As the name suggests VooFoo Studios’ Pure Chess is a game that focuses entirely on the game of chess, with no frills, or any sort of dramatic new take on the game. There are no attempts to dramatically change the formula but instead there has clearly been a focus on making an authentic chess game.
The most immediately noticeable thing about Pure Chess is it’s rich aesthetic style. Graphically it is a really polished and glossy looking title, with a visually appealing use of deep of field photography, giving it a sleek and polished look. Similarly the use of classical music and inoffensive jazz creates a calm and cerebral atmosphere.
Matches can be set up to take place in a number of environments, such as a museum or a park, and you can also change the style of the pieces. Should you feel inclined to do so you can expand the number of settings or types of chess pieces through inexpensive downloadable content.
One of the more appealing things about Pure Chess is the way that the game manages to cater to new players without alienating seasoned chess veterans. There is a decent tutorial to play through that teaches you the basic piece movements as well as some fundamental chess technique giving that one person that has never played chess in their life before everything they need to get ahead in the game. As well as helping those that are new to chess the tutorials act as a way of teaching the game’s control scheme.
Similarly when selecting your desired piece the squares that you can move to light up so there’s never any ambiguity about where you can go or what you can do. Likewise whenever your King is in danger it will only allow you to perform a move that protects the King (which is always a handy thing for novices like myself).
In terms of graphics the actual look of the game itself is fairly basic. However there is a really rich quality to the images on screen, and a stylish use of depth of field photography, that makes Pure Chess a really sleek looking game. A nice feature is the ability to zoom in and get a close look at your chess pieces. This ability to admire your pieces doesn’t really add any tactical advantages, but it’s a welcome feature none the less.
One advantage that the PlayStation Vita version of the game has, beside being portable, is the intuitive use of touch controls. You can move your pieces by simply tapping on them, or zoom in and rotate the camera. I don’t mean to suggest that the touch controls are better than the standard button controls, but it’s a nice addition nonetheless.
Another area in which the game excels is in it’s use of music. The soundtrack consists of some calm and easy listening tracks, mostly classical music and inoffensive jazz, which adds an additional cerebral layer to the proceedings.
In terms of gameplay there are four main modes; the Exhibition Mode lets you pit your wits against an A.I opponent for a single game of chess, and this is a good place for most players to start as you can adjust the difficulty to match your skill level. Most players will likely get more play out of the Tournament Mode in which you play a series of matches, with the winner staying on. There are three difficulties to choose from and even on the lowest difficulty the tournament can be quite challenging. The final single player mode is Problem Mode which consists of 100 challenges that task you with achieving mate in a set number of moves.
While there is technically no online multiplayer to speak of Pure Chess has an interesting alternative to playing against other players live. In the Mail mode you can host multiple games at once and send out your moves to your opponents as and when you are ready. This allows you to have several games on the go and really take your time to consider you move. This also has the added bonus of not forcing you to stare at a chess board while you wait for your opponent to make their move.
All in all if you’re looking for a dedicated chess game that is true to the game then you could do much worse than give Pure Chess a shot.
Graphics: 4/5 - Although fairly basic, the game’s graphics are incredibly rich and use stylish depth of field photography to their advantage.
Sound: 3/5 - The sound track is fairly basic, consisting of only a few genres, and there aren’t very many sound effects. Not bad by any means, but not really noteworthy.
Gameplay: 4/5 - Pure Chess does exactly what it says on the tin, focusing on replicating the game of chess. The numerous difficulty settings and various modes offer enough of a varied experience to keep the interest of anyone that’s even remotely interested in chess.
Longevity: 4/5 - Three main difficulties, 100 brain-busting challenges, and a fun multiplayer mode will keep chess fans occupied for a long time to come.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Anyone that is even remotely interested in getting a chess game for their PlayStation Vita or PlayStation 3 should look no further than Pure Chess. If you don’t like Chess then this game likely won’t do anything to win you over, but for those that are looking for a more cerebral gaming experience should give Pure Chess a shot.
- Luke Mears