Chuk and the Arena

Chuk and the Arena doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention on here, but I found it to be a thoroughly delightful and engaging game. Part of that was admittedly a matter of personal taste – one of my favorite games from past IFComp was The Wizard Sniffer, and this game hits my similar “this pleases me” buttons of 1) being a whimsical fantasy, 2) having characters that come across as caricatured stereotypes at first but become more nuanced and/or likable than you expect, 3) not taking itself too seriously for the most part, but still having a climax/ending that has a genuine emotional impact, and 4) having puzzles that hit the sweet spot of “hard enough for me to feel clever if I solve them, but easy enough that I can figure them out without a walkthrough – or if I can’t, my reaction to looking up the solution is ‘Oh duh, I should’ve figured that one out’ instead of ‘How the heck was I supposed to figure that out on my own?’”. The only puzzle I felt could have been a bit better-clued was what to do with the Handbook of Insults after you find out it doesn’t work on the guard as expected.

But overall, part of it is just because it’s a very well-constructed and implemented game with lots of nice little touches like Chuk’s dialogue lines changing color with his skin. I’m not surprised that the author of this game also made Lux, as that’s the other game that comes to mind when I try thinking of Twine games that have the best inventory/puzzle formatting and implementation. Though I would say I liked this one better than Lux; Lux stuck so close to its genre trappings that anyone with more than a passing familiarity with sci-fi tropes could see the twists coming from a mile away, while Chuk and the Arena’s premise of “you’re a chameleon-like alien who has to get his planet’s moon back by cheating his way through gladiatorial combats” ensures that it never feels stale or derivative at any point even with time-honored tropes included like The Prophecy of the Dark Lord’s Defeat.

4 Likes

Yes, I thought this was a lovely piece. I love the hero and the quality of writing and puzzles was generally on point. A few minor niggles that didn’t really decrease my enjoyment in any significant way:

I would have appreciated if, after the first time you don the disguise (and therefore solve the puzzle), you’d be able to just automatically don and doff it as you enter and leave the relevant area. My carpal was acting up the day I played it and the extra tapping (played on tablet) didn’t help.

Speaking of extra tapping, having the color switcher and the inventory in a side-panel for easier access would have also improved the UX, imo.

I must admit I had to look up the walkthrough to figure out that I needed to talk to the janitor for the final battle. There was zero need to talk to him since the start of the game, so he just turned into scenery for me.

The final sequence felt a little underdeveloped, being a series of walls of text ending in NEXT, but I didn’t really mind it.

But all that aside, I look forward to your next work, author!

2 Likes

A fun game with complex puzzles. I’ve posted a review of it on my blog.