It was with great trepidation that I approached Chuck’s Challenge 3D from Nkidu Games Inc. (Released to Steam February 28 2014.) This appeared to be a board based puzzler filled with nothing but my arch-nemesis, box pushing puzzles. We all know these. Usually, you you move a series of blocks to clear a path. Usually, this involves placing them on pressure plates to unlock a gate. When doing these, I rarely have an “ah-ha” moment. Usually, I am left thinking “Well, that was tedious.”
I was both correct and gloriously wrong in prejudging this.
The premise of Chuck’s Challenge is simple. A bored alien, Woop, spacenaps a balding game designer by the name of Chuck. Apparently, he is the designer of this game’s predecessor, Chip’s Challenge. Woop tasks Chuck with creating puzzles to keep him occupied, something Chuck does gladly and soon voluntarily.
The story really is not important, though. The real star, as it should be, are the puzzles. While half of them are the accursed box pushers, the other half have a wide range of tasks. My favorites involve figuring out how to obtain and properly use a variety of power ups. These include jet packs, super speed shoes, and a spike roller for navigating ice. The toy box available is fantastic and I always smiled when I discovered a new gadget to try.
While graphics in this type of game do not require great detail to get the point across, Chuck’s Challenge shines here as well. They are simple and colorful; it pulls off the effect of looking like a Saturday morning cartoon. They do allow for seamless zooming and angle changing as well. If you zoom all the way out to see the full board, objects and characters gain a thick black outline to help you keep track of where you are.
The sound is also well done. The tunes are bright and cheery. The sound effects are satisfying. Going back to the power ups, the crunch of the ice roller is particularly effective.
The is also a level creator and weekly puzzles for longevity. Some of the user made puzzles are quite ingenious and there seems to be a small, enthusiastic community developing around building the best boards.
All of this praise does come with a few issues, though. While the game purported supports mouse, keyboard, and a controller, I could not for the life of me get my Xbox 360 controller to work with this. When checking the forums for a solution, it appeared that this issue was localized only to me. Due to my lack of technical knowledge when it comes to this, I am willing to concede that it could simply be the type of controller I am using. (The Ghost Recon: Future Soldier special edition wired version.)
There was also a board where you are tasked with sliding around ice and finding collectibles hidden in boxes to open the path the the exit. I tried numerous times to find the final piece only to discover that there was a block that was intentionally designed to look like the environmental border that was in fact the last hiding spot. I’m all for obscure puzzles, but being intentionally misleading in this type of game loses points for me
Finally, and this is pure personal preference, there is the fact that half the game is your base box pushing puzzles. As I noted, I hate these. Hate them. When I first started playing this one, my wife commented that should figure out if I was having fun or not. That’s because I kept switching from the Mr. Hyde playing the box pushers and loathing it to the Dr. Jekyll of the rest of the game. To be fair, it does not hide the fact that this is in there, but I can not help but feel that a game full of the inventive puzzles would have made it an instant must buy for everyone. I will admit to not completing this as my tolerance was beginning to run low. It will remain on my hard drive until I do complete it, however.
If you have the stomach (or even love) for these, I would recommend this family friendly puzzler. Most of it is well put together despite my tastes. It’s fast, lovably dorky, and has some great sparks of fun. If you are more like me, wait for a Steam sale and take your time pushing through the cookie-cutter stuff to get to the rich nougat buried within.