I’ve always thought that there are two types of people in life: those who are book smart and those who are street smart. I tend to group myself in the latter of those two, as school was never really my forte — plus, if you have ever seen any of my videos for Nintendo Enthusiast, you will see I’m not exactly the most elegant person in the world. I say all of that to say this: while I understand the basics of chess, I have no real business playing a chess game. Aside from a few friendly matches I played when I was younger with my family, I never was a chess connoisseur nor did I claim to be. Pure Chess attracted me with its lovely graphics and cross-platform multiplayer, so consider this a review by an average person.
I never realized how exactly “average” I was at chess until I played my first match of Pure Chess. By “average,” I mean atrocious. My first match I chose “Monkey” difficulty, which is the easiest of the 10 available difficulty settings. Within roughly eight minutes, I was at checkmate. Advantage: Monkey. How could this be? I like to think I’m smarter then a monkey, so how could I be so easily defeated? I understand how the pieces work and move, so why was I so bad at this game? Four matches later with the same result, I found myself frustrated. The game offers an in-depth tutorial on how to play, different styles, and advanced tactics, which I buried my nose in and watched and read. Still, I couldn’t master the “Monkey” difficulty.
I asked around at work if anyone was good at chess and no one could seem to help me. Well, all but one. Pharmacist Phil Russ quickly took me under his wing during a slow session at work. He showed me power moves, advanced tactics and strategies, and how to open up a game properly. My confidence was still a bit low, but the next time I fired up Pure Chess, I achieved the success I was craving: Shawn 1 – Monkey 0. I even won a game on Novice, which is the next difficulty step. I felt like a Harvard graduate after defeating my foe and realized I actually enjoyed the game of chess and Pure Chess was a fun way to play.
The game features several different chess pieces to choose from, finishes for the pieces, and areas in which to play the game with more available via DLC. They all look fantastic, especially the gold and silver pieces, with accurate light physics and reflections. I never would think a chess game would have such nice graphics, but Pure Chess is a real treat on the eyes. The GamePad can either act as your personal chessboard while the TV shows off dramatic camera angles or you can simply play with Off-TV mode. They even included several music choices to listen to in the background, which is nice, because the default “classical” was putting me to sleep.
Pure Chess is also a rather deep game, with several different modes to keep you occupied. Aside from the standard match, you also have challenges in which you must accomplish certain things in a set number of moves, as well as a tournament setting to choose from. The game features cross-platform online between the 3DS as well, but I feel the execution could have been better if done a bit differently.
The problem is, while you can have up to six matches going on at once, an online match works like this: you move your piece, get taken back to the home screen, and wait for your opponent to move. While I certainly understand a mode like that, it often leads to you making a move and waiting to see if your opponent is even currently playing. I had a few somewhat fluid matches, but I would make a move in a majority of them, come back a couple hours later, and see that my opposition had still yet to make a move. The game would have greatly benefited from a Quick Match setting, in which your opponent had 30 seconds — or somewhere in that vicinity — to move or else they forfeit. That way, the game can be accomplished relatively quickly instead of having to wait minutes, hours, and even days.
While Pure Chess won’t convert any chess haters into lovers, the game does a great job of representing the game for the Wii U. The most attractive feature? It only costs $7.99, which is less than a flimsy Walmart chess set made of cardboard and plastic. Pure Chess is a game that can be enjoyed by the whole family and fans of chess games with a Wii U should definitely enter the world of Pure Chess to receive a solid chess experience.
Low Score: 6 / 10
- It won't convert you if you don't like chess
- It's difficult even on the easiest setting
- Would benefit from a "Quick Match" online mode
High Score: 9 / 10
- Surprisingly well done graphics
- Several modes to choose from
- Cheaper then a Walmart budget chess set