Way back in 2012, UK developer VooFoo Studios converted the mighty game of chess to the PlayStation 3 and Vita. Despite looking the part, however, Pure Chess was hindered by its limited multiplayer options. Now, the Hustle Kings developer has returned for a second round, wielding the power of the PlayStation 4 in the process. Has it successfully upped the ante, though, or is this package still stuck in check?
If you’ve never played this battle of wits on a real board before, then fear not – the abovementioned developer’s rendition is brilliantly welcoming. You can customise the difficulty, duration, and add hints to each match, meaning that the game will cater to various levels of ability. Ten different challenge tiers are available – each sporting humorous names like ‘Monkey’ and ‘Grand Master’ – while you can add a little pace to proceedings with a timer. If you’re a newcomer, the game will flag legal moves with green squares, helping you to gradually improve your overall grasp of the rules, though these can be switched off if you’re a veteran.
It’s all quite accessible, too. You can save matches midgame, which is a welcome addition when you’re in a rush. Moreover, if you’re looking for a way to really hone your skills, there are 100 challenges which test your ability to identify checkmate moves in the fastest way possible. Tournaments extend the range of options, allowing you to prepare custom brackets for your family and friends on lazy Sunday afternoons.
Unfortunately, taking your pieces online is still a bit of a letdown. You can play a total of six games concurrently, which can get hectic at times. When it isn’t, though, you’re forced to stare at loading screens, rather than just watch the match unfold in real-time. This kills the atmosphere, and random server issues destroy it further, making this portion of the package more of a headache than the pastime that it’s based upon. Granted, it’s still best to play chess with people that you actually know, but that doesn’t excuse the poor netcode here.
At least the game looks the part, as this next-gen edition is absolutely flawless. The various piece designs – from the classic Isle of Lewis to the more obscure Halloween – look truly phenomenal, and slide across the board at a cool 60 frames-per-second. It’s not just the action itself that looks pretty, however, but also the various different arenas, which include a library, penthouse, and museum. All of the above is complemented by an easy-going soundtrack to boot, which adds ambience without hounding your grey matter mid-move.
Like so many other re-releases before it, Pure Chess suffers from not doing too much differently. This is still very much a great introduction to one of the world’s most popular pastimes, though it’s disappointing that its online features haven’t been improved. Nevertheless, if you haven’t played the PS3 or Vita versions, and you’re eager to enjoy some virtual chess, then this is the best option currently available, as it really looks sensational. There’s not enough new stuff to warrant a rematch, though.