Game Review: Pure Chess: Complete Bundle (PS Vita)

Pure Chess PS Vita

Pure Chess is a sports board game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. If you are not already familiar with the game of chess, then you are in luck as Pure Chess aims to teach you the ins and outs of how to play the game as though you were playing it professionally.

The tutorial feature is were you will most likely begin as it provides a comprehensive tutorial in how to play chess that will work perfectly for anyone who is yet to experience the game. There are thirty-eight areas within the tutorial mode with some steps more focused on how to play Pure Chess including: three controls tutorials that show you how to move the cursor, moving chess pieces by using the touch screen and how to change the camera angle, while the other thirty-five steps focus on how to play chess, such as how to move chess pieces including: the Rook, Bishop, Queen, King, Pawn and Knight, alongside how to capture your opponents’ chess pieces. There are many other areas that you can study the game of chess, such as learning the basics of chess notation; moving, blocking and attacking check; how to create a checkmate scenario; drawing by agreement, stalemate and perpetual check; capturing and sacrificing valuable chess pieces; castling on the kingside and queenside, pawn promotions and en passant captures; basic tactics such as the fork, the pin and the skewer; learning how to open your game and how not to open your game; and learning the basics of the middlegame and endgame. I have only played chess occasionally before and I can guarantee you from having played the tutorial that before the end of the thirty-eight step tutorial you will have formed a picture of exactly how the game is played as the overall tutorial is presented very professionally with a great level of accessibility that is clear of any jargon and is purely straight to the point of teaching you how to play the game. It is also important to note that you do not have to complete all thirty-eight steps of the tutorial before you play the game competitively and you can play any stage of the tutorial whenever you want to as all of the thirty-eight steps can be played individually, so you can skip over anything you already know.

The exhibition game mode allows you to play chess with any of your customised rules, while the bonus games mode is split into five separate categories with twenty challenges per category and the tournament game mode provides three structured tournaments with the requirement of winning four matches consecutively to win each tournament as you compete against beginners, challengers and masters AI opponents.

There are nine themed chess sets of chess pieces to select from in the Complete Bundle including: Staunton; Checker; Williams; Roman; Park Animals; Battalion; Halloween; Isle of Lewis; and Easter Island, alongside the option of selecting random. Each of the nine chess sets have their own chess boards and material finishes, such as the Staunton chess set has gold vs. silver, stone and wood; while the Checker chess set has wood, metal and plastic; the Williams chess set has marble, wood and metal; and the Roman chess set has metal and marble, amongst the same material finishes for the Park Animals, Battalion, Halloween, Isle of Lewis and Easter Island chess sets, alongside the option of a random material finish. There are also environments that can be chosen for some of the chess sets, such as the Staunton; Checker; Williams; Battalion; Halloween; and Easter Island chess sets can all be chosen to be played in a museum, penthouse or library environment, while the Roman, Park Animals and Isle of Lewis chess sets each have their own unique environment dedicated to that particular chess set. Each of the chess sets are carved beautifully in unparalleled detail and are presented on unique chess boards with various aged effects and different styles of lettering and numbering along the chess board with breathtaking environments with the Roman, Park Animals and Isle of Lewis chess sets, boards and environments all being clear standouts.

There are three camera angles including: a still top down view for an aerial view of the action; a view from a closer perspective just over the shoulder of the chess pieces were the camera angle can be swung around the chess board for a closer or further away viewpoint or a diagonal perspective; and a free camera were you can swing the camera around anywhere on the chess board, which is certainly were you will be able to view the stunning detail in each and every carving of the individual chess pieces, aged effects on the chess board and environments in the background that collectively show off the graphics in a completely new light.

Replays can be saved for any of your chess matches against human or AI opponents with a maximum of fifty matches that can be stored at any given time. The replays can be given a customised title and will tell you the result and the number of moves that took place in that particular chess match. You can watch the match from any of the three camera angles that you can play the game in and you can progress onto quickly viewing the next move by pressing the X button, which are great design choices as it means that you have the freedom to view the chess match from the camera angle you want to and you can skip through any of the pauses that can potentially take place between moves while players think about their next move, so it is presented as more of a highlights package at the pace that you want the replay to be played at. Another great design choice is the chance to be able to start playing the chess match you are watching a replay of from any given time in the chess match simply by pausing the replay and selecting the play from here option as it allows you explore the potential of different moves; particularly when you have lost a match against a harder AI opponent.

The game settings allows you to customise the game to your preferences before exhibition matches including which colour each player plays in; choosing between an AI or human opponent; the difficulty level ranging from monkey to grand master; the ability to undo moves; setting a game timer for each move, an incremental game timer or to turn the game timer off; and enabling or disabling legal move highlights, which when enabled displays green squares around your selected chess piece to let you know where that chess piece can be moved to. The fully customisable nature of the game settings is a very wise design choice as it opens up a wide audience for the game as it lends the game to being able to be played by anyone, regardless of whether you are a professional at chess or a rookie with no experience whatsoever.

The stats screen is quite a helpful feature that allows you to assess your performances with the analysis being categorised into four separate areas including: summary, versus AI, ratings and game stats. The summary analysis covers everything from the number of games you have played, won, drawn, lost and your win percentage against AI and online opponents; while the versus AI analysis covers your number of games played, won, drawn, lost and your win percentage against all ten difficulty levels of AI opponent; the ratings analysis covers the statistical values of your Pure Chess rating, the maximum Pure Chess rating you have achieved so far, your ELO rating, the maximum ELO rating you have achieved so far, the average ELO of your opponents and your beaten opponents and the highest ELO of your opponents and your beaten opponents; and the game stats analysis covers the statistical values of your total amount of moves, your total thinking time, the amount of chess pieces you have captured from an opponent and the amount of chess pieces an opponent has captured from you, castles, en passant moves, checks and checked.

