I never thought I would ever write a review for a chess game, but here I am doing just that. Pure Chess is on every platform ever and has made its way to the Nintendo Wii U now. Is it the most complete chess game ever? Is it as riveting as the game itself? Does that even matter? Let’s find out.
I am not quite sure it is necessary to detail the gameplay, because to do that would mean explaining the rules of chess and to be honest that is something better to see than to read. For review purposes I can tell you that the “How to Play” mode in the game gives a thorough tutorial on how to play chess, the moves you can make, the value of each piece and of course how to win.
The tutorial takes you through scenarios as it explains how chess works. For n00bs (like me) this is most useful when starting the game, while veterans of the long-standing sport might find it more to their taste just to see how some of the rules work in the game (like offering a draw for example).
Once you finish the tutorial, or if you just want to jump straight into the game, you have a few options. The first is just a standard game against AI or a friend in local multiplayer (I will get to the wonders of online later). You can play up to six games at a time, on 10 different difficulty levels against the AI. That’s a lot of difficulty levels and it does mean that anyone can get to grips with the game. The harder levels are very difficult and will require a lot more patience and planning, while the easier levels still require thought, but allow you to be a bit more reckless. Playing against a human for some reason doesn’t let one person use the Gamepad and another a control, but rather that the Gamepad be passed around each turn. It’s a bit silly, but not a huge problem.
In terms of options you can set a timer per move if you want, or play with no time at all depending on how you want to play. Options include the type of chess board with the material and look of the pieces changing, and the location which includes a library, a penthouse and more.
The aesthetics of the game when you are playing are really quite fitting. There is a relaxing ambiance created through the use of the music, the visuals of the board and the surroundings which does give off a certain ‘class’ to the game that is usually associated with the game of chess. Other than those aesthetics there isn’t much to report on the actual game. It plays out like chess would with each person getting their turn to try and take down the King.
Apart from the standard mode you can take part in a tournament that has you moving through opponents in order to be crowned the new Kasparov. It does take some time to get through all the games but it does add some purpose to the game rather than just for the ‘fun’ of it.
Lastly, there is a challenge mode which puts you in certain scenarios where you need to try and get a checkmate in a set amount of turns. This adds some needed variety to the game but the challenges are rather few and far between and once you have played them there is nothing more to try.
All this leaves me with the online component to explain. The positive side to this is that you can play cross-platform. I could play Pure Chess with Garth who has it on 3DS, or anyone who even has it on a mobile iOS or Android device. For some reason the option doesn’t exist to play against those who have it on other consoles though. That said, it is a nice touch to create a community of people playing on different devices and means there is plenty of opposition.
That’s where the positives end though, and the negatives are far more debilitating. The first problem is that playing against a friend on a different device is difficult if their ID for Pure Chess isn’t the same as that for the console. It can be sorted out but makes the finding of your friend as an opponent a little more tedious than it needs to be.
The main problem, however, is that the online component isn’t played in real time. This is probably the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen and actually couldn’t believe it when it sank in. Chess is a simple game governed by very complex rules and strategies. So by all purposes it would be perfect to play online against a friend in real-time, right? Well apparently not. Instead what happens is that you play a move which gets sent to your opponent after some loading times. Then you have to wait for that person to sign in and make their move which can take days sometimes because there is no notification system.
This means that if I want to play online I need to load the game and manually check if the person has made a move. It makes zero sense that in this day and age a game like this can’t be played in real-time. There are no time limits either, which means a game can take weeks to finish. It gets worse… because there is no time limit games sometimes don’t even end. People love their win/lose stats so it occurred occasionally that the person I was playing against was in Check Mate, and just hasn’t made another move. All that effort for no result really leaves a damper on the experience.
The online shambles aside, Pure Chess is a decent game if you are looking for a chess game. It doesn’t offer any more than the name suggests and if you are looking for lots of extras you might want to keep searching. Pure Chess is a serious take on the sport and does a good job of portraying the complexities and aesthetics of chess. However, the online aspect can’t be overlooked. It just brings down what is otherwise a solid game. It’s a pity that this aspect has been overlooked. Hopefully it can be fixed in a patch though that seems unlikely.
Pure Chess is perfect for fans of the game of course, and especially those that enjoy a challenge against some tricky AI or a couch multiplayer partner. It’s reasonably priced which makes it a tempting offer, but be aware that the online aspect will not be worthwhile.