The time limit of a level is the amount of time Chip has to complete it, measured in "seconds", which are not actually real seconds. One Chip's Challenge second is equal to 1.17 real seconds.
How it works in play
The time limit in MS CC is indicated in the info panel, possibly containing up to three digits, under the heading "TIME". The digits are always green if the time limit is between 16 and 999, except if the black and white option is selected; in that case, the digits for the level, time limit, and chips left will always be yellow. When the time reaches 15, a click is heard and the display turns yellow, with every further second continuing to click until the timer reaches 0, which is equivalent to any other death and accesses the Death message of Ooops! Out of time!. When playing Knot and Joyride I, each with bold times of 6, a Chipster can often be caught out. As the last level in most custom level sets will cause the Termination Glitch if completed, a dummy level often ends a levelset by not allowing Chip to finish it within the time limit.
If there is no time limit, specified by typing 0 into the time limit field in level editors, three yellow dashes cover the display for the entire duration of the level. In Tile World, the time limit display is always in the same white color and allows for higher time limits (see Mechanics), but still specifies dashes as no time limit. In CC1, 29 levels were untimed, and in CCLP2, all levels were modified to timed levels, which allowed for a score of higher than 6,000,000. The Charter Chipsters set themselves towards the "quest for 6,000,000" as their CC1 scores moved closer to this goal, but it is all but clear that this is impossible in CC1.
When Chip makes his first move, the clock will start to count. This otherwise happens before Chip moves, so if the last move to the exit were to tick the clock down to zero, Chip will not make it to the exit. However, if Chip slides into the exit on the turn the clock ticks, after his last voluntary move was either boosting or the second half of a spring step, the higher time is scored and the next level's timer will be initially set one second lower. This is known as a -.9 score, and is quite rare.
In MS CC, the clock is controlled by a continuous upward counter which starts from 0, counts each number as 1/10 of a second, and executes the command to tick down every multiple of 10. Unlike Tile World, which resets the timer after every death or level change, the MS clock counter will not reset to zero unless the game is exited, and will thus cause the timer to tick down sooner than one CC second a lot of the time. To fix this, Fullsec can be used. Otherwise, perform clock setting, or exit and reopen the program, which does this automatically and will also set the odd and even step algorithm to even step. The timer algorithm maxes out at 65,536 if the player continues to play this long, and it will roll over from here, which causes the legendary Long First Second Glitch.
Even though the info panel only reserves three digits for the time limit, it is possible for the time limit to go up to 65,535, since four bytes were allotted to this function; however, the clock in actual play can only handle 32,767.
For time limits above 999, the info panel displays a random character as the first digit in either yellow or green, followed by the last two digits of the time limit, in either yellow or green:
- 10xx - Green blank (from 1000-1009 the tens digit also appears blank)
- 11xx - Green dash (never used in any other case except this; it was most likely included to keep the structure same for the green and yellow digits since green and yellow are palette swaps)
- 12xx - Yellow 0
- 13xx - Yellow 1
- 14xx - Yellow 2
- 15xx - Yellow 3
- 16xx - Yellow 4
- 17xx - Yellow 5
- 18xx - Yellow 6
- 19xx - Yellow 7
- 20xx - Yellow 8
- 21xx - Yellow 9
- 22xx - Yellow blank
- 23xx - Yellow dash
- 24xx, 26xx-34xx - Garbled, unintelligible mash ups of multiple digits
- 25xx - The "chameleon" digit, which changes appearance based on what was last displayed as the hundredths digit
- 35xx+ - Same digit for every time after this
- 32767+ - Timer freezes at this point, the last 2 digits turn yellow, and it will still use the same digit from 35xx+
If B&W mode is on, the garbled digits will appear earlier, starting at 12xx.
Many versions of level editors did not reflect this coding, and prohibited time limits above 999; there still remain very few thousand-plus time limits in custom sets even after the rules were changed.
How it is recorded
The time limit is often divided into tenths (see Chip's Challenge scoring); one move takes 2/10, or 1/5 of a second, and one slide on ice or force floors or two perpendicular moves on force floors (see Forced Entry) takes 1/10 of a second.