Think like a frog” – it’s basically fast-paced Frogger re-made in Chip’s Challenge. There’s also a great level where the hint says “I wouldn’t waste my time reading this if I were you”, then you lose due to running out of time.
I have a lot of nostalgia for Chip’s Challenge, although looking back at this game, it has its frustrating moments with very long levels, dead ends forcing you to restart, and even just slow-to-respond control causing you to mis-step. In spite of this, it’ll always be a classic in my eyes and I’m happy we got to eventually let the sequel see the light of day.
The first game has been released as free to play, with the sequel costing a few pennies. You can also get the level editor for a bit extra and make your own custom level packs, which I had a lot of fun with as a kid (sadly “Ed’s Challenge” is now lost forever). Making Chip’s Challenge levels was probably my first step into game design in a way, although needless to say, I wasn’t very good at it back then.
Chip’s Challenge has also recently received many fan-made Community Level Packs, adding a ton more value to it. You can also download as many custom level packs as you want. It’s practically endless.
Now if we could just get it ported to mobile, everything would be perfect. In the meantime we’ll have to make do with weird app store games such as “Rodent Rush”, which looks like a literal clone (right down to the exact level design) of Chip’s Challenge but with a mouse as the main character and cheese instead of chips.
- Chip’s Challenge Mega-bundle on Steam – contains both games, level editor and Chuck’s Challenge 3D