Review: Pure Chess
Back in elementary school I remember heading to my friend’s house after school, setting up a chess board and playing for hours on end. While my friend was more skilled at the game and I rarely won a match, I always enjoyed myself and felt that with every loss my knowledge and skills were increasing. This is the same feeling that I have been getting when I play Pure Chess.
As most people probably have at least some concept of how to play one of the world’s oldest games, I am not going to explain them here. But if you don’t know the rules, or are a little rusty, the game includes a great tutorial mode. These tutorials give a detailed explanation of everything from the basics, such as how each piece moves, to the advance concepts, like en passant and castling. You don’t just read a wall of text either. Each of the 37 tutorials is accompanied by a diagram and asks you to complete the action that it describes to make certain that you understand the explanation. The game also gives you a hand while in game showing where a piece can move when you hover over them and also replaying the last few moves when you continue a game already started so you can easily get back into the rhythm of the match.
To put your grandmaster skills to the test the game offers four different modes: Expedition, Tournament, Bonus Games, and Play by Mail. Expedition is your standard chess match that can be played against either the AI or a human opponent passing the controller back and forth. There are ten difficulty levels that you can set your AI opponent to, from level 1 Monkey to level 10 Grandmaster. The AI is no pushover either, you can definitely tell that VooFoo spent a lot of time tweaking the AI and even veteran chess players should have a challenge at the higher levels (or anything over level 3 for me). In Tournament Mode you are given three tournaments to play through, each with four rounds. While its nice having the tournaments since it’s the closest thing to a career mode in the game, these are fairly basic. Besides the fact that you must defeat all four opponents in a row there isn’t much difference then just playing expedition matches and increasing the difficulty level after each match. It would have been nice to see more to the tournaments, something as simple as each opponent having a name would have added a little variety and differentiate the matches from one another.
In the Bonus Games you must make your way through 100 puzzles, where you are given a game in progress and you must get your opponent in check mate in 1-5 moves. These can be quite challenging with even a few of the easier check mate in 1 puzzles stumping me for a while. Besides being a fun alternative to the standard game of chess these may increase your chess skills by helping you to identity the opportunities that are present on the board easier. A lot of the times my first glance at a puzzle left me thinking there is no way to put the opponent in check mate, but taking my time and really studying the situation yielded the answer and I can see these helping me in identifying openings in future games.
The last game type is the asynchronous multiplayer Play By Mail mode. Basically you and a friend from your friends list exchange moves back and forth through XMB messages, which simulates how players play by mail in real life. Clicking on the game data that is attached to a XMB message will start up Pure Chess (if it isn’t already started) and load your game. You will see the last few moves made by your opponent and you, and then you will be prompted to make your move. Once you do you will send the move back to your opponent with a customizable message (which is great if you want to bring a little trash talk to a civilized game) and then wait for your opponent to send their move. Asynchronous multiplayer fits a game like Pure Chess perfectly since it removes the need for two players to sit down for possibly a long period of time with a lot of waiting in between, each player can just start up the game when they have a turn waiting. It works well and the only problem that I have with it is the fact that you cannot play with random people, only with people on your friends list. Which is disappointing if no one on your friends list plays Pure Chess. Also I think having this as the only option for playing online is a bit of an oversight. A head to head mode with a timer for people who want to sit down and play a full game online would have been a great addition.
When I heard that VooFoo Studios was working on Pure Chess I anticipated an authentic and beautiful looking chess game, but I didn’t expect it to be as good as it is. Every match I played against the AI gave me the feeling that I was becoming more skilled at anticipating my opponents moves and at finding better strategies. The game is also really nice to look at with the chess sets being very detailed and looking almost photo realistic. While I feel that the lack of an online one against one and the ability to play by mail against random people may hamper the longevity of the game, the AI and bonus games will definitely give you a lasting challenge.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Spectacular AI
- Very realistic looking
- Tutorial mode
- Bonus games
- Play by mail
What I Dislike:
- No way to play random people in Play by Mail
- Lacklustre tournament mode
- Lack of traditional online