With the advent of mobile gaming, puzzle games have come to earn something of a reputation for being little more than delivery methods for micro-transactions and other undesired methods of business. This reputation is perhaps earned, as one is bombarded with Candy Crush saga invites on Facebook and finds that most of the games sold in app-stores are often just clones of other games. The truth, however, is that there are a lot of great puzzle games out there, some that are dramatically innovative and new, and then there are others like Chuck’s Challenge 3D, which puts some new twists on old design ideas to make something that feels very fresh.
Chuck’s Challenge 3D is the spiritual successor to 1989’s Chip’s Challenge, which is a staple in a lot of people’s childhoods thanks to its inclusion in the Microsoft Entertainment Pack that would frequently come bundled with your new computer. Much like its predecessor, Chuck’s Challenge 3D has a sparse frame of a story to hang its gameplay on. You are Woop, an alien with the power to manipulate time and space. Woop “enlists” Chuck Sommerville to create games for him, and Chuck happily obliges. There is no further presentation to this set up, no other higher purpose or excuse for the game to exist. That might sound like a bad thing but really it works out very well because it allows the player to focus on what really makes this game shine: its puzzles.
Woop will start each level in a room with one simple objective: make your way to the exit. Of course it is not that easy, each level has obstacles and hazards that will get in your way. Much like Chip’s Challenge the levels feature a tile set up in which pressing the arrows keys will move Woop on space in the respective direction. Thanks to Woop’s ability to manipulate space-time, you get a rewind button that allows you to undo your last move. You can use this button as much as you want, even allowing you to rewind all the way to the beginning of the level. This helps the game to retain its level of challenge while removing a lot of the frustration that can be experienced from having to start a level again because of a bad move, or from doing something as innocent as pressing an arrow key one too many times.
This undo button definitely starts to feel like a necessity as you play the game. Although Chuck’s Challenge is fairly easy for the first 30 levels or so, it quickly takes off the kid gloves and starts putting more and more challenging levels in front of you. Difficulty makes level lengths range from a few seconds to a few hours in some the game’s nastier situations. Luckily, Chuck’s Challenge 3D unlocks several levels at once when you progress, so if you find yourself stuck in one level you can just move on, try your luck at a different level, then come back later. It helps that the levels feature a lot of variety in how you solve them. There are a lot of elements in Chuck’s Challenge 3D: special tiles, switches, enemies, automatons, items, ice, conveyor belts, bombs, etc… and they are all used in different ways for different levels. Levels may have the player running from monsters, trying to find a path through ice, solving block puzzles, or simply finding a way to cross a body of water. This keeps the game fresh and avoids having the difficulty increase merely by making the game faster or adding more of the same variable as many puzzle games tend to do.
This variety is not the only way that Chuck’s Challenge 3D keeps things feeling fresh beyond the core game’s 125 levels. The game also comes with a robust level creator, giving the player the opportunity to create their own levels and unleashing them on the unsuspecting public. Levels created by other players are available to download from the game’s main menu. This setup (assuming positive adoption rates) ensures that there will always be new content for Chuck’s Challenge fans to play through. Though whether or not average user content will be as polished as the main game remains to be seen. In addition to the levels created by other players, the game also features a weekly challenge which will allow you to compare your skills to others. Once a level is completed, you will get a rating depending on how you performed against other players, giving an incentive to replay the levels and try to finish them as efficiently as possible.
Despite having the same core design philosophy as Chip’s Challenge the game does feel like a breath of fresh air. Puzzle games like this are quickly becoming a rarity these days. The variety of gameplay elements embedded in its levels and the uniqueness of the puzzle design make it a great choice to pick up for any fans of the genre. Fans of the original Chip’s Challenge will also not be disappointed. While the graphics are understandably updated, and the aesthetics are somewhat more playful, underneath it is the same game design that you fell in love with back in 1989. The game releases on Steam this Friday the 28th and if you’re at all a fan of its previous iteration then you should absolutely snatch it up.
This review was based on code provided to us by the game’s publisher.
You can find Chuck’s Challenge on Steam here.