If you're going to be a high point player, it really helps to understand how your score is calculated and stored. There's no point in leaving points on the table, as it were, and you may find opportunities to substantially increase your overall score by replaying some "easy" levels.

THE MATH BEHIND THE LEVEL BONUS. The Help file explains your level bonus as follows: When you complete a level you always receive 500 points. This is multiplied by the level number you have just completed. For example, upon completing level 7, you receive 3,500 level bonus points. However, each time Chip dies, or restarts, the level bonus is decreased by 20 percent.

This is fine as far as it goes, and it is entirely correct in helping you determine the maximum number of points available from any level. The maximum is simply the level number times 500. The Help file leaves a lot unsaid as far as minimums, however.

Here's how the game calculates scores when you don't complete a level on the first try. The game begins with the maximum available score, say, 3,500 for level 7. Each time Chip dies, that available score is reduced by 20%. In other words, if Chip dies once on level 7, your level bonus will be 2,800 (3,500 X .80). If he dies a second time, you'll take home a level bonus of 1,792 (2,800 X .80). This level bonus reduction goes on until the first time Chip's available level bonus is less than 500 points. On level 7, that occurs when Chip dies for the ninth time, reducing his available level points from 585 (after his 8th death) to 468 (585 X .80). The minimum score Chip can make on level 7 is therefore 468 points. For the terminally detail oriented, the game rounds each intermediate score down, rather than up at .5 and down at .4. Curious about just how low you can go? Take a look at the Lowest Possible Score.

DOING YOUR LEVEL BEST. At this point, you may be wondering how anyone ever gets the full level bonus, since there's only one chance to play a level for the first time. The good news is that the game only keeps track of restarts for a level from the time you "enter" it until you "leave" it. You can "leave" a level by exiting the game entirely, or simply by going to a different level. So, the trick to making sure you always get maximum level points is as simple as this: If you need to restart a level, press CONTROL+P (which takes you to the previous level) then CONTROL+N (which takes you to the next level). As far as the game's scorekeeper is concerned, you are now playing that "next" level for the first time.

SECOND THOUGHTS. In addition to your level bonus, you also earn 10 points for every second remaining on the clock when you finish a level. So, your entire level score is composed of your level bonus plus 10 times the "seconds left."

HOW THE GAME REMEMBERS. Your ini file stores two numbers for each level: the highest level score achieved to date, and the highest number of quot;seconds left" achieved to date. (You can view both of these numbers by clicking the Game menu option, and selecting Best Times.) On the plus side, you will never lower either a level score or a "seconds left" time by replaying a level. If you don't achieve as good a score on a replay, the game retains your previous (better) score in the ini file. It can be confusing, however, because you may have gotten your highest "seconds left" score on some level where you did not get the full level bonus.

PUTTING IT TO WORK. You can check your scores to some extent by just running your eye down the level scores in the "Best Times" box. In general, scores go up from level to level. But the only way to really tell if you have achieved the highest possible score for the "seconds left" is to calculate it. Take the level number times 500 and add to that 10 times the "seconds left." If this score matches what is shown in the "Best Times" box, then you achieved your highest "seconds left" on a first try play. If the numbers don't match, you may be able to add points to your bottom line by replaying the level until you get the same (or a greater) number of "seconds left" on a first try. Checking your scores is a daunting endeavor, made far easier if you have access to a spreadsheet. But no one ever said the Quest was for the faint of heart!