Indie Quickie: Chuck’s Challenge 3D

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

ChucksChallenge3D_1.jpg

What is it? A tile-based puzzle game and spiritual successor to Chip’s Challenge from the late 80s.

Who made it and where can you get it? The debut game from brand spankin’ new indie publishing label Nkidu Games, Chuck’s Challenge 3D was created by Niffler, a studio run by Chuck Sommerville and the design team behind the original game. Previous iterations of Chuck’s Challenge have been released on iOS and Android, but today marks the launch of a new and improved version for Steam, where it sells for $9.99 (or $8.99 with the first week 10% discount applied).

How much did we play? It took me an hour and a half to solve around 40 of the game’s 125 total puzzles. I also played 10 user created puzzles and briefly dabbled with the level editor.

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? Gamepads are supported along with mouse and keyboard, but if you use a gamepad you’re going to want to use the D-pad rather than the analog sticks. For some reason whenever I try to move Woop or even navigate the menus using the analog stick the input gets stuck and the cursor/character continues to move even after I have removed pressure from tilting the stick. It’s like the analog sensitivity has not been properly tuned or something. And no, it’s not a controller defect as I use the same Xbox 360 pad for all my PC gaming and I have never encountered this problem. Just stick with mouse and keyboard or your controller’s D-pad, and you’ll have no trouble.

ChucksChallenge3D_2.jpg

Why should you play it?

    • Chip’s Challenge Reborn: If you came up gaming during the era of floppy disks, DOS and Commodore home computers, you might recall a little puzzle game by the name of Chip’s Challenge. Chuck’s Challenge 3D takes the core tile-based puzzle format of the original and gives it a modern makeover with colorful, candy coated 3D graphics, cheery music, and a new hero — a purple, spiky-headed alien chap who goes by the name Woop. (Woop! There it is. Sorry, that was a horrible joke, I just couldn’t resist.) The goal of the game is to guide Woop, one square at a time, to each level’s exit portal, an act that is much easier said than done. Each stage takes place on a gridded map of varying size and layout, and presents a unique brain teasing obstacle or series of obstacles to overcome. Many puzzles involve pushing blocks around, to weigh down pressure plates, to create bridges over channels of water separating one tile from another, or simply to rearrange them to form a clear path to the exit. Other puzzles involve traversing floor tiles made of fire or ice, pushing ice blocks onto lava to melt them down, sliding across areas of ice using curved embankments as turns to redirect Woop in the correct direct so he doesn’t slide into danger, or collecting special power-ups which enable Woop to walk over fire without injury or provide grip so he can walk on ice without slipping. Some maps having wooden tiles that collapse as soon as Woop moves off of them, forcing you to visualize a pathway that will allow you to gather all collectibles in the area without retreading ground that is no longer available to walk on. Woop will need to gather color-coded keys for matching barriers, avoid googly-eyed creatures, and even stomp on these D-pad-like mechanisms that direct the movements of robots based on the direction from which Woop steps onto the switch, as to guide them through a maze of bombs without getting blowed up.

    • Woop Rewind: As puzzles grow more difficult, the game’s rewind mechanic proves to be a helpful time saver from having to constantly restart levels over from the beginning, which can be a bit annoying if done in rapid succession since you have to re-watch the puzzle intro animation every time. At any time, pushing the ‘B’ button on an Xbox 360 controller or mouse-clicking an on-screen undo arrow allows you to rewind Woop’s movements once space at a time (or you can hold the button/key for continuous rewind). Sure, if you want to race for gold medal completion times you’re going to want to start over from scratch since rewinding only rescues Woop from a fatal step and does not put seconds back on the clock. But if you first just want to figure out a puzzle to completion, the undo option comes in real handy.

    • Potentially Endless Puzzles: One feature that definitely stands out is the level editor. Yup, the game comes equipped with the tools necessary for creative-minded players to build their own fiendish puzzle challenges and share them online for others to play and rate. I’m not particularly skilled at creating content with map editors, but just from poking around the interface is very easy to follow since the tile-based structure allows you to plot out game elements just by selecting an object and placing it on a square. Fortunately for players who may not have the desire to dig into the tools themselves, the content creation community already seems strong as there are plenty of user-made maps waiting to be played from day one. The interface is completely seamless, just head into the search menu and browse the list of stages, click play and you’re into a level without having to download anything or jump through any other hoops that sometimes bog down the process in other cloud content sharing games. Afterward, you have the option to give the stage a thumbs up or thumbs down vote. All the levels I have completed so far have offered even more variety from what the game’s actual designers cooked up, which means the replay value is potentially endless as long as even a small group of content creators continue to replenish the download catalog. If that wasn’t enough, the game also offers a Weekly Puzzle challenge from the main menu. Each week a new puzzle will be posted and players will be able to compete for the best completion time. If the first puzzle is a sign of things to come (it has stumped be cold so far), these weekly puzzles are going to be tough nuts to crack.

Parting Thoughts: Whether the vibes of Chip’s Challenge nostalgia lure you in or you simply have the craving for a fun, well thought out puzzle game, Chuck’s Challenge 3D is totally worth playing. The variety of challenges is superb, some puzzles requiring mental acuity and logical problem solving, while others put forth tests of quick thinking and agile movement. Thus far the difficulty curve has been right on point as well, the first world of 25 stages being relatively straightforward before the puzzles begin to ramp up and become quite tricky as the second world progresses. I also appreciate how the game and its puzzle mechanisms are clearly defined. You never have to sit through a tutorial or dig through documentation to find out how things work, the icons and interface make it clear what needs to be done without holding your hand. That’s good puzzle-game design, folks.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!