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Video Game / Chip's Challenge

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"Their eyes met across the laboratory... the chemistry was instantaneous! But is Chip man enough to get into Melinda's club?"
— Magazine ad

Chip's Challenge is a game originally created by Chuck Sommerville of Epyx for the Atari Lynx but later ported to various platforms, most notably Microsoft Windows via Microsoft Entertainment Pack 4 and Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack (there were also plans for a Nintendo Entertainment System version, but they were dropped). It involves the eponymous hero, Chip McCallahan, who has met Melinda the Mental Marvel in the school science laboratory and must navigate through Melinda's "Clubhouse" (a series of 149 increasingly difficult puzzles) in order to prove himself and gain membership to the very exclusive Bit Buster Club.

The gameplay involves Chip moving about a number of tile-based 2D levels involving things like cloning machines, ice and force floor puzzles, and various monsters, attempting to finish a level before the time limit runs out. A sequel was produced, adding numerous gameplay elements, but due to legal issues remained unreleased for over 15 years. It was finally released on Steam in May 2015.


Fans have created several Level Editors for the first game, with which thousands of additional levels have been created. Some of the most well-received of these were assembled into the Fan Sequels CCLP1, CCLP2, CCLP3 and CCLP4 (CCLP short for "Chip's Challenge Level Pack"). The official sequel also saw its own fanmade followup in October 2020.

During the time when the official sequel to the game languished in copyright limbo, a Spiritual Successor supervised by the creator of the original Chip's Challenge was released called Chuck's Challenge for iOS, which eventually received a 3D remake called Chuck's Challenge 3D also released for iOS in addition to PC, Mac and Android. The game is basically the same as Chip's Challenge with the addition of some new game elements and a new Excuse Plot. (Another attempt at a sequel is called Puzzle Studio.)


Per The Wiki Rule, there is a wiki dedicated to the two official games as well as the fan-made packs.

Tropes used:

