There are 3 potential reactions to the above screenshot, nostalgia, ignorance or fear. I fall into the latter. Chip’s Challenge was a puzzle game that came out in the mid 90’s and gave you a time limit, a goal, and more than anything, an inferiority complex. Moving one square at a time you must complete the goal of escaping the puzzle, but with certain puzzles being destroyed with a little mistake like placing a block against a wall with no pull option you often had to think ahead through stressful situations.
Many years later and game designer Chuck Sommerville is back with what can only be described as one of the most meta games ever produced, Chuck’s Challenge 3D. The game is a re-birth of this area of the puzzle genre, its taken it’s inspiration from Chip’s Challenge and brought it into the 21st century and given it a ‘cute’ mascot in the form of Woop.
Woop is an alien who has come to earth to destroy Chuck Sommerville’s, yes the designer, holiday in the Bahamas, or somewhere equally suitable for a bright Hawaiian shirt. For context, and also an amazing idea of ‘branding’, you will see the same shirt his avatar in the game is wearing is the same shirt his avatar on Twitter is wearing. Woop’s justification for ruining a perfectly good holiday is arrogance over his importance but also boredom. Woop wants Chuck to design him hundreds of puzzles to keep him entertained and busy, thanks to curiosity and I presume the want to sell his news story Chuck agrees. All this being said if the game had a dirtier filter on it and had some industrial metal in the background this could be an interesting concept for a dystopian future regime that forces puzzle makes to entertain them, however in this case the colours are bright and chirpy enough for it not to be creepy.
The puzzles follow the basic concept of ‘get from point a to point b’, what makes it tough is boxes, lava, water, plants, demon aliens, steam plants and your own ineptitude hold you back and block your path to victory. This game was technically released on iOS platforms first with a top down aesthetic used, now it’s 3D you get exactly the same gameplay but with more flare to its production.
You are rated at the end of each level and award a bronze, silver or gold. Quite often I would find myself being rated 230th in the world at a leve when I felt I did it perfectly, but that’s the way these things go. If you are of the right mind-set you could easily be sucked into leader board battles with people. When you move Woop around these grid based puzzles you are assessed on time, as it transpires that you take one step for each grid square it sometimes feel more appropriate to have it set to be ‘who takes the least steps to complete a puzzle’ would be somehow more appropriate, or at the very least create a separate leader board for people like me who want to think and be efficient with ‘distance travelled’.
There’s an odd element to the design I haven’t seen before but oddly I would love to see again, there is essentially a field of vision blur. Imagine you were playing your game through an Instagram filter and you use that horizontal blur filter, that is all the way through this game and I love it. It’s hard to explain why as sometimes it does blur out your route ahead, it does distract most of the time and to be honest it serves no real purpose, but even with all that, I love it being there.
There are over 100 levels at launch and there are already countless user-created puzzles on the servers for you to play instantly. Admittedly they do range from interesting concepts using the tools available to something that looks like it was created by a chimp that has been drinking.
This game in various forms has been around for years and on many platforms, this latest 3D version is a great shot of nostalgia to the arm and definitely has its place in the world. I wonder who the target audience is though, a lot of ‘core gamers’ will be put off by the purple alien mascot Woop and others wont even look at a puzzle game. Others will want this just to remember the 90’s but that has to be a niche market. I remember Chip’s Challenge, not just because of this new Chuck’s Challenge 3D game, but because it genuinely taught me a lot about logic. If you have younger children, then get this game, obviously they have to be old enough to understand the basic concept, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to educate someone on the concept of planning, executing and rewarding. This isn’t a kids game because of the colours, it’s a kids game because it’s what every parent should want their child to be able to do.