In Chip's Challenge, there are two distinct rulesets. Most Chipsters are familiar with the MS ruleset, but the Lynx ruleset is slowly gaining popularity, partly due to the ease of use of Tile World and the Lynx-compatibility of CCLP3.
The Lynx ruleset is the ruleset that was used in the original 1989 game for the handheld gaming console, Atari Lynx. These rules were devised and programmed by Chuck Sommerville. All the levels in CC1 were designed with this ruleset in mind, so most of the busts that occur under the MS ruleset do not occur under the Lynx ruleset.
The Microsoft ruleset, commonly referred to as the MS ruleset, is the ruleset used in the 1992 port of the game to the PC, which is the game most players are familiar with. Because of software limitations (it was developed for Windows 3.1), this ruleset lacks animated gameplay, and instead objects jump from square to square. Also, it appears that too little playtesting was done, so there are numerous rule differences. Lastly, due to sloppy programming, many strange glitches exist, such as Slide Delay or the Controller and Boss Glitch.
As this is the most well-known ruleset, custom level sets are usually designed with this ruleset in mind. CCLP2, for example, is not completely Lynx-compatible. 48 levels cannot be played and 21 levels are unsolvable while playing in Lynx. This only leaves 80 solvable levels in the whole set, and even of these, four (Ranger Denmark, Traps I, Glider and Fire, and Cloner's Maze) are highly unequal in solution difficulty. Also, one level in particular is completely busted due to the ability of block slapping in Lynx play; though this is slightly balanced by the MS bust in Trapped not working. Rarely, Lynx-only level sets are made. Examples are Scott Feeney's Graue1_LYNX.dat and Joshua Bone's JoshB_LYNX.dat.
The 2015 release of Chip's Challenge 2 and rerelease of Chip's Challenge 1 use the same engine, which is currently only available for the PC but mostly based on the original Lynx version. Unless described otherwise, the CC2 ruleset works exactly as the Lynx one.
Differences between the MS and Lynx rulesets
- In Lynx, the hint, yellow key and green key are all monster-acting walls, and fire is an acting wall to everything but fireballs. In MS, monsters can cross over all keys without altering them. In CC2, a new tile called the flame jet works more similarly to the way fire works in MS, except that it can turn off and that bugs and walkers can also die in them.
- Hints, boots and exits are only block-acting walls in Lynx. (Note: In CC2, "block-acting wall" generally only applies to dirt blocks.)
- In Lynx, Blue keys are erased by all objects, not just Chip. This is the reason for the flippers in Catacombs, as Chip would have to walk around the block L off the blue key.
- The random force floor is not a monster-acting wall in Lynx.
- In MS, ice corners will allow Chip to skate over them from within the tile.
- Boosting, Slide Delay (and thus cross-checking and block echo), the ram and flick, and the monster order and monster list are all MS-exclusive mechanics. Block slapping is a Lynx-exclusive mechanic. Boot-dropping is a CC2-exclusive mechanic.
- In Lynx, when the exit is reached, the clock runs down for one more turn before stopping.
- In MS, the connections between brown buttons and traps are explicitly specified by the level designer, but in the original Lynx, if a button is not connected to something else, it is automatically connected to the next trap or machine in forwards wrappable reading order. Tile World's Lynx mode behaves like the MS version unless run in Pedantic mode.
- In MS, a random force floor will randomly select one of the four directions. In Lynx, the random force floor will cycle through the directions in a clockwise manner throughout a play session, starting east, then south, then west, then north.
- In Lynx, blue buttons only apply to currently stationary tanks or tanks that are perfectly aligned with a tile. Therefore, a moving tank will only be able to be reversed on one out of every four frames. This is required in Paranoia. In MS, a blue button applies to all movable non-sliding tanks, with the exception of a glitch known as the Frankenstein Glitch. In the CC2 ruleset, blue buttons apply to all movable tanks.
- In MS, a trap is open at any point after the correct brown button is touched. In Lynx, a trap is only open on the turn its button is being pressed, or during the turn the object moves off the button.
- In MS, a teleport which has no legal exit and no legal move across the teleport will cause a monster to stick in it and erase the teleport from the network; the only way for the monster to leave the teleport is if the space in front of it becomes open. In Lynx, the monster will treat the teleport as a floor space and act accordingly.
- In some circumstances in MS, a monster clone machine blocked from cloning at the time of the red button hit will still clone if the obstacle is removed. Similarly, in MS, a monster that cannot move out of a trap, even though the brown button has been hit, is released on the turn after the acting wall in front of it is removed (except for tanks, and of course blobs and teeth on their non-moving turn).
- In Lynx, opened traps act sort of like ice to objects. Chip cannot change directions on traps until he hits a wall or steps in a unopened trap. This allows the Lynx time for Ladder to be nine seconds greater than the MS version, and is the reason why Torturechamber is still solvable in Lynx (in MS, the block remains on the sliplist and will slide when released). In CC2, opened traps work as regular floor tiles except for blocks, which have almost the same interactions with traps as in CC1 Lynx (the exception being they can't change direction while on the trap).
