By: Justin Redmon
There’s nothing quite like that smug sense of self-satisfaction after claiming victory over what was no doubt a fiendishly designed level, of conquering a particular head scratcher in a moment of brilliance, replacing a scowl of concentration with a cocky smile. This is what I love about puzzle games, something that Chuck’s Challenge 3D by Niffler Ltd. has in spades; albeit sometimes a little too much for its own good. With tons of content to conquer, Chuck’s Challenge certainly has a lot to offer, but not without its share of small frustrations.
Controls are first up in any puzzler, and with Chuck’s Challenge’s beginnings as a mobile title, it carries some of the ungainly controls of a touch screen puzzler with it to the PC space. Movements stick to a grid-based pattern, and with that they maintain somewhat of a jerky stop-and-go attitude, making some puzzles where speed is a necessity especially taxing, while normal precision is somewhat compromised as well. Controls are helped slightly by a time mechanic that lets you rewind mistakes, albeit most will probably opt to restart puzzles in their entirety for the time challenges. Overall there’s a ton of options on just how you want to control Chuck’s Challenge, although none really seem to hit the sweet spot that you’re looking for.
Visually, the game looks pretty good. Environments look bright and inviting with some particularly impressive water and lighting effects, while Woop, the purple creature you control during puzzling, stands out nicely against the backgrounds so you never have to worry about losing track of him in the process. The soundtrack is fine as well, nothing particularly outstanding, but good enough to not have you pulling your hair out during a particularly tricky puzzle. Once again though, artifacts from its mobile roots crop up, as a lot of models in the game tend to lack the sort of polish one would expect on PC, and seeing these low resolution textures blown up to full size doesn’t help.
Chuck’s Challenge 3D, however, gets top marks where it truly counts, in creating an addictive and competent puzzler. There does seem to be a story tying all the puzzling together, but to be honest it came across as largely inconsequential and ends up being something that could have been cut out for the better as story segments have a tendency to interrupt somewhat frequently. Nevertheless, in its beginnings Chuck’s Challenge gently eases you into all the ins and outs of its mechanics, with block pushing, key grabbing, and power-up usage taking the forefront of the first set of stages. These stages were actually such a cakewalk that I was almost ready to write off Chuck’s Challenge as a decent looking puzzler with no depth or challenge. After entering the second set of levels, however, Chuck’s Challenge reveals that underneath its cute exterior is a serious puzzler lying in wait.
Let me make this clear, Chuck’s Challenge flips all the switches and kicks it into high gear, setting out some clever puzzles after its slow start, and although I often found myself stumped for quite a time, I never really felt like I was hitting a brick wall. That’s because levels don’t all unlock in a linear fashion, letting you skip around if you ever get truly stuck and want to take a break from a particular puzzle. The difficulty of puzzles does seem to jump around a bit, and it tends to spike somewhat often. Still, you get a ton of choice with a fair amount of puzzles included as well as a level editor and a swarm of community-made puzzles to sift through; one of which is displayed prominently each week as the best of the best.
Controls tend to be the worst of Chuck’s Challenge 3D’s problems, however, and it’s hard not to get frustrated during some of the higher level puzzles when timing becomes important, where missing a known solution due to trying to wrangle the controls can sometimes feel like a chore. Although the time mechanic can help in these situations, its use is also devalued due to levels being scored for both completion and time. Thus, you’ll probably find yourself rewinding less and less, opting instead to restart levels in their entirety. That’s really the heads or tails of it, those who can get past the controls will find a puzzler well worth their time as, warts and all, Chuck’s Challenge 3D is an addictive puzzler that scratches the puzzle solving itch.
Chuck’s Challenge 3D hides an extremely competent puzzler underneath a cutesy guise, and although it carries some marks of its mobile origins, it turns out to be worth it in the end.