By Anni Simpson on October 3, 2013 at 11:00am
Originally developed in 1989, “Chip’s Challenge” was a puzzle game which required you – Chip – to find a way to complete increasingly difficult puzzle challenges. You knew you completed the challenge when you found your way unobstructed to a blue tile after getting past obstacles like ice, fire. There were a total of 148 levels to complete in the original; there were 149 in the Microsoft version.
I played “Chips Challenge” constantly when I was six years old. I got my copy of the “Microsoft Entertainment Pack” from a cereal box in the early 90’s when you could still get prizes from cereal boxes, and it’s still hiding in a closet at my mom’s house somewhere in all of its original 3.5 disk glory. The computer desk was covered in post-its which contained the password necessary accessing the latest puzzle I’d unlocked. I’d made it to about level 77 before I got bored and found another game to pass the time. Such is the attention span of a kid, I guess. (In all fairness, that achievement took weeks if you factor in that I was not allowed on the computer for long stretches of time.)
The biggest draw to this game is the puzzles are all completely different and rise exponentially in difficulty as you progress through the game. The learning curve is perfect; the game teaches you early on to fear moving items like bugs or fireballs, how to skate across ice, and the meaning of color-coded keys, as well as doors that are set off by traps on the grid.
It’s also incredibly simple. I know we’re talking about a freeware, 90’s-era puzzle game here, so basic is almost implied, but its simplicity keeps you from getting distracted by outside “noise.” All you really have is your puzzle/maze, some sound effects, and your character. Although I always appreciate artful design or a stunning soundtrack, there’s a time and place for a kind of game you can zone out to and operate on autopilot, and this game fulfills that need.
Playing the game again brought on a wave of strong nostalgia, and I ended up playing it for several hours, finding that some of the muscle memory for some of the earlier puzzles (Level 9: “Nuts and Bolts”) was still there. I also found that although the game is “simple” and “has a good learning curve,” the puzzles do get difficult quick. The muscle memory returning for “Nuts and Bolts” is highly relevant here, because the beginning of that level has a maze that is not entirely visible no matter where you are on the screen. You move blindly between normal tiles on any side of your character to try and grab the chip before heading to a different section. Ice sits between the normal tiles, propelling you forward with no ability to stop. If you choose wrong, you hit fire and die. It took me several attempts as a kid to get that maze right, and I never forgot it.
Unfortunately, reminiscing for the game died early on. As I remembered each of the puzzles – and would have for dozens more levels – I powered through each of them without needing to stop and take in my surroundings. I can’t tell if that’s because I knew them all well enough that I didn’t need to try or they were just that easy. If it’s the former, it’s unfortunate there’s no real replay value, but fortunately, after 148/9 levels, you probably don’t need that. If it’s the latter, at least I got to the game when I was approximately the right age to be playing it.
And because of the game’s simplicity, there’s not much more to say once the game play and replay value have been brought up.
It was a good game, but I don’t think I need to have it backed up anywhere anymore.