How to Master Chunks in Data Entry Sentry

Chunks in Data Entry Sentry is an amazing game, one of the most addicting on iOS, but you probably already know that. That’s why you’re here… you’ve spent hours playing and now you want to take your skills to the next level. You’ve come to the right place! You’re about to learn from the best, I’m the first person to ever reach level 99 and above. I’m also the first person to max out the score at 9,999,999! Together we’ll explore the strategies needed to master this game. Let’s get started!

Getting Started

Basics

First and foremost, let’s put on our game face; we need to get in the right mindset. Playing for high scores should always be fun but at the same time it’s going to take a good amount of determination, focus, and hard work.

Make sure your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch is fully charged up and ready to go. It might also be a good idea to keep your device plugged into a power supply. We don’t want to worry about it dying in the middle of playing!

Turn on “airplane mode”. This is totally optional but might be a good idea if you tend to get a lot of text messages or phone calls. A text message preview (in iOS5) will block you from being able to tap on the top row of the conveyors. A phone call could end up ruining the attempt completely because it takes you out of the game temporarily then throws you right back into it when the call is over. If you decide to play in airplane mode, your high score and highest level data will sync with Game Center after you turn off airplane mode then open Chunks again.

Choose the song you like most, while this seems silly… it is important, you’ll be hearing it a lot. I personally LOVE “Lil Bobby Tables”, It’s so darn catchy. I find myself humming it all day long.

Legend

Here is a breakdown of the characters and level elements of Chunks.

chunks legend

Thumb & finger technique

It’s ultimately up to you how to hold the device when playing but here’s how I play on an iPhone 4.

hand diagram

Left hand

I hold the phone in my left hand. The back of the phone rests on my middle finger, ring finger, and little finger. My index finger is bracing the phone at the top left corner for stability and my thumb is used to play. Sometimes I have my index finger curled around that top left corner, sometimes I move it behind the phone, I really don’t think about it while I’m playing.

Right hand

I brace the bottom of the phone with my thumb and the right side of the phone with my middle finger. My index finger is used for playing. My ring finger and little finger are not used.

Thumb & finger technique Summary

As we can see from the diagram, this is called the thumb and finger technique because we play with one thumb and one finger. This is how I naturally held the phone and started playing. I think it’s great for multiple reasons:

Pick a Game Center leaderboard

Before we start playing we need to decide what we want to go after, a high score or highest level. The reason we need to choose is because we’ll be using different strategies to achieve our goals. I suggest going for the highest level first. It’s a fairly easy achievement to obtain compared to the time and effort you’ll need to put into the high score. As an additional bonus, because you’ll be going to the higher levels you’ll be racking up a serious score at the same time! Double win! We’ll also be building upon a strategy from the highest levels in the high score section of this guide.

Highest Level

level 99

Our goal is level 99. That’s as far as the game counts levels. In trying to reach the highest level, we are not concerned about the score at all. We are not playing to maximize points. We are not going to even look at the score while we play so we can focus.

Note: It is possible to go over level 99 but it will never show higher than 99 on the leaderboard. Be sure to read the important note about reaching level 99 for the first time.

Basic Strategy (Levels 1-19)

We need to focus on trying to build all the buffers evenly to advance to the next level. The game is slow enough at these lower levels that we can think ahead and plan, when escaping chunks. We should be looking at both the conveyors and the buffers the entire time. To help reduce the randomness of how buffers fill up (and having to constantly use overflow to correct it) escape Chubbly; doing this will help keep the buffers stacking evenly. We can allow some Chubblies to go through when we need to stack a buffer quicker. We’ll escape Norm when needed, to stop a buffer from stacking while other buffers catch up. Obviously we need to escape Chomply to allow the buffers to stack. And we NEVER escape Phillup.

Basic Strategy Summary

Traffic Light Strategy (Levels 20-59)

We are changing our playing style to mostly focus on the conveyors. We should not be worried about trying to stack the buffers evenly by thinking and planning ahead. The game is moving along quickly now and it would be tougher to keep playing with the basic strategy.

