Chalvo 55: Super Puzzle Action
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Japan System Supply
  • Publisher:
    • Japan System Supply
  • Released:
    • JP 02/21/1997
Score: 70%

This review was published on 08/12/2016.

Chalvo 55: Super Puzzle Action is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Japan System Supply for the Game Boy. It was exclusively released in Japan on February 21, 1997. This game is related to another one for the Virtual Boy called Bound High! That game was supposed to come out in 1996, but got canceled due to the Virtual Boy's poor sales. Despite being canceled, a finished prototype of the game was created, and a ROM of that prototype eventually made its way online many years later. What's Chalvo 55's relation to Bound High? Well, both games were made by the same developer, and they both have the same protagonist. The games themselves are completely different, though. Some consider Chalvo 55 the successor to Bound High, even though Bound High was never officially released. Either way, Chalvo 55 is a neat little game that's worth a look if you like solving puzzles.

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When it comes to graphical quality, this game doesn't have much to offer. True, the Game Boy isn't exactly known for outstanding visuals, what with its lack of color, but there are still some games on the portable that manage to look great in spite of that. One such example is The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, a Game Boy game released in 1993. Despite being a few years younger, Link's Awakening has far better graphics than Chalvo 55. Considering Chalvo 55 got released in 1997, the game's graphics are pretty lackluster for the time, even for the Game Boy. There are no backgrounds and the foregrounds are overly basic. The sprites, while artistically charming, are also unimpressive from a technical standpoint. It's a good thing playing this game is fun, because looking at it certainly isn't.

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Earth is being invaded by alien assailants from outer space, and it's up to Chalvo to put a stop to them. In case you haven't already guessed, you control the titular Chalvo in this game, a robot with a heart of gold. When on the ground, Chalvo can calmly walk around and push certain objects, but you'll spend most of the game using his ball form. Chalvo's main ability is to transform into a bouncing ball that can destroy breakable blocks and harm most enemies. This allows him to bounce to higher ground, simulating the jumping ability most platform heroes have. However, there's a catch: while in ball form, Chalvo will automatically and continuously bounce by himself. The only way you can stop this is to revert back to his normal form, but he can't do much when not a ball. That's where the main challenge of the game comes into play; maneuvering Chalvo while he's bouncing can be tricky. Once you master it, bouncing around as a ball is rather delightful.

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The whole game takes place on the enemy's battleship, which is broken up into a number of stages. There is no battery save, but you do get short passwords to retain your progress. The objective of each stage is to collect five gems and then locate the exit. While tackled in a linear order, the stages themselves are nonlinear, requiring careful exploration in order to find all the gems. You can press the start button to access a map screen that'll show the layout of the current area, but the map won't reveal the gem locations, so you still have to find those on your own. Simply finding the gems is usually only half the battle, though, because you'll also have to figure out how to actually get them. The acquisition process can be like solving scintillating puzzles, hence the game's title.

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Since Chalvo's abilities are limited, most of the puzzle solving involves interacting with environmental objects. These puzzling objects come in the form of floors with arrows that push you in the direction they point to, springs that make you bounce higher, blocks with the word "go" on them that open locked passages when touched, teleportation devices, and more. One of the main things you'll be doing is pushing special wheeled blocks and springs into holes so that you can safely cross over dangerous spikes. You can even stack them! Solving many of the puzzles comes down to pushing and breaking things in the correct order. If you ever do it wrong, you can reenter the current room to reset all the objects. There are also deadly black holes that'll suck objects in, including Chalvo himself. Chalvo is a fragile robot, so he dies to anything in one hit. And by anything, I mean stuff like spikes, enemies, and the aforementioned black holes. Due to that, some of the puzzles are more about careful timing. All these elements come together to form some extremely challenging puzzles later in the game. The last few stages are pretty nightmarish.

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Awaiting Chalvo at the end of every stage is a boss. Most of the bosses won't attack you directly, instead opting to push you into hazards such as spikes and black holes. You usually have to hit a switch a couple of times to defeat them. For example, the first boss is a giant block that moves from side to side in an attempt to push Chalvo into spike pits, and you simply press the switch it's guarding a few times to beat it. Not all bosses involve hitting switches, though: the second boss is a truck driver that'll try to push you into harm's way, and you have to jump on his head a bunch of times to win. Some of the later bosses will also directly attack you with projectiles. While they do start off easy, the bosses get quite difficult later on. The boss fights are a bit lacking in substance, but they do get the job done.

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The graphics may be shabby and the bosses overly simple, but the rest of the game is decent. There's enough substance in the puzzle solving to give the game the legs it needs to stand on. If you like puzzles and action, then consider checking out Chalvo 55: Super Puzzle Action. It's even got two of those words in the title! However, it should be noted that the emphasis is more on the puzzles and less on the action.

Word Count: 1,050

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