Chip’s Challenge

Video Game Review: Chip’s Challenge for PC
By Noah Diekemper

Chip’s Challenge is a video game originally released in 1989 for the Atari Lynx and later ported in 1990 to the PC as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack. It is a 2D top-down view puzzle game which centers around the game’s protagonist, “Nerdy Chip McCallahan” working his way through a vast number of floors (levels) in the Bit Buster Club’s clubhouse as part of initiation, in order to join the club and impress the club’s president, Melinda the Mental Marvel, a girl .

The story, detailed above, is really exactly what is should be. Too often, video games describe convoluted plots of total doomsday where the player needs to save the world; far past the point of being cliché. Needing to make the player feel as though the fate of the world depends on them only serves to mask the weak game play; furthermore, many such plots are executed poorly and fail to invoke any emotion whatsoever.

Chip’s Challenge, on the other hand, opts for a far simpler story – a high school nerd likes a girl and tries to impress her by showing off – one that is timeless, the player can relate to, and really gives depth to Chip as a character.

The soundtrack consists of two looping songs, both quirky and lighthearted, along with a series of fun sound effects, all of which are pleasant to listen to.

The graphics for this game are right along the lines of the story – whereas some game companies (*cough*SEGA*cough*) try to mask horrible game play (and thus games) with a few stills and teasers of sweet looking graphics, this game uses a stylized animation mode perfectly tailored to the game’s tile-based movement dynamic and gives each object fun, classic feeling, pristine 16-it sprites.

But what exactly is it that makes this game the masterpiece it is? It’s that this game is from a simpler, purer time in video gaming, where graphical capacity was so limited that it really didn’t matter, story made games tedious and just blended them with over forms of media, and music was a nice luxury that, done right, could endure (cp. the Tetris song or the Monty on the Run theme), but no necessity by any means. This game came from a time where gameplay reigned supreme, nay, unchallenged of objectives for developers to achieve. This game does that beautifully (and then some; the graphics, story and music were a true joy as well); a true masterpiece.

Though the game belongs to the puzzle genre, it employs action as a means for its purpose; there are almost a hundred and fifty unique levels involving bear traps, fire, water, spies, blocks, clone machines, teleporters, teeth (you really have to play it yourself to understand and appreciate what I’m listing here), and many other gameplay elements. Are some of the levels gimmicky? Sure; but a joy to play nonetheless (besides, with 149 levels, some can afford to be gimmicky).

The point here is that there are almost one hundred and fifty fun and well-executed puzzle levels here for the player to enjoy, be challenged by, and sometimes even a little frustrated; but the challenges (and there are plenty) are fun, purposeful, unique, and, simply put, amazing.

Another one of the game’s strong points is replayability. If one ever finishes the levels (did I mention there’s a hundred and forty-nine?), the game saves times and scores for one to improve upon; possible even to give one the yuppie flu a second time around.

While this game has no “real” multiplayer mode, I must say I have many fond memories of playing this game with my cousin sitting next to me (or vice versa), with us trying to tackle the game’s surfeit challenges together.

Two more things I love about this game is that if there are two things that it’s not, it’s casual and addictive. It takes someone with a hardcore passion for difficult mental work and dedication to be able to beat this game, which, true to form, fights your progress every step of the way.

This game is truly awesome. It has spectacular gameplay and level design, and gives you an ending which is just great; for anyone who perseveres to triumph over the game, the supple sense of satisfaction is a rush of exuberance; and yet, at the same time, one must feel the bitter, though perennially concomitant longing that comes with finishing such a game as this, like saying goodbye to a good friend whom you won’t ever really see again; a bright bang, in which you can see yourself for a split second, before disappearing completely.

Any gamer who loves puzzles will love this game to death, and for everyone else, though this game certainly isn’t for everyone, it’s still definitely worth a try.

As the game has been out of production for almost a decade now, it is only realistically available to obtain by illegally downloading (I saw a copy bundled with an Atari Lynx and twelve other games go on eBay for $90+ not too long ago, but that’s beside the point) from any number of sites. In light of this, I recommend Tile World, a free emulation that is available for free download online that uses nothing copyrighted (unfortunately, no original music or graphics) but is worth playing nonetheless.

Final Score: 9.9/10

*Second Favorite Game of All Time*

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