Chex Quest HD review: Only 90’s kids will understand
“Chex Quest HD is a short, but pleasant hit of 90’s nostalgia.”
- Faithful to the original
- Simple, but fun shooting
- Delightfully nostalgic
- Missing basic UI
- Very little replay value
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: You already know if you’re going to download Chex Quest HD.
That’s because the free remake, which modernizes a 1996 childhood staple that came packaged with boxes of Chex cereal, isn’t a game as much as it is a 1990s nostalgia trip. Your enjoyment of this bizarre first-person shooter will be directly proportional to how much time you spent zorching flemoids on your parents’ PC as a kid. And if “zorching flemoids” already sounds like a foreign language, don’t expect to get in on the joke now. If you know, you know.
Chex Quest HD’s quality is inseparable from its context. For fans who grew up with the original, it’s a faithful, though incomplete preservation that makes one of gaming’s weirdest marketing stunts fun again. For everyone else, it’s a minimalist Doom clone that’s about as deep as a bowl of Chex.
Chex the right boxes
Chex Quest was originally developed as a ploy to make Chex cereal more appealing to modern kids. The game used id Software’s Doom engine to create a wholesome first-person shooter that replaced chainsaws and shotguns with spoons and laser-firing remote controls. Instead of Doomguy, players guided the Chex Warrior on a mission to teleport snot-like aliens back to their home dimension.
While the HD update trades in sprites for smooth 3D textures, the remake is still Doom at its core. In each level, players need to navigate maze-like stages, track down colored key cards, and discover secret passages. a quarter-century later, Chex Quest HD carries a double serving of gratifying nostalgia: one for the game itself, and one for a style of PC shooter that dominated the ’90s.
This preservation is important, because time has not been kind to the original game. After I finished my pleasant, hourlong playthrough of the remake, I tried to revisit the ‘1996 version, to see how much had really changed. I was surprised (well, maybe not too surprised) to find it wasn’t as fun as I’d remembered. The movement felt cumbersome, and I couldn’t wrap my head around the game’s clumsy keyboard aiming.
Chex Quest HD carries a double serving of gratifying nostalgia: One for the game itself, and one for a style of PC shooter that dominated the ’90s.
By comparison, Chex Quest HD feels much closer to what I remember. That’s most apparent in the shooting (er, zorching), which is more legible thanks to reworked animations. Zorchers feel more like ray guns and less like unwieldy TV remotes. The improvements go a long way toward making the game playable again without sacrificing any of its goofball charm.
While it keeps my childhood memories safe, Chex Quest HD doesn’t do much to transcend its nostalgia act. That’s not for lack of trying.
The big addition is a multiplayer mode, which can only be played with four friends locally, or over Steam. That limitation hints at how it’s best enjoyed: Sitting down with a few close friends to laugh at the absurdity of a Chex Mix-themed death match. Divorced from that context, it’s not much more than a novelty within a novelty.
Along with the new mode, the game features several characters who can be unlocked by finding passwords on social media, or in bags of Chex Mix. It’s a smart marketing trick, but the characters don’t add much to the experience. They all play the same, with the main difference being that they come with their own set of corny voice lines. Each character has their own alternate campaign ending, but I’m not sure if anyone is so mystified by Chex lore that they’ll want to play through the story mode six times.
The remake adds a few new features, but none of them transform the game into anything more than a brief stroll down memory lane.
Chex Quest HD also lacks a few features from the original. The remake does away with the original’s five difficulty settings, removing the game’s main source of replay value. And strangely, there’s no longer a way to look at a map or view the game’s controls.
Maybe it’s nitpicky to scold a game that features Chex Mix branding on just about every door for its interface shortcomings. But considering that the remake is introducing itself to a generation who aren’t in on the joke, it doesn’t try too hard to convert new followers. Chex Quest rose to cult status because the idea of a free video game was mind-blowing to ’90s kids. That idea just doesn’t have the same impact in the age of Fortnite.
Chex Quest HD is a breezy blast for anyone who’s looking to spend an afternoon in the ’90s. Smoother shooting and tweaked animations make for a more legible experience that’s still true to the 1996 game, but the minimal package isn’t likely to win over players who aren’t as easily wowed by a “free” label in 2020. Missing UI and shallow extras turn this goofball oddity into the embodiment of the “only ’90s kids will understand” meme.
Is there a better alternative?
Dusk is a better balance of nostalgia and quality for those looking for a 1990s-style shooter, but Chex Quest HD is the only snack-themed Doom clone on the market.
How long will it last?
The five levels take around an hour to complete, though secrets, unlockable characters, and local multiplayer are available for those looking to squeeze an extra play session out of it.
Should you buy it?
Yes. It’s short, it’s free, and it’s just weird enough to merit a curious glance.