Pure Chess

I’ve always been a sucker for chess. I consider myself a smart guy and chess is a game for smart people so it only ever made sense to like it and to play it. I genuinely like it; there’s very little more satisfying than a very well executed checkmate that your opponent never saw coming. The downside is that I’m pretty bad at chess.

Pure Chess is the PSN’s chess offering and one of the best chess games out there. Aside from tackling all things chess-related that you need to have a chess game, it has some extras: it has a great tutorial mode, covering tons of advanced tactics (truth be told, I never even knew about “en passant” until playing the tutorial) and a lot of simpler ones, making it easy to get into the game. The game has ten different difficulty settings, going from Monkey to Grand Master. Getting schooled by a Monkey, by the way, isn’t fun, but it can happen. The AI, while sometimes making boneheaded mistakes, can be very ruthless and if they can catch you with your pants down, typically regardless of the difficulty setting, they will.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two things. The first is that the game looks incredible. It’s hard, I think, to make a chess game look awful or great, but the developers, Voofoo Studios, managed to make a very lifelike game. The pieces actually look like real chess pieces which I think is quite the accomplishment. Each table takes place in a certain environment and by scrolling the camera you can look around at the scenery which too is very well done and very realistic. On that note, the game’s controls are great too, allowing for complete touch screen play or complete button play. It’s a nice touch.

The game’s biggest, maybe only flaw, is that its online multiplayer is just about horrible. I mean, they really messed up here. Pure Chess supports no live multiplayer. None. And if that’s not bad enough, the only multiplayer is Play-by-Mail, which allows you to compete against your friends. That’s not awful, but if you’re a PSN social misfit like myself, the odds of you having chess-playing friends is pretty slim — odds are you’ll have to seek them out like a greasy 40 year old driving by truck stops late at night. Pure Chess screws up a second time by having no feature that allows for that. PBM wouldn’t be awful if you could randomly seek opponents but no such luck — you need to troll forums to find people to play against. It’s a pretty big mistake, all in all. The game does support several PBM games, though, so if you had several friends lined up you could play them all at once, which is kind of cool but fails due to the whole no-random-opponent thing.

Pure Chess is an $8 buy. It’s a very solid chess game with a near-perfect offline component. If you don’t mind hunching over the Vita like some 1970s chess club nerd, then there is no problem whatsoever. It’s a great game to learn some of the basic and advanced rules and work on your game, too. You can pick it up for the PS Vita or the PS3 on the Playstation Network. Do it up.

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