If there’s one thing that’s thrived the most from the rise in mobile gaming it’s being able to tax, puzzle and confuse your brain on the go. The early days saw hapless gamers lug around a brick sized Gameboy to get their puzzling fix, while these days sophisticated smart phones are a haven for mind melting conundrums, meaning there’s simply no need for the average person looking for a puzzling fix to carry another device about.
One particular game that’s tickled my puzzling curiosity is iOS title Chuck’s Challenge. This is a mobile puzzle game deeply rooted in the retro games of old, and while it may not look, sound or feel old, the game’s lineage actually stems back to the time of retro puzzling, as its creator is also the man behind Atari, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad, Windows and MS DOS puzzler, Chip’s Challenge. Chip’s Challenge was game released on tape cassette and floppy disc (remember those? Probably not) back in the dim and distant past.
What’s strange is that despite being decades apart with obvious differences in terms of well… pretty much everything else, the two Challenge games do have one glaring similarity which helps drag Chuck’s Challenge out of the mire of generic, average puzzle games. Unconfined by a single specific puzzle genre, Chuck’s Challenge is comprised of 25 puzzles of stark variation. One moment you’re solving a block based puzzle, the next you’re thrown into a levers and doors conundrum; you never know quite what’s in store next. Each puzzle has a common thread of time attack to bundle them all together. So, whether you’re solving key and door combinations or using mechanisms to travel through different portals, you’re always in a race again time. The time attack element, coupled with the games leaderboard system, brings an element of competitiveness whilst the variation of puzzles ensures you never get bored.
The problem is that the game doesn’t really excel in any other areas. Sure, it’s competent but it lacks that certain ‘something’ that grabs you and says “play me”. Visually its certainly not the worst looking game on the App Store, in fact the game’s vibrancy and use of short animated cut scenes are a suave addition, adding an extra layer of polish, but it’s by no means mind blowing. In terms of sound Chuck’s Challenge is quirky and relaxing, yet it is hardly anything memorable. Perpetuating this sense competency is the games touch controls. In terms of navigating around the level, solving the puzzle to advance onto the next, Chuck’s Challenge works perfectly well. Clumsy, clunky and jerky it may be, but it does the job just fine. The perfect summary to describe the game in general.
That said, Chuck’s Challenge does have a few other things going for it too. Aside from the 25 or so levels on offer for free (oh yeah, I forgot to mention…another good thing, IT’S FREE) there are plenty of levels available to purchase via micro transactions, bringing your puzzle catalogue up to over 50 levels (as if there wasn’t enough variety already.) In an attempt to drum up some sort of community, developers Niffler also give away weekly free puzzles allowing you to pit your wits against your friends too. This acts as a nice gesture, a great way to appease the game’s dedicated community and further extend the games level count (these are also free…. I mean who doesn’t like free things right?)
In fact it’s safe to say Niffler have gone to great lengths to try and garner a dazzling community around Chuck’s Challenge because the developer have also included a level editor complete with share functionality so players can create, share and download their own creations too. Boasted as perhaps the game’s biggest selling point, its level editor benefits from the games incredibly simply gameplay in that it’s also simple to create levels for others to play. With all the items, power ups and pitfalls at your fingertips, Chuck’s Challenge uses its touch controls to remove frustration and allow players to create puzzles for others quickly and easily. The share and download are also a nice touch for those who want to increase their level count without having to pay the micro transactions in order to do so… you bloody cheapskates!
Is Chuck’s Challenge a bad game? No but it’s not an absolutely must own either. Its problem is that it is equal parts interesting and fun, yet awkward and uninspiring. With an expansive amount of variety in its puzzles and its inclusion of a great level editor and a community driven, weekly puzzle freebie, Chuck’s Challenge has certainly some solid features but ultimately its let down by its lack of ‘magic’.
Graphics: 3/5 – Vibrant and fun, visually Chuck’s Challenge is solid even if it does lack a little charm and polish. It’s inclusion of mini cut scenes are also a somewhat surprising, yet welcomed addition.
Sound: 3/5 – Relaxing and quirky but not at all stand out or memorable.
Gameplay: 3/5 – Simple and intuitive with plenty of variety in terms of puzzles. Competent yet clunky controls take some of the shine off. It won’t blow your mind or break any new ground but it is still fun nonetheless.
Longevity: 4/5 – Purchasable levels, a level editor to share and download with the community and a weekly freebie – Chuck’s Challenge offers a surprising amount of content for such a simple game.
Overall 3 out of 5
Perfectly competent but nothing more. Chuck’s Challenge has some interesting features that make it perhaps worth a look. However, in such a competitive market there are far better alternatives to catch your eye.
-Kieran E. Roycroft