Review: Academy: Checkers (DSiWare)

A smart move

Gamelion's proved itself adept in the DSiWare space, creating portable versions of board or pen and paper games — Extreme Hangmen and Academy: Tic-Tac-Toe are examples — and its latest effort is Academy: Checkers.

Checkers — or draughts to some of you — is a game most people know how to play already, removing the need for a tutorial mode, though there is in-game help if you're not sure. Pleasingly there are two sets of rules — International and English — and while there are only subtle differences between the two it's good to see both audiences catered for.

You can elect to play standard one-off matches against the CPU or another player in hot seat mode, though sadly there's no wireless multiplayer or Download Play on offer. There's also a timed match, where you and your opponent must play a game within a strict time limit, but that's pretty much all of your options. There are multiple profiles for single matches that track win/loss figures, while there are also a range of achievements to unlock.

The game does offer a league mode where you match up against CPU players displaying a wide range of artificial intelligence levels: some will best you in minutes while others display a reckless disregard for their own pieces. The AI is generally challenging without being crushing, with multiple difficulty options available depending on your skill level, though one thing they all have in common is a tendency to stay in holding patterns in the closing stages. Draws are only declared when both players are down to one piece and a stalemate is inevitable, but some games can go on for ages before getting to this point: only the patient need apply.

Graphically you're not going to get anything world-beating out of this package, and the school-inspired presentation is passable without really adding much to the title’s atmosphere. Music is similarly bland but can at least be turned off.

Conclusion

While Academy: Tic-Tac-Toe proved a lacklustre effort, the extra level of strategy here — particularly with two different versions of the rules included — justify the 500 Point price tag. An enjoyable representation of checkers that entertains without excelling, it's worth a look if you're after a portable version of the classic board game.

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