You know things are going to be interesting when there’s 3D in the title. It either means it’s a new take on an older title (either with the same name or a very similar one) or that the developers just got really happy they could offer you something in 3D. I quickly got excited, though, because Chuck could very well replace old Chip, the main character from Chip’s Challenge (not 3D). And then it hit me: this is actually a PC port for the Android version. It even comes complete with resolution selection upon start-up since, you know, fitting your screen’s resolution is not 1998 at all. Good start, Chuck’s Challenge 3D, goooood start.
Chuck’s Challenge 3D is a top-down puzzle game where you play as Chuck, the level designer, and you guide a character named Woop (whom you control in the levels) to all the goals. This may seem a little complicated at first, but it’s actually quite simple. You see, you make the levels, and your name is Chuck. Oh, but there are levels already? Well you can make MORE. You play them as you go, playing your own levels right along with the ones you didn’t make. So let’s get this straight: you and you make you go through your inventions, because you’re also you. Me? I really don’t understand what the story they implemented has to do with anything, and it isn’t explained, either. Just know that it’s a puzzler with thrown-in 3D action you utilize by tilting the top-down view 30 degrees, and move on.
There are a bunch of very obvious clues that this was a mobile game. First comes the little tune at the title screen, a simple, happy little ditty. Then the rushed and slightly confusing “story”, if you can even call it that. These are followed by screens that bug out where you have to click with your mouse so you can’t activate the tutorial even though the game is played entirely without mouse control. And finally, and most importantly: the rehashed style, mechanics, and general gameplay from older titles. As recent hit Flappy Bird has shown, you don’t always have to be original – you just have to be new.
Two of the few bright points about the game are the scaling difficulty and level creation that extend to online play. At least the game presents a fair challenge as you move along the levels, although you do need to figure out the controls by yourself. All they give you at the main menu are the “asdw” movement controls and “enter”. Zoom-in and zoom-out are also options, but they’ll never tell you. In fact, the tutorials don’t really tell you much of anything besides extending the non-existent story between your characters.
The game just lacks anything new in the genre. It was made to be an app-based game and only that. It won’t stand up to any of the un-ported PC games coming out.
I feel like presentation is where the game could have redeemed itself to some degree. A nice clean interface and the simple design often found in apps could make for a visually appealing experience. However, this is not the case.
In-game, all the graphics and animations feel like enlarged and grainy versions of it’s original mobile version. Because of this, not only does every visual aspect suffer, if you look at the level while your character moves for a long enough period (especially in windowed mode or with low-quality graphics) it can actually make you nauseous. In fact, unless you find a comfortable resolution and zoom, playing for extended periods can actually cause full-on motion sickness. This is apart from the fact that the story is essentially non-existent and that the colours and animations leave much to be desired. It just doesn’t seem like they put in the time to polish the port in it’s entirety. Anything else that the game had originally, like charm or design, is lack-luster and uninspired. Things like the mumbles used instead of voice acting make the experience feel that much cheaper. The best part of the game is arguably the level design, but at app-level complexity, it’s hardly a solid starting point.
Ideally, a game like this has either charm or depth; either of these are attainable with relative ease if enough time is put into it. When you’re setting up your puzzling adventure, making sure colour transitions are smooth and flavourful for the context they are in is pivotal. Making everything easy on the eyes with good ease of access would make your audience want to play and keep playing. Bugs can’t happen, but if they do, they shouldn’t be major enough to prevent you from continuing your experience. Charm comes mostly from storytelling, but could also come from non-verbal humour, which can come in the form of creative level design or interesting characters. Yes, characters can be interesting or worthy without words – Gordon Freeman from Half Life is a good example of this. An even better example is Link from the Legend of Zelda games. Link is a good guy. Link is also kind of a doofus; he carries and gets attacked by chickens, but dammit if he doesn’t help make any Zelda game great. You won’t find any characters like these in Chuck’s Challenge 3D. Taking into consideration the overall feel, this game fails too many of the necessary qualities you need to make your experience lasting and enjoyable, even if you’re a puzzle game port fan (if those even exist).
Things I would get before this game, regardless of price:
Magic: the Gathering cards
Any other game
Even if it’s free, it’s not worth your time unless you reaaaaally like puzzle games (wanna catch ’em all?) When the biggest challenge is if the game will annoy you enough to quit before you to get motion sick or just sick of the game, there’s a problem. This won’t be everyone’s case, but surely they can fix the part where you have to select a resolution and if you want it in windowed mode. Make it an in-game option if need be, but as it stands, it’s just poor porting and game design.
I wish there were more redeeming qualities, but it’s just not the case. Sharing new puzzles online is the best you’ll get and even then, it’s something you’ve really gotta want to do. I do not.
This review is based on a PC version of Chuck’s Challenge 3D provided to 3GEM by the publisher. The game is also available on Mac, iOS, and Android devices. Chucks’s Challenge 3D will be released on Steam on February 28th for $9.99.