STAFF REVIEW of Pure Chess (Xbox One)

Saturday, October 1, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Pure Chess Box art Throughout my life one game that always holds a special place in my heart is Chess. I love the strategy aspect where both sides are equal and it comes down to ingenuity, tactics, and skill, instead of things like how much ammo you have. Chess is one of the oldest games on the planet and has long been herald as the game of kings. Now though, developer VooFoo Studios has released Pure Chess through the Xbox One in an attempt to capture a strong foothold in the chess gaming genre. At $12.49 + tax, is it worth paying this much for a game that originally came out on the PS3 back in April 2012? That's a big stretch.

Having praised VooFoo for their work in their Pure Pool game, it goes without saying that the development of this game shows incredible attention to detail and even a level of presentation never seen before. As you begin you will have numerous options, and for those who don't know what an em passant is or how to move your players, I suggest going through the built in training session where you will cover basic, intermediate, and advanced chess techniques. This will help get you comfortable with the pieces and the board, and should start to help you unlock some basic strategy.

Once you have this under your belt you're then presented with a multitude of options. One of them is a sequential mode for solving checkmates, however, every mode increases the number of moves and difficulty. For instance, you may be starting out by solving for mate in 1 move but then at the end, your mode will have you solving for mate in 5 moves where you have to start figuring out what your opponent will move and start thinking "moves ahead" to properly plan your attack. Each mode packs 20 challenges, so you're looking at 100 total challenges to solve which is quite a daunting task, but will go to great lengths to help you prepare for more experienced gameplay.

Pure Chess also offers up multiple tournaments that you can play in. These tournaments range from beginner to master and should be attempted in that order unless you feel like being made to feel like an idiot by the computer. The difficulty levels is where Pure Chess really shines. Providing not only a predesigned difficulty level through the tournament structure, but also allowing such difficulty customization for the single play system is absolutely brilliant. For the single player system, you get to go against either a computer AI or human should one be sitting beside you. Here you can select who plays on what color, the move timer, show highlighted moves, and so much more. This allows you to a lot of freedom in customizing your Pure Chess experience, but not even close to the customization of the pieces.

If you're not familiar with VooFoo games, they are known for their incredible visual representations as well as stunning music, and I'm overjoyed to say that you find both in this version. Yes, for a game that is now over 4 years old, it still shines like a beauty on the Xbox One. When you purchase the game you'll get multiple packs for piece designs, and the overwhelming majority of them are stunning to look at. Now you'll have a default view which provides you a nice layout angle of the board and its pieces, but you also have other views by pressing the Right Bumper and then using the Left Stick to select the individual piece, while using Right Stick to move the camera around in a full 360-degree field, also allowing you to use a zoom feature with the triggers. This adds a lot of depth to the graphical quality and is a very nice touch. From this mode if you press the Right Bumper again, you'll snap to a pure overhead view of the board, and pressing it again it will cycle itself back to the normal default view.

However, there are some issues when it comes to the pieces themselves within the pack. There are some very difficult ones to clearly see and distinguish, such as the clear crystal, as they are divided into a red crystal and a clear crystal. Playing as a red crystal (black) it's incredibly easy to lose track of where your opponent's clear pieces are, thus overlooking it and opening yourself up for a world of hurt. Another small gripe would be the lack of venues to play in, as there are only 3 to select from, and there are no extra venues included in any of the add-on packs included in the purchase.

Working in tandem with these stunning graphics is a soundtrack that literally surprised me and has rapidly become one of my all-time favorites. Giving you multiple genres of music to select from, my Klipsch system serenaded me with beautiful Jazz music that's full of wonderful piano, to a nature relaxation tune that made my blood pressure drop an easy 20 points. It's so good that I've even turned the game on and just left it on. Turned off the TV and went about my day and had this phenomenal music playing everywhere. If you think the graphics are good, the sound is even better.

There are some issues though with the multiplayer and that comes in the form of not forcing a move on your opponent. Normally when you play an opponent you have a set amount of time you can take before you have to move or forfeit. This aspect seems to be extinct from the game, so you can quite literally start a game, and your opponent could never move at all. This forces you to either sit there and wait until they decide to move, or quit and play something else which results in a loss for you and a win for your opponent. Now way back in the day, chess games that were played with others over long distances were done through correspondence where you would send a letter off with a move, and then you would get one in return. Sadly, what this means is that you could have a game that literally never ends because you can take as long as you want so you could take decades if you so desired. A way to resolve this would be to split the multiplayer up into a timed match and a lengthier correspondence match. Hopefully this will be addressed because it takes away from a great core of what could be an amazing game.

Now based off of all this, can we say that Pure Chess delivers an incredible chess experience? Without question. From the customization options, the stunning visual representations, and a soundtrack that is an audio dream, Pure Chess brings you an experience like never before. While the venues are extremely limited, nothing compares to the multiplayer issues that remove the move clock without any option to include it. That effectively eliminates one entire mode completely, and since Chess is mostly a multiplayer game, that's a major drawback. You would think after all this time VooFoo would have addressed it and corrected the issue, but apparently didn't manage to since its initial release 4 years ago. Because of this large oversight of essentially half the game, wait until this game gets around the $4.99 and pick it up.

Fix the multiplayer and this would have been a far higher rating.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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