0wning the Competition: Chip’s Challenge

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I’ve got a little story to tell you today. About five hours ago, before I wrote this article, I was playing a game called Chip’s Challenge. It’s one of the old 16-bit Windows 3.1 games that you remember getting on a floppy disk at your local dollar store. I was enjoying it, not thinking about this article at all.

Then, out of nowhere, Paul sends me an instant message to remind me about tonight’s deadline. Thinking “oh shit, I forgot!” but not wanting to let Paul know that, I simply replied to his IM with thanks. Switching back to my game, what do I see? The time to complete the level I was playing expired! And it’s all Paul’s fault too. So in an effort to torment him with the perpetual knowledge that thanks to him, I’ll never be able to finish my game of Chip’s Challenge, you get to read about dollar-store games from the top-of-the-line-16-bit-graphics-card days.

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While I was playing I was doing some research about the game. (I swear it was research and not looking up walkthroughs for the impossible-to-beat levels!) Turns out somebody with a little bit too much free time on their hands not only made a Chip’s Challenge 2 mod for the original game, but also a new, improved, 32-bit version of the engine with REAL sound instead of that emulated MIDI stuff. So I download it, and fire it up. It’s different, but it doesn’t have that sparkle that attracted me to the original so much. I’m not quite sure how to identify it.

Instead of being a view from the top of the level, it’s now a view from an angle. Problem is, they chose an angle which can be hard to judge your next move on. The control are not very intuitive; in fact, one could even say that the controls for the original are more current. The controls for the original allow for the use of a mouse, and, although the keyboard is generally easier, this provided some strategic movability and control in some places throughout the game. Instead, the new version only allows for the use of the keyboard. No mouse function at all.

The graphics on the improved version are slightly better, but it’s certainly not as colourful. One of the cooler aspects of the original game is that, for a game of it’s time, it was really quite colourful. The new one is, with the exception of the keys and the like, almost entirely grey and black. Because of this, it even gets to be hard to look at sometimes.

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Overall the gameplay is still the same, in a few instances the AI of the monsters and obstacles is even improved, but you really have to be nitpicky to notice. All in all, the gameplay improvements themselves, especially because many of the “new” levels, are extremely similar to or even duplicates of the originals. To someone who’s interested in playing this game, I’m recommending the original Chip’s Challenge.

And while I’m at it, I’d like to place a quick note out to all the developers out there thinking about “improving” a classic game: Don’t. Unless you’re 100% positive you can do better. Please be careful with our classics; some of us like them the way they were. I for one will be continuing to play my classic version of Chip’s Challenge for quite some time.

That is, assuming I don’t get any more instant messages.

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About the Contributor

Kay Leacock is part most all the coolest and most epic and awesomest and... of GameCola's technical staff.

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