“Their eyes met across the laboratory, the chemistry was instantaneous… but is Chip man enough to get into Melinda’s club?” This was the tagline of Chip’s Challenge when it was originally released in 1989 and, like the rest of the game, it hasn’t changed in 26 years. Chip’s Challenge 1 is the story of Chip, a young nerd who wishes to win the heart of his one true love. He must travel through 150 puzzles; collecting computer chips, moving blocks around, and avoiding all manner on enemies just to prove his love to Melinda.
There are several items and blocks that alter the core gameplay of Chip’s Challenge and it is these pieces working together that make each level more difficult than the last. In some, you must go back and forth between two areas, pushing buttons, moving blocks, or carrying items in order to reach the exit. In other levels, it’s a much more straightforward race to the finish, just with some obstacles thrown in to hinder your progress. Each level is timed and you must retrieve a minimum number of chips before the exit becomes unlocked. Beat all 150 puzzles and you’ll be rewarded with a membership to the Bit Busters!
In Chip’s Challenge 2, we see one giant difference that makes the game even more complex. We can play as both Chip and Melinda, forcing coordination, precision, and skill into a game that already demanded much from its players. Combined with new block mechanics, new items, and expanded level design, Chip’s Challenge 2 stays true to its roots all while ramping the difficulty up considerably. Considering the original Chip’s Challenge came out 25 years before its sequel, the games play very well. Gone are the tutorials, glowing light trails, checkpoints, or hints found in most games recently. When our characters die here, you’re forced to start the level over from the beginning. These two retro titles are completely unforgiving and that’s one of their biggest draws. Remember when games were actually challenging?
The only downside I found while playing is that the controls don’t respond how you’d expect them to. Holding down the movement button sends you one step forward at a time instead of continuous movement. While most of the game is unaffected by this issue, it really shines in areas where quick reflexes are the key to beating the level. More than once I was killed by a blob even though I pressed the button when I should have. But if you play either game in a longer stretch, you eventually get used to how the characters move and adjust accordingly.
Both of these titles are true to their roots and unapologetically challenging. While you might start raging when you die so close to the end of a level and have to do it all over again, you’ll soon be sucked in by the need to conquer the puzzles. Prove that Chip is man enough to take on whatever is thrown his way!