Two words come to mind: playability and replayability. Get-A-Grip Chip is a cute and simplistic platformer from Redstart Interactive with a ton of heart. Perhaps more important than its charm is the its execution. The smooth controls and clever design make it so that you can dump hours into this game before even noticing. Unfortunately, if you do exactly that, you’ll get to the end a bit quicker than you’d ever want to.
You begin the game as the titular character, Chip, a manufacturing robot who swings and battles his way through a nightmarish factory. Here’s something that dawned on me about halfway through my playthrough: this is a platformer without a jump button. Odd, isn’t it? You can move left and right, but the rest of your movement is controlled by the hook on Chip’s head. Redstart made sure to build the game entirely around Chip’s abilities and his limitations. As a result, the level design is a thing of beauty. As you progress through the stages, you’ll come across a myriad of inventive ways that Redstart played with Chip’s unique movement abilities. It kept the game fresh the entire time. By way of example, as a gust of air pushes you up, you must take advantage of Chip’s momentum as you slingshot him around an object using your hook.
That’s the true beauty of Get-A-Grip Chip. It’s polished. I never once found myself stuck in a spot I couldn’t escape from. I never once encountered a problem with the platforming or the level design. This is hugely important because the replayability of Get-A-Grip Chip is couched in the leaderboards that are presented to you at the end of each stage. The game needs to be smooth so that you can do each level as quickly as possible. I generally ranked near the top 20 or so on most stages, but those above me were completing the levels in about half the time I was. The full range of players’ completion times is a testament to how well designed this game is. If you are quick enough, you could feasibly complete some levels in just over a minute, but it might take another player up to five minutes. As you go, this fact sort of gnaws at you. I found myself sitting there trying to imagine the perfect route through each stage. How could I beat each stage as quickly as those above me?
One of the primary goals in the game is to collect Battery Bots from each stage. These are trapped robots that Chip has to rescue. There are 8 in each level, and I only found all 8 in a couple of the stages. A few of them I searched quite thoroughly for to no avail. If you find the Battery Bots, you must deposit them into a escape tube, where they are ferried to safety (these escape tubes also double as your checkpoints in the stage). The Battery Bots are lost on death, but not ones that are deposited. If you are lucky enough to find one near a previous checkpoint, you can double back and drop them in a previous checkpoint. Since Battery Bots are required to unlock subsequent levels, you will find yourself chasing them even when they are found it the most perilous of situations.
Another way in which Get-A-Grip Chip deviates from a conventional platformer is that you can skip levels. If you have gathered enough Battery Bots and completed enough total levels, you may be able to skip ahead a level. I found myself enjoying the game enough to have no desire to do so, but this is an interesting aspect for those interested in speedrunning the game. It also offers a greater reward for those diligently hunting Battery Bots. An extra minute or two spent searching may actually pay off by allowing you to skip a future stage.
I’m really nitpicking here, but one of the few problems with Get-A-Grip Chip might be the length of the game. There are 6 stages per level and 5 levels total. At about 3-4 minutes per stage, and accounting for a few failed attempts here and there, the average player should be able to beat Get-A-Grip Chip in around 3 hours or so. Even when you take into account the leaderboards which add that aspect of replayability, I found myself wanting more from the game. This is hardly a negative. I liked the game so much that I was disappointed when I found myself burning through it so quickly.
The final stage of each level is where I found myself having the most fun. These final stages reminded me of the levels in Super Mario where the screen pushes you forward constantly. These levels can be polarizing. For the relaxed gamer, these are an anxiety inducing nightmare, but for those who enjoy a bit of a challenge, these sorts of stages can force you to play at your best. Get-A-Grip Chip manages to find a nice groove of difficulty. The intro stages on each level are usually fairly easy; a warmup more than anything. But, the final stages can be fairly difficult.
Get-A-Grip Chip is the sort of game that arises from a well-focused development team. It is beautifully smooth and playable. It stays true to its base mechanics yet pushes the boundaries whenever possible. The art style is quirky and unique. I felt like I was playing a game made by people who truly understood what they had made. They always had their finger on the pulse. The only issue is when you make a game this enjoyable, I want to play it for much longer than I was able to here.