Instead, we are now escaping ALL Chubblies and Chomplies. Don’t worry about Norm; let him always pass through unescaped. Same goes for Phillup, let him always pass through unescaped. Now that we are only focusing on Chubbly and Chomply we have less to worry about when escaping, and buffers should stack evenly for the most part. Getting rid of that randomness and fast stacking that can happen, if Chubbly is unescaped, is vitally important.

The second part of this strategy is using the overflow area. This is what will keep us alive. We shouldn’t be afraid to use the overflow area; there’s no penalty, and it was designed to save us. We’ll be watching the buffers and overflow area with our peripheral vision. Our focus is on the conveyors, but we’re still aware of the overflow area at all times. As soon as we see the overflow area light up, we’ll tap overflow to cut the buffers in half. We’ll be doing this a lot. We’re waiting for the next Phillup to come along and fill up the buffers, hopefully advancing us to the next level. Sometimes we’ll get lucky and the buffers will stack evenly on their own without the help of Phillup.

Tip: If you’re using the thumb & finger technique, keep your thumb hovering over the overflow area, so you’re ready to stop an overflow at any time. I only let my thumb move away from the overflow area for short periods of time, usually it’s immediately after I have just cleared an overflow and I know I’m safe for a few seconds while the next overflow is building.

This strategy is called the Traffic Light Strategy because we’re focused on escaping Chubbly and Chomply (green and red), and we’re also watching for the overflow area to light up (yellow).

Traffic Light Strategy Summary

Chomp Strategy (Levels 60-99+)

Level 60 and up is where a lot of the really good Chunks players struggle. It’s hard to get to level 80 or higher. I struggled with this for awhile until I changed my play style again and finally achieved enlightenment. It’s amazing how simple and easy the game feels with this final strategy, even at these hard levels.

The chomp strategy is mostly like the traffic light strategy, the key difference is that we DO NOT escape Chomply. I know, seems crazy and counter intuitive right!?! Wrong. Try it. The game is moving fast now and trying to escape all the Chubblies and Chomplies would be difficult. Instead, we are just escaping Chubblies. We’re letting everyone else go through unescaped. The beauty in this is that by not escaping Chomply, he will be chomping down our buffers keeping them relatively low all the time. We don’t have to worry about the overflow as often. The buffers kind of self regulate themselves. So because there’s no way for all of our buffers to build up at the same time we MUST rely on Phillup to get us to the next level. We are just buying time by escaping Chubblies and keeping the overflow in check until the next Phillup comes around. We’ll have to keep at least one buffer close to the overflow area for Phillup to fill up the other buffers.

With this strategy we can reach level 99 easily. The game almost feels like it gets easier when you play this way (Notice, I said “almost.” It is still very challenging). Where this strategy really shines is in the 80+ levels. You might be thinking, why don’t I just use this strategy on lower levels too? Well you could but I don’t think it’s very smart. The basic and traffic light strategies should help you advance through levels much faster. Remember, we’re adjusting our strategy with the speed and difficulty of the game.

Chomp Strategy Summary

Important Note: When you do finally reach level 99 for the first time DIE on purpose! The reason for this is to make sure you show up on the leaderboard as having reached level 99. Going over level 99 causes your level to not be submitted to the leaderboard! I experienced this the very first time I reached level 99 (and surpassed it). My previous game I had made it to level 97 and that was still showing on the leaderboard even after the game I just finished had gone to level 105. This is probably a bug with how the level is being calculated and sent to Game Center.

Congratulations! You’ve done it! You’ve reached the highest level possible on the leaderboard!

Bonus: Beyond Level 99

How high can you go? I initially thought there was a “kill screen” around level 105 but maybe my brain was just fried at the time from playing so much. In the 100+ levels the game starts moving so fast that it feels like it’s impossible to play sometimes, but I’ve found out the game can go much higher! My highest (achieved while I was writing this strategy guide) is level 137. And here’s a video to show you just how crazy it is.

High Score

We need to set smaller goals until we’re ready to go for the big one. Our first goal should be breaking the 1 million point mark; from there it’s up to you what personal goals you set to achieve. If you’ve followed the highest level part of this guide your score should be well above 1 million already! Awesome! If you haven’t read the highest level section that’s where you need to start. By following my highest level strategies (playing levels 1-105) I was able to achieve a score over 3 million! The rest of this section will talk about how to reach the “perfect score” 9,999,999.

