Chess is one of the classics of strategy, a true test of forethought and tactics that has truly stood the test of time. Similarly to Rule 34 Of The Internet, if it exists there is a chess set of it and we’ve had enough digital adaptations to swing a cat at. Pure Chess from developers VooFoo Studios and publishers Ripstone is a new challenger, and one that comes packing style.
There’s a variety of designs for the pieces, from very standard designs to much more intricate pieces styled after Halloween, Easter Island heads, Park Animals, Roman soldiers and my personal favourite - which is additional DLC - Steampunk. These are all beautifully designed and look almost sculpted, with intricate detail that isn’t necessary but very much appreciated. Alongside the pieces, there are several rooms that provide nothing more than background images that all help make the game feel a bit more homely. The images are very high quality, and even though you’ll barely notice them the game would be significantly lesser without it.
There’s a selection of single player modes, with a series of tutorials that teach everything from the basics to some more obscure strategies, and there’s a challenge mode where you need to achieve checkmate in a certain number of moves from a starting position. These are really good for a beginner to chess, or as a quick refresher for someone like me who hasn’t played chess in several years.
Completing the tutorials left me feeling ready to take on a real player, so I queued up for a game and waited. Ten minutes later and I’d gotten bored, so I clicked off and just started a game against the AI. Here’s where things start to go a bit wrong. I loaded up with the lowest AI setting, the appropriately named Monkey, and won very quickly. Stepping up a level, I won almost as quickly. The Steam reviews have other people complaining about this, which is unfortunate because I was beginning to think I had a new career as a chess grandmaster.
That’s not the only issue that those experienced with chess will have, as Pure Chess doesn’t allow you to see the full move notation after a game has ended, instead showing only a full graphical replay of the match. The notation display in game is also very large and not particularly attractive, and as the only UI element it sticks out a lot.
I also had some rather bizarre graphical issues with the lighting which I’m pretty sure stem from Pure Chess not using my graphics card, instead forcing the display to use my Intel integrated graphics. This didn’t affect the framerate, but it did cause the lighting to be completely janky. Several of the pieces were partially translucent at times, and occasionally a bright purple or red light made the entire board completely unreadable.
Pure Chess had the potential to be a great introduction and learning tool for chess, but without a record of the match notation it can be very hard to learn from your mistakes. The technical issues I experienced also stop me from recommending this game, despite its appearance and great tutorials.
Pure Chess Grandmaster Edition (Reviewed on Windows)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
A great tutorial and scenario mode with a great aesthetic and attention to detail, let down by graphical issues and poor implementation of standard chess notation.