Chess is one of those classic board games that has survived and thrived for years, spanning multiple generations. It’s surprising really, given how tricky chess can be to learn and then master, yet it’s still incredibly popular. Clearly a fan, developer Caio Flavio has created their own game, Chess Brain: Dark Troops. You could call it a spinoff of sorts, with the aim of creating a puzzling concept that uses chess pieces in order to enhance your ability to predict movements. Does Chess Brain: Dark Troops succeed in its purpose?
Chess Brain: Dark Troops makes you its King, adorning the ivory white colour, as the adventure begins to traverse thirty puzzling levels. Before delving into the puzzles themselves, it’s worth noting how confusing everything is initially. No hands are held here as you’re flung in without any explanation as to what’s going on, or even the controls. Through a bit of navigating the menus to find out the button layout, you then need to work out the actual aim.
Essentially, you need to guide the King piece from an ordinary looking tile to an orange coloured one, moving a single space at a time. You must plot your path, before running a simulation to determine whether you’ve made it to the final destination. The first outing is straightforward as there are no obstacles or hazards to halt the King’s journey. From then onwards though, the dark troops enter the fray and are ready to slay our royal highness on sight.
For every move you make, the enemy troop(s) also move on their predetermined patrol route. Should both the King and a member of the opposition’s camp land on the same square, or they cross each other head-on, you’ll fail the level. It will actually show you which direction each piece moves and how many spaces, so predicting their movements is made a little easier. Those predictions must factor in multiple manoeuvres ahead of time as well as the different enemy behaviours.
The Rook is introduced as the first threat, with lateral and vertical movements in its wheelhouse – although it’s only able to do one or the other. Naturally, you then have the diagonally motioning Bishop and that oddball Knight, which shifts two spaces in a certain direction and one in another. The difficulty ramps up when numerous pieces are present on the same level, offering fresh challenges to overcome as you progress. These dark troops are nothing compared to the final variation to arrive on the scene – the Red Soldier.
This Red Soldier is much smarter than its brethren, with more convoluted pre-programmed patrols. Sure, it still follows the standard rules of whichever chess piece it’s imitating, but while a particular piece might normally have a route covering a few tiles laterally, the red one might also have vertical moves as part of its full route. When a mixture of troops are included, the puzzles are really well designed and are geared up to really test your intellect. They should put your problem solving skills to the test, however the reality is that you’ll breeze through the lot.
The ease in figuring out solutions is due to the path plotting system, because you can just pick any old route and simply undo moves that lead to failure. Alternatively, placing a single movement node on the board, before running a simulation, allows you to reach the destination step-by-step without much hassle. This could be avoided by including some sort of reward for solving a level using limited simulations or within a time limit. Alas, there’s no such thing and you’ll probably be able to bungle your way through all thirty levels in under an hour.
When all is said and done, Chess Brain: Dark Troops is actually the opposite to chess itself in the way that it’s more difficult to figure out what’s going on, and after that point it’s far too easy. You see, once you begin to understand the tools at your disposal, the increasingly complex layouts and troop patrols become a stroll in the park. It’s a shame as the levels themselves are fairly varied, with new ideas unveiled at almost the perfect pace.
If you’re looking for a cheap puzzler that will boost your Xbox Gamerscore and provide a mildly interesting concept using chess pieces, then maybe Chess Brain: Dark Troops is worth considering.
Chess Brain: Dark Troops is on the Xbox Store