  • Absurdly Short Level: The first game has two such levels: the 31st (Knot) and the 39th (Glut). In the former, the objective is to collect all 118 computer chips present in only 29 seconds (it's not as hard as it sounds once the collection pattern is figured out); in the latter, you have to collect 29 chips (out of 880) in only 20 seconds.
  • A Winner Is You:
    • Completing level 144 or 149 of the Lynx Chip's Challenge 1 shows Melinda standing over Chip at his computer and them dancing at the E-Prom.
    • In the Steam version, the game ends with "Great job, Chip! You finished the challenge! Now you can take Melinda the Mental Marvel to the Bit Busters E-Prom!" and your total score once you complete level 149.
    • Chip's Challenge 2 ends with the declaration that the challenge is completed, and Chip and Melinda are "true puzzle masters!"; then provides you with your total score.
  • The Alcatraz: Level 124 (The Prisoner) uses this as the main concept. Chip is trapped within a prison-like chamber and has to use the surrounding elements to lure the patrolling monsters into the buttons that will free him. But that's only the beginning, as he then has to evade the monsters guarding the external area of the level so he can reach the exit safely. This level has inspired the creation of similar, fan-made levels that were eventually included in the Fan Sequels, such as Escape from Chipkatraz and Zartacla in CCLP2.
  • Antepiece: Used occasionally, notably in Totally Fair, the solution to which is the solution to a later level, except that in the later level you can't see what you're doing.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In the Windows release of Chip's Challenge 1, if you fail a level enough times, Melinda offers to let you just skip to the next one. However, you have to spend at least thirty seconds in any level first, so you can't just kill Chip over and over to skip a level.
  • Art Shift:
    • At the end of the Windows version of Chip's Challenge 1, post victory dance, a red-haired, glasses-wearing Chip appears on the shoulders of a crowd. He's no longer the simplified sprite he was throughout the game.
    • The Chip in the Windows version's icon is the same as the one in the game, except with different coloring.
  • As Himself: The eponymous Chuck from Chuck's Challenge, referring to Chuck Sommerville, the original designer for Chip's Challenge.
  • Ash Face: Chip after stepping on a fire in the original Windows version. This sprite isn't present in the Steam version.
  • Blatant Lies: Level 146, Cake Walk. The level is everything except that.
  • Block Puzzle: You will never want to see another block for the rest of your life.
  • Book-Ends: In the first level, you learn to use keys of different colors to open doors. In the second, you learn to use blocks to remove water. These are the only two things you do in the final level.
  • Bowdlerization: In the Lynx version, Chip only goes through the challenge because he wants to go out with Melinda to the prom (with the cover art blurb implying he's in it for the sex). In the Microsoft version, this is toned down to Chip being genuinely interested in joining the Bit Busters club and proving his worth to his peers. Chip's Challenge 2 sticks with the Lynx canon.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: Ghosts can phase through most solid tiles, but cannot move into water unless they have flippers. This is different from just not surviving in water - they actually turn away from it in contact as though it were solid, and they don't do this with any other lethal obstacles.
  • Cartoon Bomb: Red ones rather than the usual black.
  • Cold Iron: Ghosts can't phase through steel walls.
  • Collision Damage: Applies both to monsters and to sliding blocks.
  • Colorblind Mode: The original Windows port has an option to switch to black and white graphics, since monochrome displays were still in use at the time. Keys, doors and buttons are given unique patterns, rather than colors.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: Chip's Challenge 2 allows levels to use a split-screen view with one set of keys controlling the player on the left side and one set of keys controlling the player on the right side. Sadly, this is a level-specific feature and cannot be chosen by players, and a majority of official and fan-made levels only have one player in them, so this is almost never utilized.
  • Cutting the Knot:
    • Level 18, Castle Moat. The apparent solution is to push blocks into the moat to make a bridge across. Under one of the blocks is a powerup that lets you simply swim across.
    • Most levels have a Chip Socket blocking off the exit, which can only be cleared by collecting the required number of chips first. In Level 20, the designers forgot to put this in, so collecting chips is unnecessary, making the level much easier.
    • In level 53, "Traffic Cop", you're supposed to use blocks to guide a series of Walkers to a door button that would leave Chip stranded if he were to trigger it himself. However, thanks to the way the area around said button is designed, you can just use two blocks to fill in the nearby water and hit the switch yourself, making an otherwise frustrating Luck-Based Mission laughably easy.
    • The Microsoft version has a few bugs making many levels significantly easier. One of them makes it possible to pass through Force Floors (one-way floors) in the wrong direction if you have a speed boost from sliding on ice. This makes several puzzles trivial (for example, in the aforementioned level 53 which was already broken, it becomes possible to win with zero blocks).
    • Thanks to another bug in the Microsoft version, some Clone Machines will fail to clone a monster in certain situations, and some monsters stuck in traps will stay in them even if the trap is released. This also makes several puzzles trivial.
  • Developer's Room: Level 145, Thanks To (exclusive to the Windows version; the Lynx version has a fractal generator in its place).
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Chip's portrayal in the Excuse Plot, of the "spectacular displays" variety.
  • Epunymous Title: The protagonist in the series is called Chip McCallahan and his main goal is to reach all the chips in a room to go to the next room.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Although only one monster (the teeth) actively chases Chip, all of them are extremely lethal, as are multiple types of floor.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The level Totally Unfair. The premise of the level is the same as that of Totally Fair, but it has to be completed blindly, as Chip is no longer able to see through the inner parts of the level.
