Chess is probably one of those games that everyone has tried at some point in their life, up there with the likes of Candy Crush Saga and Oceana nightclubs in terms of number of players. Yet unlike the other two, chess doesn’t have a stigma attached to it; if anything it is a sign of knowledge and wisdom, especially if you are deemed a good chess player.
Part of me went into Chessarama thinking it would make me a better player. Whilst that may not be the case, it has opened my eyes to the world of chess and how something so simple can be applied to almost any other scenario as well.
Chessarama is a puzzle game based around chess. Throughout a series of well thought out and varied puzzle types, you move pieces around a board in a similar fashion to chess, in hope of completing the objective. The vivid imagination that has gone into creating chess-based football, farming, turn-based combat and more is impressive, only trumped by its execution.
Things start off humbly enough on a farm. You control a knight piece and must grow crops on a grid, all by landing on a square but only by moving in the L-shaped pattern the knight is synonymous with. It starts off easy enough providing you can think a couple of moves ahead with where to next place the knight. Soon though, you will be controlling two knights at once, as you try and grow your crops, and things get more tricky.
Progress far enough and your next port of call will be a football pitch. Here, you need to arrange pieces such as the bishop, rook, knights and even queens to score a goal. One piece will start with the ball and you need to arrange the others so that they can pass between themselves along the same lines they would normally travel. For example, the bishop can only pass on the diagonal. It is such a simple premise, but works fantastically.
However, this mode can be a bit fiddly at times, particularly when dealing with a large number of pieces to arrange. Rather than just being able to plonk them where you want, they need to be moved there along their lines. This mode isn’t afraid to restrict movement using cones and such to reduce the playing area, but I guess this is half the puzzle itself ultimately.
Later challenges involve using the most powerful piece – the queen – and doing what she does best: namely obliterating all that stand in her way. This mode feels almost like turn-based combat as you move the queen to defeat rooks, bishops and other queens.
This mode also has a rule that enemy pieces within each other’s attack ranges cannot be defeated. Even viewing the in-game tutorial and being foiled by it numerous times I am still struggling to understand it properly.
Finally there is Dragon Slayers, a mode where you need to promote pawns whilst protecting them from the dragon’s fire. Not only is this the weakest mode, but it is also the most confusing. Does the fire matter which direction it comes from? How come the dragon only attacks on certain goes? None of this is really explained and it needs to be.
Each of these consist of over twenty puzzles each, but there is still plenty more to go at. Each comes with a battle mode where you compete against the AI in a more traditional format, but still retaining the rules of the puzzles. For example, the farming one has you trying to checkmate a king using only knights, whilst the football one has you trying to score a goal but with normal chess rules applying. These modes have varying difficulty levels for you to gauge where your skills lie.
And if all that wasn’t enough, there is even a traditional chess mode to put your newfound skills into practice. After all the variation in the other modes though, this traditional format seems a little boring by comparison.
I jest. Sort of.
All these feed into an XP system in Chessarama that allows you to unlock new modes, titles, unique pieces for your collection and more. Completing a level nets a base amount of XP, but you should really be going for the bonus objectives to earn far more and unlock new modes a lot quicker.
As it is though, there are a few things that need ironing out with Chessarama. Alongside a few graphical hiccups and issues with the tutorials, a number of achievements are not currently unlocking as intended. I have had some unlock, such as various titles way too early, but then some have remained locked despite me meeting the criteria. If achievements aren’t really your thing, then this is less of an issue, as most of it can be overlooked in favour of a decent puzzler.
Chessarama won’t make you better at chess, but it may help you to get into the mindset needed to be a Grandmaster. It isn’t afraid to try something a bit different, with puzzles that are unique and intriguing. They don’t all work effectively, but you have to admire the attempt. It packs a lot in too, with plenty of variation between the puzzles and the Battle mode. Then it throws in a traditional chess mode to top it all off.
Chessarama isn’t quite a checkmate, but it isn’t far off either.