With the earliest evidence of the strategic board game being traced back to Sassanid Persia, Chess underwent numerous revisions to reach what it has now come to be known as today. Those that have whiled away hours feverishly playing will already appreciate the game’s unique appeal, in which every type of piece has its own role to play.
It is understandable that the game’s creators could never have conceived that it would gain such worldwide popularity, let alone that one day it could even be played without physical pieces.
That’s where we find ourselves once again, Ripstone looking to fill a void on the Nintendo eShop by helping to bring VooFoo Studios’ take on the board game classic to 3DS owners. There are no comedic animations à la the sensationally challenging Virtual Chess 64 nor the high stakes drama of Hogwarts’ oversized take on Wizard’s Chess, the developer instead choosing to demonstrate the intricacies of their artistic workmanship.
That regrettably remains more apparent on Wii U, the technical limitations of Nintendo’s handheld certainly proving restrictive on VooFoo’s vision for what Pure Chess could, and should, be. We’re still treated to the same level of content, with solo players able to draw on a wealth of content at least.
Standard Chess matches are predictably where you can sink most of you time. Allying itself with the PureChess Rating system that adjusts to your continual level of performance success. CPU difficulties range from the ridiculously easy Monkey, where your opponent literally throws away their pieces by making ill-considered moves, to Grand Master, the polar opposite where you are regularly outwitted. A large bevy of options means that you can choose whether a game timer is active, or if you will be able to undo any moves that you make.
For newcomers, extensive ‘Learn to play’ tutorials may be the first port of call, whilst it was the Chess Challenges where I enjoyed pouring the majority of my time. These divide themselves between Bonus Games, where you are tasked with securing a Checkmate within a specified number of moves, and Tournaments of varying difficulties with players progressing through chunks of four matches.
It is in the presentation that Pure Chess somewhat falls flat. The 3D Screen displays a virtual diorama of your chosen pieces, their movement around the board reflected as you make your choices on the lower touchscreen. Although this doesn’t look as smooth as it could be, the frame rate not feeling as settled as the developer’s pursuit of exquisite finesse demands.
It is the online integration that disappoints most. VooFoo’s efforts to bring cross-platform multiplayer to the 3DS are welcome, but the approach doesn’t suit the handheld. Once you’ve discovered another player to start a match with, you take your turn and then wait unknowingly for them to reciprocate. With no notifications as to when they do, you’re required to continually load the game, connect, and see if any progress has been made. This is ideal for iOS and Android versions where the advent of 3G/4G means that you can do so anywhere but feels a cumbersome integration on 3DS. Even the chance to play directly with friends is an opportunity missed, meaning that you can never play through a game in a single session.
The experience is accompanied by a delectable soundtrack that looks to cater for all tastes, genres encompassing classical and soft jazz as well as the rather ambiguous ‘Chill’ and ‘Nature’. It’s a fairly soothing accompaniment, helping to disperse any untoward stress endured by being faced with deceptive opponents.
Pure Chess aspired to achieve greatness but falls drastically short of its ambitions. There’s enough content to satisfy chess buffs, just anticipate that training yourself up to Chess Grandmaster proficiency isn’t all smooth sailing.