Chew Man Fu for the TurboGrafx-16 is a puzzle game that was clearly inspired by 1980s arcade maze crawlers, such as Sega's Pengo and Capcom's Pirate Ship Higemaru. The title refers to the game's antagonist, a sorcerer that has cast a spell robbing the world of all its tastiest foods. To break the spell, you have to help your on-screen character manipulate four colored balls into their appropriate receptacles within 50 different mazes, while avoiding enemies and gobbling up any food or power-up items you come across. Like many puzzle games, the action is repetitive and the presentation is the very definition of plain. However, if you're the sort of person who enjoys maze-based puzzle games, you might just find yourself quickly hooked on the increasingly challenging maze layouts that the game dishes out. On top of that, Chew Man Fu includes a number of bonus features that almost make the 600 Wii points ($6) it costs to download the game from the Virtual Console shop seem like a bargain.
Your character in the game is a young monk with a Princess Leia hairdo. Each maze fills a single screen that consists of various solid walls and soft walls, as well as four monster enemies and four heavy balls of different colors. The action is shown from a top-down viewpoint. Your job is to move each ball into position on top of its appropriate panel before time runs out and without running out of lives. The monsters, of course, are programmed to roam the maze and, in later rounds, to chase after you. One button lets you grab on to balls to push and pull them, while the other lets you kick balls into enemies and against walls. There isn't much more to it than that, apart from keeping an eye out for items that can give you a shield or temporarily get rid of enemies. The game is simple and repetitive, but it's also quite challenging. Enemies reappear after a few seconds, they get smarter in later rounds, and you can easily get into trouble if you smash the wrong wall or leave a ball blocking your path. While the graphics and audio don't flaunt what the TurboGrafx-16 is capable of, the cartoonlike characters and peppy music do have an undeniable charm. The graphics also don't seem as blurry as the graphics in other TurboGrafx-16 games on the Virtual Console, perhaps because the large sprites and simple color schemes make everything stand out.
Once you go through the initial set of 50 mazes, the game starts over and gives you 50 tougher mazes to solve. When you finish those, you get 50 more mazes, and so on. In all, there are 11 cycles with 550 different mazes to solve. The game lets you pick up from where you left off by inputting a password. Thankfully, your last password is saved when you turn the system off and is automatically filled in when you restart. Besides having a ton of mazes, Chew Man Fu also includes almost every feature you could want in a puzzle game. You can play through the main mode yourself or have a friend join in, whether you're starting from the beginning or continuing a game in progress. There's also a standalone kickball minigame, in which you and a friend can try to kick a ball into each other's goal for points. Lastly, there's the level editor, which lets you make your own mazes and save 12 of them to the system's memory.
Obviously, Chew Man Fu isn't for everyone, but you should definitely check it out if you enjoy maze-based puzzle games. It's certainly worth the risk when you consider all of the mazes and features you get for the 600 Wii points ($6) price tag.