If you haven’t already, I suggest you read about the “traffic light” strategy in the highest level section, as we will be building upon it here.

The perfect score

perfect score

To reach the perfect score we first need to study how Chunks awards points. There is nothing in the game that penalizes us, so we can never lose points! Hooray! Every chunk has a point value for it's unescaped and escaped state. The points are awarded when a chunk gets "processed" (enters the overflow area/buffers from the conveyors). Here’s a chart showing how each chunk is scored.

chunks score chart

The only other way to score in Chunks is to advance to the next level. When we advance a level the buffers are cleared and a bonus is calculated for every chunk in the buffers (chunks in the overflow area are NOT part of the bonus calculation, even if they are stacked already). Here’s how the game calculates bonus points for each chunk: chunks bonus chart

From our study of the game we can see that the key to big scores is escaping Phillup! This is why I split the guide into high scores or highest levels. Phillup is the key to becoming a master on both leaderboards but he has to be used in different ways. Also, the idea of advancing levels on purpose for a high score doesn’t make much sense. The best bonus we could theoretically achieve (every buffer space filled with an escaped Phillup, which would never be possible) is only 24,000 points.

So how do we turn this knowledge into a high score?

We’re going to be using a strategy called “point pressing.” We’ll take our knowledge of how the game scores and use it to our advantage, to get the most points possible as fast as possible.

We’ll be staying on the same level for our entire game! The difficulty will never increase and we’ll be able to rack up points fast. Pick a moderately high level. I chose level 45. This is perfect for three reasons.

First, when we start a new game we have the option of starting at a higher level, and level 45 is the highest we can start at. No boring buildup through the slower, low scoring levels!

Second, this level is also fairly fast without getting too crazy. We don’t want to pick a level that’s too high, we’ll be struggling and stressed out the entire time. And we’ll be here for A LONG time if we want that perfect score. When I reached the perfect score it took me somewhere between 1 hour and 30 mins to 2 hours! You can pick a higher level if you’re comfortable with it, the faster the chunks come down the faster your score increases! Just be mindful of accidentally advancing a level; it is possible, and you don’t want to put yourself in a bad position where you can’t keep up.

Third, level 45 is well under level 60 where we’d usually change our strategy to survive. We don’t want to use the chomp strategy, its not optimal for scoring big points because we miss out on Chomply which could be 100 points each instead of 0.

We don’t have to worry about getting a score of exactly 9,999,999 for it to show on the leaderboard. My score was well over 10 million and still submitted properly to Game Center.

Summary of the perfect score “point pressing” strategy

That’s it! You’re now a true master!

Note on point pressing: Chunks high scores will probably never be tracked by a standards body like Twin Galaxies / Guinness World Records because unlimited point pressing is possible. There’s nothing wrong with point pressing; it’s perfectly valid, we are not cheating in any way. We’re not using some glitch or bug in the game to achieve these scores. The problem is that there’s nothing in the game’s design that forces us to advance to a harder difficulty. After we’ve mastered the strategy there isn’t much left, in the way of skill, to separate competitors. It’s possible to point press in games like Donkey Kong. However, Donkey Kong’s scores are tracked by Twin Galaxies because if we decide to point press we still have to watch the clock and eventually advance to the next level, otherwise we’d lose a life. All that said, I think Chunks is perfect (even if the scores are never tracked officially). I hope the core gameplay never changes. If a game mechanic is ever introduced that forces players to advance, I suggest that it be a special, separate game mode for tournament play.

Thanks

When I started playing Chunks I had no idea that I’d be the first person to figure out how to score big and push the game to its limits. I also never thought I’d be writing a guide on how to play, but here we are. I feel honored that you took the time to read this. We should be friends! Add me on Game Center, my username is “mattgrimm”. At the time of this writing the second and third place scores are well under mine at 1,968,001 and 1,872,685 respectively. I’m really excited to see where the scores go from here after people start reading this guide. Finally, thank you Shaun for creating this great game! I hope you keep developing games for a long time, you've got a lot of fans and we love everything you're doing.