DSiWare | Tasuke | 1 Player / 2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | 200 Nintendo Points
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11th August 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
From the Main Menu, you have three different gameplay options to choose from. Free Play and Challenge Mode for solo players and DS Download Play for wireless multiplayer sessions. There's also a handy Rules section that provides tips and strategies that will prove useful for beginners and advanced players.
There are 8 different characters you can choose from to represent you in the game. When facing off against a CPU, you can assign one of four difficulty settings to tailor your experience: Beginner, Novice, Intermediate and Advanced. Either way, you'll find they prove to be formidable foes if you're just a casual player. When set to Advanced, your opponent will take a couple seconds to think just like in Chess Challenge, except not as long. Continue making moves that go along with their strategy, and they'll act quickly, but once you put a wrench in their devious plans, they'll stop and take a couple seconds to think things over. This difficulty setting is recommended only for hardcore players simply because they can really wipe the floor with you! But if you think your ego can handle it, then by all means, step up to the challenge.
When you actually begin playing, you'll notice that everything is presented with a classic motif that almost looks professional in its execution. There are two different styles you can select to customize the board, as well as the chess pieces. In respect to the latter, you can choose between Realistic (3D) or Comical (flat). The music in the game is limited to a small number of tracks, and they do sound decent. The song that's played during gameplay, for example, made me think I was frantically trying to escape a hall of glass mirrors at an amusement park. But I digress.
You can play the game using either your stylus or the D-Pad. When using the stylus, simply tap the piece you'd like to move and the available squares will be highlighted on the board. The same can be done to your rival's pieces to confirm whether or not you're within range of an attack. For something faster, you can drag your stylus around the entire board to get a brief idea of the kinds of possible moves you can make.
One of the features in the game is the "Wait" ability, better known as your re-do function. Interestingly, each character has a specified number of turns when they can use this mode over the course of a game. So unless you set this to unlimited or opt not to use it all, the character you select does, in fact, have a slight bearing on gameplay. But of course, this wouldn't be true under normal circumstances.
The organization on both screens is nicely laid out. On the touch screen, you have the board along with a move tracker on the right-hand side that you can scroll along using L or R. The top screen displays your character and the pieces that have been taken away for both sides. Whenever you or your rival make a good play, the images on the top screen change slightly to reflect the current situation. An example of this is seeing someone lower their head or hold out their fist. Additionally, when the King's safety is in jeopardy, a starburst will pop up on the play area with the words "Check!". It reminded me of seeing "Objection!" in an Ace Attorney game, but not nearly as cool.
As mentioned earlier, when you're not challenging yourself to a standard game against the computer, Challenge Mode presents you with a series of missions to complete that get harder and harder with each level you advance to. Some of the tasks the game will ask you to do involve beating the game within a specified number of turns or within a time limit, or performing another special task on your way to victory. For the first couple missions, they'll make silly little mistakes but as you progress, they'll put up more of a fight.
The ability to play with a friend on another system is great to see. But especially commendable is the fact that this game includes Download Play. This fact alone makes it more worth of a consideration than Digital Leisure's Chess Challenge where multiplayer was limited to Wireless Play, forcing both parties to own the game.
At the same time, Chess Challenge contained a couple features that Absolute Chess doesn't have. For one, advanced players will note that this game lacks ELO Ratings as well as a standard clock or timer. And if you need to end your match abruptly, Chess Challenge saves your match so you can return to it later, another thing you can't do with this. So that's something to keep in mind. In the long run, Absolute Chess offers more content and for a cheaper price so it's not really a difficult choice to make.
Absolute Chess contains everything you'd expect from a game like this and for only $2, you can't go wrong. If you have yet to purchase Chess Challenge, I'd recommend purchasing Absolute Chess instead. And even if you have purchased it but are drawn towards the better presentation and multiplayer capabilities seen here, then don't hesitate to get this game. There's enough content here to justify the measly price.
25/30 - Very Good
Gameplay 9/10 - Includes everything you'd expect from a chess game, unique undo function, doesn't include ELO Ratings or a clock to keep things moving
Presentation 7/10 - Classic motif, decent music but little more beyond that, contains elements of customization, nice brief animations
Enjoyment 4/5 - Playing on your own is enjoyable if you're a fan of the game, good for a challenge, ability to play with a friend with ease is a nice touch
Extra Content 5/5 - Multiple difficulty settings, Mission Mode keeps you coming back, Rules menu, Download Play multiplayer, great value for only $2
Equivalent to a score of 83% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)