Review: Absolute Chess (DSiWare)

Absolutely Chess, but with annoying extras

It’s hard to imagine that there’s a wrong was to make a video game based on a board game that has been around for thousands of years, but Tasuke manages to find some ways to mess with the classic formula. While Absolute Chess is simply a video game in which you play chess, it also contains with a few unnecessary features that actually detract from the chess playing experience. The strangest feature that this game has to offer is the inclusion of completely unnecessary anime-style characters that you choose to play as. With no trace of a back-story, their inclusion makes little to no sense, and actually adds confusion to what should be a very straightforward title.

Absolute Chess offers two types of play modes for single players. The first of the two is Free Play, in which you can choose a character and the opponent that you would like to play against. Different opponents have different difficulty levels, but these can all be customised, if for some reason you’d like to play against an Advanced character on Beginner difficulty. You then change aspects of the match by selecting character order, and other minor graphical tweaks such as background colour and piece design. Though these changes are available, they don’t actually do anything very noticeable.

The other single player mode is challenge mode, containing five levels with three missions in each. The missions all include winning a game of chess, but with an additional rule, such as winning in a limited amount of time or a certain amount of moves. The challenge mode is not very long, but the ridiculous difficulty curve might make it almost impossible for some players to get past level three. If you are planning on sticking to the free play mode, however, Absolute Chess can be a lot of fun and offer limitless amounts of replayability.

One very interesting and appreciated feature in Absolute Chess is the inclusion of multiplayer Download Play. While the game does not include an online multiplayer feature, or one that allows two people who own the game to play locally, with the Download Play feature you can challenge your friends to a game of chess even if they don’t own the DSiWare title.

While the graphics in Absolute Chess are nothing special, they absolutely get their job done. The bottom screen features the game board, with your pieces on the bottom and your opponents on the top. The board is simply a plain flat chess board, and the pieces are the same, but fortunately the pieces are designed differently enough that they are easily distinguishable from one another, so you’ll never have to worry about mistaking a bishop for your ever-coveted queen. The top screen features the names and faces of the anime-style players that you and your opponent have selected as well as showing which pieces you and your opponent have collected from one another.

Two different control options are available, but both are sufficiently simplistic. The first is to use the D-Pad to navigate, then select your piece with A, and press A again on the space in which you would like it to move. The other control option is to use the stylus to choose your piece, then to simply click on the space you want to move it too. While both controls work well, there can be a bit of confusion with the touch controls if you do not choose your piece or square exactly.

The audio doesn't actually sound bad, but there is such a lack of variation that it is almost better to play on mute. Different chimes and clashing sounds are made when pieces are moved or taken, but the soundtrack is the game's most lacking feature. Containing about three different songs that all sound like default ringtones that came with your old cell phone, they're unimaginative and repetitive, but will certainly get stuck in your head and have you annoyed before long.

The only genuinely new feature in Absolute Chess is the inclusion of a wait option. Waiting is basically a chance for you to redo your last move after you see how your opponent is going to react. The number of Waits that you can use is limited by the character you select, or you can just set the number to either “No Limit” or “None” in the options menu. Also included is a menu filled with chess rules that range from basic to explaining advanced techniques, and are an excellent inclusion for newcomers to the game. Besides these, there is nothing too out of the ordinary in this game. With an unfortunate lack of back-story to the characters or unlockable features, the game offers little to no depth, but this might not actually be a problem if you’re a player who is simply looking to play chess.

Conclusion

If you’re desperate to play chess while on the go, then Absolute Chess is not a bad purchase for 200 Points. If you’re looking for a good chess experience with adaptive difficulty that will keep you entertained for hours on end, then you might want to wait for the next iteration of the classic game. It’s not necessarily that Absolute Chess is a bad game, but it is severely lacking the key features that would allow it to be considered good. If you are simply looking for a game of chess that can easily picked up, Absolute Chess can be pretty fun once you find a difficulty level that best suits your skills.