Top critical review
24 of 25 people found this helpful
Hit and miss
on 6 December 2008
If you want to play chess on the go, then this is a pretty good option. In fact, as far as I know there's only one other chess game on the DS. However if your expecting the all-singing, all-castling Chessmaster then do be aware of significant differences...
This version does NOT have:
1 - Customisable boards/colours - this would have been so simple... The mini games have lovely looking boards and sets!
2 - White-to-move-mate-in-two puzzles... Why on Earth not? This is a significant omission! The other puzzles and games are great though, especially the oddly compulsive 'Fork the Fruit' game.
3 - Library of opening moves or historical games
It DOES have:
1 - Simple tutorials for the beginner, covering the board, pieces, moves, forks, pins etc.
2 - A bunch of puzzles and chess variants. Some are very addictive indeed. Especially the one with the knights and pawns.
3 - The ability to set up a position
4 - Rated games
5 - Multiplayer, including 'normal' chess rules, Progressive chess, Dark Chess (where your opponent's pieces are invisible), Extinction (where you have to capture all the other guy's pieces) and Los Alamos (played on a 6x6 board with ni bishops and six pawns each)
It works beautifully with the stylus, and the DS is almost made for portable chess games in this regard. However the interface is awful!
You are limited to a stark white interface, which simply looks careless, rushed and cheap. The profile screens which contain your scores are simple text on a white background, for example, and not even formatted properly.
The menu screens are cumbersome, with one large icon taking up huge amounts of screen real-estate and shortcuts to the others represented by little dots. Why not just have all the icons a reasonable size and onscreen at the same time?
The inability to change the board colour scheme is just pure laziness, especially as the puzzles contain graphics of fruit etc. Some of the mini games contain rather beatiful boards - why can't we play actual chess on them?
Poor old Josh looks rather hungover as well. His likeable, yet rather unkempt figure dominates the upper screen during tutorials, almost making you feel bad for disturbing him when he'd clearly rather be in bed with some Alka Seltzer.
There are no books of openings, which is simply silly, and the lack of standard 'Mate in Two' puzzles is unforgivable in my book. Being arrays of data they'd've been a better use of limited memory than the large animated Josh.
The game plays fine for the beginner to average player. I can't speak for real chessmasters though, since I'm a fair way from being that advanced!
Apparently Fritz is coming out on the DS at some point, but for the time being this'll do. A shame really, as there are some real missed opportunities here thanks to some awkward design and content decisions. The Chessmaster games on the PC are awesome repositories of chess lore, but this somehow feels a little 'dumbed down' in comparison, and is obviously aimed at a slightly different user base. It plays well though, in its own strange fashion (rated games seem to suddenly improve their playing regardless of the personality you're playing against), and in the absence of any other option it almost becomes a DS 'must have' by default. Almost.
I just wished they'd finished the damned thing prior to release.