When you even mention the term "board game" to someone, chances are that the timeless classic chess will be one of the first examples that springs to mind. Beyond the family fun of Monopoly, Scrabble, and Operation, there's a real intellectual bite to chess that has cemented its reputation as the grandmaster. Bigben Interactive has unsurprisingly included the iconic game in its ever-growing collection of 3DS ports, and so we're presented with Best of Board Games - Chess. Does it make all the right moves?
As with many other games in the "Best Of" series, this version of chess is essentially just a wholly serviceable adaptation of the game for Nintendo's handheld, and in that endeavour it's a modest success. There are three distinct game modes to choose from, including of course a traditional 1 on 1 against a computer opponent with adjustable AI difficulty. You choose a skill level rated from one to five, and can set a time limit on the game up to 30 minutes, or entirely unlimited if you feel like really getting stuck in for the long haul. The board sits on the bottom screen, while a picturesque (if utterly meaningless) Winter scene displays information on the top.
The other two modes, Adventure and Challenge, both use this same layout to provide a heads up on which pieces have been taken, and how many moves you have left if applicable. This can be very important, as both modes require you to complete a set objective on a board that's already in play, challenging you to use your skills to analyse the situation and complete the game within a set number of moves. It's definitely a clever idea, altering the concept just enough to provide a bit of distraction from the core experience. Though it's pitched as a way to brush up on your skills, the absence of a hint system or an explanation of the solution will likely frustrate players who get stumped.
However! Fear not, dear reader, as a tutorial is included within the menu, available to peruse at any time, and ready to help get the very basics of the game into that eager brain of yours. Just remember; when we say basic, we mean it's hammered down into about 13 brief paragraphs. The pieces all get their explanation, a few more technical rules such as "castling" are mentioned, but the sum of all the info is nowhere near enough to coax newcomers into playing. It straddles the line between simplified and rushed, causing fresh eyes to glaze over after just a few sentences, and serving of absolutely no use to anyone more experienced. We definitely recommend going elsewhere for your initial education. The internet is a wonderful place, isn't it?
We wouldn't fault the game for not including a tutorial if it had made up for this by providing a substantial experience in other areas, but unfortunately this isn't the case. Bigben's take on chess might not be too suitable for newcomers, but we don't feel it's a solid choice for experienced players either. The presentation is utterly bland, with dull graphics and forgettable music, which does nothing to set any kind of atmosphere or provide a bit of variation between games. Normally this would be fine, but when your game looks like something that could be found online for free in a matter of minutes, slapping a hefty price tag on it is sure to cause criticism.
The Adventure mode is a neat inclusion, but there's very little difference between it and Challenge mode, to the point where many of the puzzles actually overlap. Nothing feels fully fleshed out, especially due to a total lack of online support, or even any kind of local multiplayer, where just passing the 3DS from one to another would have sufficed.
Despite the main "Classic" mode performing quite well, there's a shocking lack of overall content here for a game priced at £8.99/€9.99 at the time of writing. If this were the only option to play chess on the 3DS eShop, then a price drop could encourage a quiet recommendation to die-hard fans, but this isn't even the case. Compare this to Pure Chess, a game currently available for roughly half the price, and the differences are clear to see.
There's very little to say about Best of Board Games - Chess, other than it provides a reasonably decent way to play basic chess on your 3DS. It's mechanically sound, but so aesthetically and creatively lifeless that it's unlikely to hold anyone's attention for more than a few games. An adjustable AI opponent puts up a good fight for a while, but even a couple of extra game modes can't add enough value for us to recommend this one to anyone at its current price. Without any online integration, tutorial options or alternative backgrounds, there are better, cheaper options available that do far more than this lazy attempt.