Here’s a fun surprise - an NES version of Chip’s Challenge, Chuck Sommerville’s Atari Lynx puzzler that later became famous as an early Windows game!
The NES version was going to be published in the U.S. by Bullet-Proof Software, the group that published Hatris and Pipe Dream for the NES, and is probably most remembered for its involvement in the Tetris licensing fiasco. It was developed by Images Software, the same dev house that also did all of the non-Windows PC conversions.
The version we have here is obviously not complete, but here are some general notes from our observances:
- The first thing you’ll notice if you watch this video - there’s no sound!
- Some simple debug features are still present. At the start of any level, BEFORE moving Chip, hit A to advance to the next level.
- The playing field view is waaaayyy bigger than the original. The original showed a 9×9 grid on screen, this one is more like 16×13! I don’t think I agree with that decision, but given the NES’ 8×8 tile size, I can’t think of an elegant solution either.
- 136 of the original game’s 148 levels are present in this build. The passwords are the same as well, though the order is mixed up a bit.
- Interesting, level 132, appropriately named “EXCLUSIVE,” is exclusive to the NES version. And it’s pretty darn difficult, too. It looks like this:
- Yes, I beat it (with help). Can you? The password is IGSC.
- All of the “cutscenes” from the original are included here, including the ending.
- Credits however do not display, although text strings do exist for them in the ROM. The game basically crashes if you beat it.
I actually think Chip’s Challenge is a pretty solid game. So do lots of people, actually — mod communities have existed since the birth of the internet. I do recommend playing the game if you haven’t though — you can buy it for a couple bucks on Steam. And what’s even cooler, the previously-unreleased Chip’s Challenge 2 was recently ported as well, with money going straight to the original developer. How cool is that?
We’re not sure what became of the NES version. What we do know is that Bullet-Proof announced it at Winter CES, January 1991, then exhibited it again at Summer CES in June, and then as far as we can tell, never mentioned it again. Interestingly, this build of the game is dated 5/8/1992, meaning that it was burned well after those demos. And, you may notice, Bullet-Proof does not appear in the ROM at all. Perhaps Bullet-Proof decided to pass, and this was a polished demo that was being passed around in the hopes of finding a new publisher? I contacted the NES version’s programmer to ask, but haven’t heard back. I’ll update this should he ever reply.
If you’d like to try out the NES version yourself, you can download it right here.
Huge, huge thanks to Lost Levels pal and all around great guy Steve Lin for acquiring this game and allowing us all to take a look at it.