Sometimes a game is so simple in concept that it’s difficult to find the right words to describe it. It’s also worth keeping in mind that simplicity is not always a bad thing, and it can often work in a game’s favor. With that being said, Academy: Chess Puzzles is the definitive simple pleasure.
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is that this is not a chess game, but is instead a puzzle game that uses chess pieces. If you’re looking to play a game of portable chess against a virtual or human opponent, then you’ll instead want to check out either Absolute Chess or Chess Challenge.
Every puzzle in this game is set up in the same way, displaying a chess board on the DSi’s bottom screen with pieces already strewn about, as though you’re viewing the board mid-game. While each puzzle is different, they are all exactly the same in concept: Get the other player in checkmate. Your instructions, which range from “White to move and mate in 2” to simply “Find the best move” are always displayed on the DSi’s top screen along with other not-so-vital information. The idea is incredibly simple, but Academy: Chess Puzzles boasts 750 different conundrums of varying difficulty to solve, so players will decidedly be occupied for a while. There are also achievements built into the game which are awarded for such tasks as completing 75% of the easy puzzles, or for playing the game for longer than 10 hours.
Besides the basic Puzzle mode which allows you to scroll through and randomly play any of the available 750 puzzles, players can also choose to pursue Quiz mode. This variant pits players against a timer and randomly chosen puzzles, making for a slightly more stressful experience. Solving puzzles correctly will earn extra time as well as points towards getting on top of the local leaderboard, while incorrect answers will lose a life, of which you have three. As is usually the case, losing all of your lives means game over.
While Academy: Chess Puzzles isn’t the most innovative looking or sounding game, it also does nothing to offend the senses. Each of the different chess pieces fit neatly in their spaces on the board, and they’re all detailed enough to not confuse one for another. The soundtrack is lacklustre and completely forgettable, but you always have the option of muting your DSi anyway, because audio is probably the least important thing when considering what the point of this game really is.
The game can be played using either the DSi’s touch screen of the face buttons. While neither is actually easier or more advantageous to use, having both input methods to choose from ensures that all players are satisfied. Whether you prefer tapping and dragging on the touchscreen or using the A, B, and D-Pad buttons for your control scheme, you’ll be able to master the commands in no time at all.
Academy: Chess Puzzles isn’t a ground-breaking achievement or advancement in the puzzle game world, but it does exactly what it promises to do, and accomplishes the task without a hitch. The option to play full games of chess rather than just puzzles would have been a welcome addition, but that simply isn’t the case. If you’re a fan of chess and you’re interested in honing your endgame skills, or if you just enjoy simple puzzle games that will keep you busy for hours and cost you next to nothing, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.