  • Excuse Plot: As is evident from the first paragraph of this page. Chuck's Challenge follows suit: Original Chip's Challenge creator Chuck Sommerville gets abducted by puzzle-loving alien Woop, who makes him create puzzles for Woop to solve. Chuck, being a puzzle enthusiast himself, happily obliges.
  • Fake Longevity: Some of the hardest levels are also the longest, due to the extremely long periods of block pushing. Examples include level 33 (On the Rocks), 134 (Pain) and 146 (Cake Walk).
  • Fan Sequel: CCLP1, CCLP2, CCLP3 and CCLP4.
  • Frictionless Ice: The ice in this game is so frictionless that Chip, monsters and blocks will slide at double their normal speed, straight ahead without being able to change direction, and not stop until they slide onto a floor-acting tile. Not even walls will stop them - they will bounce off any wall in their path and slide back in the opposite direction with no change in speed.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: Chip can use green keys as many times as he wants, and blue teeth run away from him, but red teeth chase him, and he needs the Cleats if he wants to walk on ice without sliding. Melinda can use yellow keys as many times as she wants, and red teeth run away from her, but blue teeth chase her, and she needs the Wellies if she wants to walk on dirt or gravel (excluding gravel found on railroads). There are also female restroom signs which Chip can never pass through, and male restroom signs which Melinda can never pass through.
  • Hailfire Peaks: Every level where the four major elements (water, fire, ice and magnetism/suction) are equitably present. These levels include level 3 (Lesson 3), level 15 (Elementary), level 40 (Floorgasborg), and level 48 (Mugger Square). A closer relative to the actual Hailfire Peaks is level 124, Fire Trap, whose puzzles and obstacles are entirely based on fire and ice. Level 75, Steam, is a maze made of fire and water.
  • Hard Mode Filler: Totally Unfair (level 131) is nearly identical in layout to Totally Fair (level 122), but it's no longer possible to enter the teeth's area to carefully lure it to the button that disables a trap guarding the required chips. Therefore, the only option is to lure it blindly from the distance (which requires full knowledge of the layout by playing level 122 first).
  • Have a Nice Death: "Bummer!"
  • Hollywood Nerd: Chip. In case the glasses and spiky hair didn't clue anyone off, Level 30's decade message in the first game hints that he had a pocket calculator on his person for the entirety of the challenge.
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Locks vanish when opened, and so does the key, with the exception of the green keys (yellow if you're playing as Melinda in the sequel.)
  • Insurmountable Waist-High Fence: The monsters are blocked by uncollected computer chips. (Despite this, Level 39, Glut, starts out with several teeth monsters standing on top of chips.) They can walk over keys, however.
  • Invisible Wall: Comes in two varieties: one that permanently appears after you bump into it, and one that becomes invisible again after a short time.
  • The Maze: If it's not a Block Puzzle, it's probably this.
  • Kaizo Trap: In levels 46 and 66, the chip socket (which only open when all chips are collected) forks its route into three, only one of which contains the exit; in the other two, you'll fall into a trap that forces you to repeat the current level.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: The various ports each chose their own colour for Melinda's hair in the victory screen. She's blonde in most versions, brunette in the DOS port (if you have an EGA or VGA), and magenta-haired if you have a CGA. In the sequel, where Melinda is a playable character, she's none of the above — her hair is ginger.
  • Limited Loadout: You can only hold up to four non-key items at a time. This never comes up in the first Chip's Challenge, because there's only four non-key items that Chip can pick up, and walking over an item he already has just causes that item to be erased.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Chip's reaction to being drowned, eaten by a bug, or burned alive? "Bummer."
  • Marathon Level: On The Rocks, Cityblock, Pain, Writer's Block, Chipmine... and they're all nightmarish to play.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Level 34 is called Cypher, and in it you can decipher passwords that take you to later levels.
    • The Southpole level lampshades this in its hint.
  • Mercy Mode: Blow a level enough times and Melinda will reward your perseverance and let you skip it. You have to actually waste enough time on the level first, however.
  • Mind Screw: Level 111, Time Lapse. For one, the level has unlimited time; secondly, the level's mechanics don't seem to work coherently in the PC version. Are the bugs in the northwestern portion supposed to press a green switch that locks the entire inner area of the level (because they don't)? The reason for these weirdnesses is due to the gameplay differences from the Lynx version. In it, the green doors leading to the exit are toggled permanently after a while because the bugs do manage to reach the button that activates the switcheroo. One of the many porting errors gives you much more leeway.
  • Mooks Ate My Equipment:
    • The Thief/Spy panel steals all your footwear and equipment when you walk over it. The sequel introduces a second variant steals your keys instead, as well as a special pickup you can "bribe" both panels with so they don't take all your other stuff when you walk over them.
    • In a somewhat more literal example, monsters can erase blue keys if they move on top of them (with the exception of the Microsoft version).
  • Mooks but No Bosses: A large portion of the game is spent dodging, killing or even creating mooks (through Clone Machines), but there's no boss in any of the 149 levels of the game, or any of the fan sequels. This also applies to the official sequel.
  • Mook Maker: Clone Machines. Stepping on a red button spawns whatever mook (or block) is pictured on the machine it controls.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The aptly named teeth monster, which happens to be the only one that actively chases Chip to eat him.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: In level 135, Trust Me, you need a yellow key to exit. There are plenty of them scattered throughout the level, but most are impossible to collect (or you can't escape if you do), at least in the original version. A glitch in the Microsoft version allows you to a grab a key very near your starting location (the glitch is that the 'inescapable' setup doesn't work) and beat the level in less than ten seconds.
  • Nintendo Hard: The game is not easy in any way, first due to the many enemies that can easily kill Chip, and second because there are several puzzles that take a long time to solve. And the game is still easier than the Fan Sequels.
