Chip’s Challenge is now free on Steam, the developer announced on Twitter on Tuesday. The classic top-down puzzle game was originally published in 1989 for the Atari Lynx, but gained a cult following when it was ported to Windows in Microsoft Entertainment Pack 4.
The mechanics of Chip’s Challenge are simple. Each level consists of a tiled grid. One of the tiles will lead to the next level, but it’s guarded by a chip socket. In order to move on, the player character, Chip, must collect a number of computer chips to unlock the exit portal. Various obstacles hinder him, including enemies, movable blocks, locked doors, and difficult terrain (ice, fire, water, etc.). Along the way, Chip can pick up tools to help him, including keys, fire boots, ice skates, and flippers.
The version available on Steam has 144 levels to complete, with each level increasing in difficulty. It also allows you to choose between the original Atari aesthetic or the Windows version.
Like many ’90s kids, Chip’s Challenge was my first gaming addiction. I remember sitting in front of my cousin’s PC collecting chips for hours on end and keeping a notebook of level codes so I could pick up where I left off even if one of my cousins reset the game. But I was surprised to learn that there is actually an overarching narrative to Chip’s Challenge. (All of my memories are tied to the levels themselves.) The titular Chip is, according to an opening crawl, high schooler “Nerdy Chip McCallahan,” who has a crush on “Melinda the Mental Marvel.” In order to impress Melinda and gain entry to her exclusive Bit Busters Club, he must make his way through a series of puzzles.
Chip’s Challenge has been available on Steam since 2015, when it dropped alongside a sequel, Chip’s Challenge 2. The sequel had been out of development and ready to go since 1999, but as Ars Technica reported back when the two games launched on Steam, it was caught up in a decades-long publishing battle. With Chip’s Challenge 2 in limbo, developer Chuck Sommerville created a spiritual successor called Chuck’s Challenge 3D, which was successfully crowdfunded through Kickstarter and released on Linux, Mac, and Windows PC in 2014.
Chip’s Challenge is free to play on Steam, while a bundle featuring the original title, Chip’s Challenge 2, and Chuck’s Challenge 3D is available for $11.23. Chip’s Challenge 2 and Chuck’s Challenge 3D retail individually for $4.99 and $9.99, respectively.