- In both rulesets, objects can move one space per turn without sliding, but Lynx moves them in real time while MS moves them instantaneously. To work in real time, Lynx has to attempt to move object a quarter of a space every quarter turn, rather than one space every full turn; this means that it is four times as accurate as MS. For example, if a fireball and Chip are both next to flippers in Lynx, Chip only has to wait [1/4] to pick up the flippers safely, because the fireball has attempted to move onto the flippers during this time interval, and is now programmed to turn right even if Chip collects them immediately afterwards.
- In Lynx, chips and boots are acting dirt in every way. In CC2, they act a bit differently from dirt: while the player character is still conidered to be on the destination square when moving, monsters can't step onto a player/dirt combo, but they can step on a player/boot or player/chip combo. Thus, grabbing chips and boots that are guarded by monsters is much more risky than in Lynx.
- In MS, if Chip or a teeth runs into an acting wall, it must wait until the next time it is permitted to move. Under Lynx, Chip can make a move as soon as a quarter of a turn after a failed move. An example would be Ping Pong: if Chip runs into one of the blue walls around the level, he is delayed by [1/4]. In MS (and in this case, CC2 as well), however, this type of move does not cost anything. On the other hand, if Chip is pressing against the blue walls from the inside, he only has to do it for 1/4 of a move in Lynx before it turns grey and then he can move again, whereas in MS, bumping into the wall costs a full move. In CC2, this latter example is the same as in CC1 Lynx unless a form of block-slapping against walls is used.
- In MS, blobs and walkers will not choose a direction that would result in an illegal move on this turn. In Lynx, they will attempt to make any move, so a blob or walker may remain stationary on a space; its direction will change to show the attempted move.
- In Lynx, when a monster moves onto a force floor or ice, their speed will double; in MS, all monsters including the teeth and blob will move at Chip's sliding speed of 10 [m/s]. Teeth still move at 10 m/s on sliding tiles in Lynx, because, on normal floor, they truly move at 5 m/s then pause for one step.
- In Lynx, a more rudimentary variation of boosting exists; Chip can only override force floors when previously sliding on other force floors, and only when attempting to make a sideways move (this last part does not apply to CC2).
- In Lynx, all monsters will exit a trap in the direction they are facing. In MS, bugs, paramecia, and teeth may behave differently, and blobs can still move out of the trap in any legal direction. As mentioned earlier, in CC2, monsters (and Chip and Melinda) treat open traps as floor.
- In Lynx, an animation plays when a bomb explodes or a block is placed in water, which blocks Chip from stepping on the space for roughly half of a second (specifically, the animation lasts 11-12 ticks, where 20 ticks = 1 second, and usually translates to 10-11 ticks of waiting; this has been reduced to about 5 ticks of waiting in CC2) or unless a monster touches the space first. This behavior is solely responsible for making Teeth unsolvable.
- In the original Lynx version, the random seed of random-moving monsters (except blobs) is fixed and will not change with successive attempts of the level. In MS, the path is randomly chosen every time the level starts.
- In MS—and to a lesser extent, CC2—any tile can be placed on another tile. In Lynx, exactly one Chip is allowed and every space consists of 1 non-creature and 0 or 1 creatures (here, "creature" includes blocks and Chip). In Tile World, the unused/internal-use tiles, such as fake exit, Burned Chip, Drowned Chip, and Swimming Chip, can be placed, though most of them are replaced by walls. In the original Atari Lynx version, those tiles, as well as N and W thin walls, don't exist, and Tile World's pedantic Lynx mode generally won't play levels containing them.
- Puzzle Studio is being programmed to use Tile World Lynx rules.
- CCLP3 is Lynx and MS compatible. Any invalid or impossible level in Lynx, or any level where the altered mechanics change the basic route to a significant degree, was excluded from voting.
- CCLP1 is Lynx and MS compatible. The use of pedantic Lynx was debated, but it was ultimately decided it would not be used.
- Lesson 6, Brushfire, Ping Pong and Paranoia have different passwords; the latter was changed in MS to avoid confusion with Four Square's identical password.
- In MS, some versions of Spirals are corrupted.
- In MS, Catacombs's buttons are wired a bit differently.
- In MS, Time Lapse contains some errors in the trap connections.
- In Lynx, Perfect Match contains an extra patch of ice in the bottom left corner.
- In Lynx, a room in Skelzie is one row shorter.
- In Lynx, the password MAND will produce a Mandelbrot generator. No such bonus feature is present in the MS version.
- In MS, an extra level was added to thank the developers.
- In MS, Decade Messages are missing after Brushfire, Tossed Salad, Mishmesh and Floorgasborg are completed.