  • No Antagonist: In both games. The challenges are cruel, but the creators of them are never blamed.
  • Nostalgia Level: Level 194 in Chip's Challenge 2, aptly named Memories. Its design incorporates setpieces and snippets from several levels that appeared in the first game, including the last level. A similar concept is also seen in the first game's Fan Sequels, though with different executions.
  • One-Hit Point Wonder: Both for Chip when hitting a hazard or creature, and for the creatures themselves who are vulnerable to water and/or fire.
  • Only the Knowledgable May Pass: "Trial and Error?" in Chip's Challenge 2 requires the player to figure out three missing numbers among the first 11 numbers in the Fibonacci sequence in order to beat the level. However, the level also subverts the trope because, as the title suggests, it's also possible to just brute force your way through the puzzle through trial-and-error.
  • Pixel Hunt: Any puzzle involving finding a path through fake/invisible walls and/or finding items under blocks. There are many levels based on this sort of puzzle, such as Mishmesh, Scoundrel, Rink (which combines it with Frictionless Ice), Chipmine, etc. Vanishing Act starts out as a normal maze, but becomes this as you clear out the dirt making the invisible walls indistinguishable. The worst offender, though, is the very definitely final level Special. It consists of blocks scattered around everywhere, with one of them hiding the exit. You also have to plop blocks into water to get around. The problem is that the majority of the blocks have fire underneath them.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The soundtrack to Chip's Challenge 2 (and the Steam version of the original game) consists of Scott Joplin tunes.
  • Race Lift: In the DOS port (if EGA or VGA graphics are selected) the Chip sprite in the game has brown skin. He's still drawn as white in the opening and victory screens, though.
  • Retraux: Chip's Challenge 2 was released in almost the exact same state that it would've been released in if it were released within the intended timeframe of the late 1990s, thus resulting in this trope as the game heavily shows its age. Even going so far as to showing the achievements you unlock in a Dialogue Box instead of using the Steam UI.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: After the first 20-30 levels or so, the game starts venturing into this.
  • Secret Level: Levels 146 through 149, accessible only when you crack a code in level 34. Averted in the remake, where these levels can be accessed normally.
  • Signature Sound Effect: "Bummer!"
  • Shout-Out:
    • Level 73, Morton. It is named after singer and talk show host Morton Downey Jr., and your primary enemy is the teeth (an allusion to the talk show's logo).
    • Part of the narrative of CCLP1 involves Chip riding an elevator out of an underground facility controlled by a power-mad AI to find that the other side of the elevator is disguised as a simple metal shed in the middle of a huge wheat field. This is a reference to Portal 2. The game even lampshades it by mentioning that the scene rings a bell in Chip's mind.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: This game has quite a few ice levels, but the most infamous is Doublemaze.
  • Spiritual Successor: Chuck's Challenge, in which an alien named Woop recruits original game designer Chuck Somerville to build Chip's Challenge-style puzzles aboard his spaceship.
  • Sprint Shoes: The Speed Boots in Chip's Challenge 2. They work like any other items, meaning they can be used by any entity that can pick up and use items.
  • Stuck Items: The second game gives you the ability to drop items, but only those in the right slot. Keys, in the left slot, can never be dropped.
  • Sturgeon's Law: In full effect with the user-generated levels in Chuck's Challenge, which tend to range from "OK" at best to "Who the hell thought this was a good idea?" at worst. In contrast, fanmade levels for Chip's Challenge tend to be very well done, with the very best being compiled regularly into "CCLPs".
  • Super Drowning Skills: that is, unless you have flippers.
  • Tank Goodness: The blue tanks, which can be operated through blue buttons. Their most prominent levels are 72 (Reverse Alley) and 103 (Memory). The sequel introduces yellow tanks, as well.
  • Teamwork Puzzle Game: Chip's Challenge 2 delves into this for some levels, such as Double Trouble and Foursome.
  • Teen Genius: Melinda, who, in the first game, was "preoccupied in the upper levels, creating mental models to test Hawking equations on the origin of the universe."
  • Timed Mission: Only 29 levels aren't timed in the entire game.
  • Time Keeps On Ticking: The time limit will continue passing when reading the hints located on the question mark circle tiles. Although it doesn't really matter, since you can pause the game while you're reading them. note 
  • Training from Hell: Some of the block pushing levels. If you can beat them, all but the worst block puzzles will never slow you down again.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Multiple levels, including Cellblocked and Icedeath. Take the wrong path and either you're stuck or dead. Cellblocked even tells you at the beginning how to restart the level. Special, the true final level, dumps the player into a huge room full of blocks. Many of the blocks have fire underneath then, but one of them is covering the exit.
  • Unending End Card: The Windows version of the first game ends this way, showing Chip being cheered by the Bit Buster after he completes the final level (whether the 144th or the secret 149th) in Melinda's clubhouse. The game does save your progress, but if you want to return to a level, you have to quit and then enter again.
  • Unexplained Recovery: The only explanation for how Chip comes back after all those deaths is one sentence to this effect in the help file.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Many levels become unwinnable if you make even the slightest misstep. Cellblocked is not only one of the first levels where it will happen a lot, but the hint you get even tells you how to restart the level.
  • Victory Pose: At the end of the game the camera zooms in on Chip as he waves his arms up and down in a kind of victory dance.
  • Word Salad Title: A few levels.
    • Oorto Geld. It's an anagram of "Tog(g)le Door". The level is about toggling doors.
    • Floorgasborg, a smorgasbord of floor types.
    • Teleblock, because it's about teleporting blocks.
    • Telenet. It's a net with teleports in it.
    • Chchchips. This level consists of long trails of chips, which makes the title an onomatopoeia of sorts, especially in the Microsoft version where the sound effect for picking up a chip sounds a lot like "chp", or "chp-chp-chp-chp" when collecting a string of chips.



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