Chip’s Challenge is a tile puzzler created by Chuck Sommerville for Epyx (oh that name…) Computer Software. It was originally released in 1989 for the Lynx, Atari’s attempt at a handheld system. And eventually, brought over to various computer systems, including the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Amiga system, as well as Windows PC.
The game is apparently pretty good (as told to me by various people on Twitter), and has an interesting cult following online including remakes, various fan created levels, and dedicated websites. It’s currently Abandonware and easy to find online if you’d like to give it a shot (that is, if you have a computer that can run old-as-dirt games like this).
However, it’s cover art… doesn’t do it any favors…
There is a plot to this game, which is kinda vaguely hinted at by the cover. It’s, first and foremost, a love story! Allow me to explain via copy-paste from the game’s Wikipedia page… for if I tried explaining this in my own words, I’m afraid my weeping would get in the way of completing this post…
“The premise of the game is that high-school nerd Chip McCallahan has met Melinda The Mental Marvel in the school science laboratory and must navigate through Melinda’s “Clubhouse” (a series of increasingly difficult puzzles) in order to prove himself and gain membership to the very exclusive Bit Buster Club.”
I’m leaving the wikipedia link for “nerd” in because it tickles me…
Melinda’s nickname makes me uncomfortable. It sounds like an insult more than a nickname. Like something middle school bullies would call the special ed girl. I’m also quite wary of the fact the word “clubhouse” is in quotations. “Come on kids, let’s go to my… ‘clubhouse’ for some scientific EXPERIMENTATION!”. See, framing it that way makes it explicit and weird.
As you can see by the cover art, Melinda’s… *cough*… “clubhouse” is a massive series of mazes fill with bombs and mutant killer teeth monsters.
Let’s take a look at those teeth monsters, shall we…
Little did you realize that this game is about more than just Chip trying to get into Melinda’s pants, it’s about the battle against the greatest enemy of all: GINGIVITIS! That’s really the only explanation I have for why these teeth are encased in green gums. Let this be a warning to you kids: brush your teeth. Or they’ll rot. Get enormous. And chase virgins around mazes.
And is anyone starting to get the impression that Melinda is a sociopath that would make Buffalo Bill go “whoa, you’re sick!”. This is a fun after-school science club, and Melinda is throwing bombs at this kid. It’s a little disconcerting that this secret “science club” that’s held in a secret “clubhouse” happens to be constructing homemade bombs. Good thing the NSA wasn’t around back then or Melinda would be in Guantanamo well on her way to being waterboarded.
Then we get to Chip himself. Dashing fellow who appears to resemble Harold Ramis circa 1984.
However, it’s Chip’s fashion sense that is a cause for concern. Never, in all my years, have I seen a person wear a hooded sweatshirt under overalls. This may very well be the socks-with-sandals for the torso. Not only that, he’s completely forgone common sense and decided on a blue motif. He looks like a janitor.
Of course, if he was a janitor, he’d have some keys. And keys are not something Chip can seem to wrap his head around. Who the FUCK holds keys like this?!
Before we finish up with Chip’s Challenge, let’s take a look at the original Atari Lynx cover art, which is different, but still quite amusing…
Somehow, the blue overall/blue hoodie combo doesn’t seem nearly as awful now. Chip was clearly given a huge makeover, as in this he appears to be far more of your cliche nerd character. The pocket protector, the Jew-fro, and a pants-shirt combo that make him look like a watermelon slice.
Diggin’ that Walkman though. Upon looking at the Top 100 for the year this game came out (1989), I’d like to believe he has a mixtape containing a chunk of these songs. If only because of the sheer hilarity of imaging someone out-running mutant teeth while “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul is playing.
Those teeth, by the way, are finally the correct color. I’m curious as to what went into the marketing decision to change them to green in the subsequent releases.
“Kids don’t think the giant mutant teeth are cool or scary!”
“What if we made them GREEN!”
I do like how Chip appears to be leaping into a time-space void in this cover art. It’s a lot more thrilling than his Jim Varney (you were thinking the janitor scene from the beginning of Ernest Goes To Jail too, right?) slipping on a waxed floor look of the other one. Melinda the Mental Marvel has apparently tackled the concept of dimensional shifting too. She’s becoming more and more of a cheesy 60s comic book villain by the minute!
Unfortunately, Chip still doesn’t know how to hold a fucking key…
(Cover art compliments of Moby Games!)