DSiWare | Digital Leisure | 1 Player / 2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
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22nd May 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
Just like Sudoko Challenge!, you can create up to 4 different profiles, allowing others in the household to improve their skills at the game. You can assign yourself a name and choose from a selection of crudely-drawn male and female characters. Once that's all finalized, the Main Menu gives the option of starting a new game or continuing a previously-saved match. Choosing the former option will bring you to a series of screens where you can customize your solo or multiplayer session. When playing on your own, you can set the skill level of the computer to three varying difficulties. But even on Notice, they still put up a good fight. Don't get to thinking you'll be facing a CPU that makes silly moves and leaves lots of openings, because they don't.
When you actually get to playing, the top screen will display pictures of the two opponents, along with a clock that counts down as you play. When it's your turn to play, your image will highlight with a blue colour. To move a piece, you simply tap it using your stylus and drag it to the spot you'd like to move it to. With the 'Display Move' option turned on, squares you can move to will be highlighted. Thereafter, it'll be the CPU's turn to play. While your fictional opponent may act quickly under the 'Novice' setting, he'll take his time on the Expert difficulty. Whether this was done to build tension or to have some sort of realism, some may find themselves annoyed with this aspect of the game. When a dangerous move has been made either by you or your computerized friend, the words "Check" appear on-screen. Gameplay continues until either player reaches a Checkmate situation.
If you just want to experiment, you can enter the game's Practice Mode. Here, you don't need to feel restricted by ELO Ratings and timers. You can even re-do moves, meaning that nothing is set in stone. This is the only mode where beginners can get acquainted with the game on their own terms. Otherwise, there's no mode to give you lessons or tips on advanced techniques, which I found rather surprising considering both Sudoku Challenge and 5-in-1 Solitaire had in-game explanations. Combined with the difficulty of the computer opponents, this release has been evidently geared towards gamers who already have a familiarity with the game.
The game keeps tabs on various statistics to give you an idea of how you're doing. Just like in the WiiWare version, ELO ratings are enforced, and you can improve your numbers by winning matches. Mind you, considering all that has been said already, you can imagine this won't be easy. You won't be able to compare your ELO rating with anyone else - there's not even an option to compare stats with other profile owners. So really, this is only meant for personal appeal and progression. Hardcore players will enjoy working towards this classification as they play, but casual fans may lose interest after a while.
For those occasions when you want to test your skills against someone in front of you, Chess Challenge also includes Wireless Play using two DSi systems. Additionally, you can also play using pass-the-system multiplayer for those who may not have the game. It's a shame that Download Play wasn't included in this package. It seems that so few games on DSiWare have this feature incorporated and in this situation, it would've been rather easy to execute as I can't see there being a whole lot of transfer time involved. Online would've been a great feature for this release as well. Then again, I'm not sure what Nintendo's policies are on Wi-Fi use with DSiWare titles and since it seems very underused, there might be some additional circumstances. But at the very least, there is a multiplayer mode which can be a nice diversion.
Naturally, compared to the WiiWare release, this feels a little too compact, like it's missing something. There are some features that are welcome, though, such as the ability to change the appearance of the chess pieces, the background and even the board itself. You can also set the clock to either Conventional or Incremental settings; unlike the WiiWare version, you don't have the option to do away with the timer completely. It would have been a cool experiment if they made use of the camera so you could plaster your face (or an object) over your icon, like in UNO. That way, players could switch the default drawings for something more appealing. Otherwise, the game has some elements of good presentation, such as the nice start-up menu, as well as the soft, jazzy music (and yes, this time they included more than one song!). But the rough-looking pieces and unimpressive character images don't exactly help its case.
For portable chess on the go, Chess Challenge! is your game. The ability to face against an intelligent computer is great for honing your skills, and perfect for those times when you feel like playing but have no one to play with. It's great to have multiplayer as well, but the game could've had more substance had it included Download Play, camera functionality, and a lesson mode of some kind. Nevertheless, it still offers something that chess fans will appreciate, especially those looking to be challenged. There aren't exactly a lot of Chess games on the DS to begin with, so it's an even more appealing purchase for only $5.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 9/10 - Pretty good re-creation of Chess, accessible stylus control, different features to adjust, lacks in some areas
Presentation 6/10 - Character images aren't exactly appealing, multiple songs that suit the feel of the game, different chess piece and board designs
Enjoyment 4/5 - Pretty fun as a portable release, if you enjoy chess there's little to fault with here, can face someone in Wireless multiplayer
Extra Content 3/5 - Solo games against the CPU with ELO Ratings, lacks Download Play, feels a bit light, could've had more extras
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)