Monday, June 15, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Chip's Challenge

Chip's Challenge!! Many people surely know this game, though I'd bet there's a large number of folks who don't - especially those who are specifically console gamers and a degree of the casual players as well. This game was originally released for Atari's handheld Lynx system (that's where I picked it up, I was Original Gangsta Challenger! That's right) It was later developed as a port for NES but unreleased, and I believe Microsoft made a port and actually included it with an Entertainment Pack for Windows (and did they actually include it in Windows at some point, I am not sure...)

This title released shortlyafter the initial volley of Lynx releases (by that machine actual developer, the once-well-known Epyx who is of course defunct now, sadly). The game was shown in magazine much as it looks here, whichsi to day fairly underwhelming graphically. Still, there was reallya dearth of released for my shiny new Lynx system back in 1989, and I was pretty tired of California Games and Gates of Zendocon - also, the EGM review crew was strangely excited about this title, so I took a leap of faith and spend my hard-earned Grocery Bagboy money on the effort.

I was hooked immediately. What the game lacked in looks, it made up for in gameplay. You control this dorky little guy (I could relate to that!), just find the colored keys to open the respective doors and pass through the exit to the next successive level. An exit would be blocked by a giant microchip (oxymoron?), so you'd have to collect a certain amount of chips to open the passthru. As you advamced earlyinthe game, you learned all the different "rules"slowly - push dirt blocks into water to make walkable mud, get magnet boots to walk on conveyer belts, fire shield, avoid monsters, press on a button to open a switch, etc. All mundane sounding as I typed it, but these were all puzzle elements and expertly laid out - perfect rhythm, extremely fun.

These screens show the simple first levels (just pass through doors) but very quickly the action became intense with lots of giant bugs trying to kill you and firebals and things shooting at you, if memory serves. As you cleared a level your inventory would empty, so you'd start each new one fresh, and the leves would get fairly large and challenging - requiring a fair amoutn of logic and memorization. But it was all laid out very well and kept the player coming back for more. There was a password system (thank GOD!) and they mercifully built in a feature that would detect if you were absolutely stuck on some level (replaying it umpteen different times), which would give you an option to advance to the next. Mercy!

Though extremely rudimentary, the graphics were happy, legible and colorful enough to fit the game perfectly - remember, this title came out when things like "Boxxle" were moving Game Boy Black and Green screen units - so they did the trick, and the simplicity fit the world just right. The music was typical BEEP BOOP-Y of the Lynx at the time, they always sounded funky (and sometimes horrible!) but this game nailed it just right with a selection of happy litle funky beats to get you in that puzzle solvin' mood.

Chips was and will always be a great game, not bad for something I was expecting to not enjoy very much - I could probably go back and pick it up now, and kill a whole weekend getting all sucked back into it. Never did beat that sucker, at some point I got quite far but it was getting a bit too brain-drain for me. Wonderful little game though, and one which still deserves much accolade. I could see this being ported to the iPhone and having a big fanbase - maybe it's out there?

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