Pure Chess: Complete Bundle comprises of the original release of Pure Chess with all of the downloadable content and the entirety of Pure Chess related content bundled together for £9.99. The Complete Bundle offers a tremendous amount of value as the original release of Pure Chess costs £4.99, while the Roman; Park Animals; Halloween; Isle of Lewis; and Easter Island chess sets cost £1.59 each, alongside the Staunton dynamic theme at £1.59; the King Motif, Staunton Pawn, Golden Knight and Black and White Knights avatars for £0.21 each; and the Pure Chess Official Soundtrack for £3.99 are all bundled together with the free to download Battalion chess set at a cost of £9.99, rather than the individual cost of £19.36, which certainly proves the value of the bundle considering the £9.37 saving when comparing the individual cost to that of the bundle.

The controls are well mapped with face button and touch screen control schemes. The face buttons control scheme consists of pressing X to select a chess piece and selecting were you want to move that chess piece to; pressing O to deselect a chess piece allowing you to change your mind and make a different move instead; pressing R to change the camera angle; pressing L to zoom in or out when the free camera is selected; pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad allows you to switch between which chess piece you want to select and were you want to move your selected chess piece to or alternatively changing the direction of the left analogue stick; changing the direction of the right analogue stick moves the camera closer to the chess board, further away from the chess board and tilts the camera to various positions around the chess board; pressing select to remove two elements of the HUD at a time to have the screen as focused on the chess board as you want it to be; and pressing start to display the pause menu. The touch screen control scheme consists of tapping on the chess piece you want to move and were you want to move that chess piece to, while using the gyroscopic motion controls to move the camera around the chess board when the free camera is selected.

VooFoo Studios are no stranger to developing graphically impressive games having also developed Hustle Kings and Backgammon Blitz, while Pure Chess is certainly no exception to their rule of stunning life-like graphics. The surface of the board that the game is taking place on, the chess pieces and even the surrounding environment around the board are all stunning to look at and have had a lot of attention to detail implemented, which have produced real elements of graphical flare unseen in any chess game before.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the main menu, tutorial menu, my profile menu, options menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and rear touch pad, although that is not an issue considering the other methods of navigation that are available. The background of the menu screens consists of a scrolling camera that explores the chess sets, chess boards and environments.

The audio consists of a variety of music and sound effects. There are four genres of music that you can individually enable or disable to set your preferences between classical, jazz, chill and nature music. The sound effects are used for essential events during the game, such as the selection of chess pieces before they are moved; the movement of chess pieces as they are moved around the chess board; and taking the opponents’ chess pieces.

The trophy list includes thirteen trophies with nine bronze trophies, three silver trophies and one gold trophy, although there are unfortunately no further trophies added to the trophy list for the downloadable content included in the Complete Bundle. The easier trophies include the Amateur bronze trophy for completing the thirty-eight step tutorial and the Piece Collector bronze trophy for capturing 100 chess pieces, which providing that you are fairly good at chess should take no more than five or six matches to earn. There are a few trophies were the difficulty will purely depend upon your understanding of chess and mostly relate to making particular moves, although the thirty-eight step tutorial will provide the significant help required if you are a rookie, such as the Check bronze trophy for putting your opponent in check in an exhibition game; the Cross-Check bronze trophy for responding to a check from your opponent with a check to your opponent; the Promotion bronze trophy for advancing your pawn to the eighth rank in an offline game; the O-O-O bronze trophy for performing a castling move on the queenside during an exhibition match; and the En Passant bronze trophy for performing an En Passant move during an exhibition match. The harder trophies include the Tournament King silver trophy for completing all three of the tournaments that see you having to win four consecutive matches with each tournament representing a separate difficulty level; the Problem Wizard silver trophy for solving 100 mate problems by completing each of the five categories with twenty challenges per category; the Grandmaster gold trophy for achieving an ELO rating of 2,500 or a Grandmaster Pure Chess rating. I would estimate depending upon skill, your basic understanding of the easy to follow tutorial on how to play chess, if you know anyone to play against online for the Pure Correspondence bronze trophy for winning a game of Play by Mail and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around ten to fifteen hours to 100% the trophy list.

There are ten difficulty levels to choose for exhibition games including: monkey; novice; apprentice; thinker; challenger; expert; scholar; wizard; master; and grand master. The AI opponents have a decent grasp of chess even on monkey difficulty level, so you should certainly hold off testing yourself against the grand master AI until you have become comfortable against the lower difficulty levels ranging towards the expert AI level, unless you are already fluent, familiar and confident with the game of chess before playing Pure Chess. There are also three difficulty levels for the tournaments including: beginners, challengers and masters, which really follows the same philosophy that you should certainly not immediately go head to head with the hardest difficulty level of AI before taking on the easier AI opponents, unless you are confident of your chess abilities or you want to be beaten.

There are online multiplayer features and online leaderboards. The online leaderboards focuses on your score, your friends’ scores and top scores with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; nationality; name (PSN ID); ELO rating; the total number of games played; alongside the amount of games won, drawn and lost with the positioning of each player based upon the ELO rating score by default, which is a very clever way of deciding the positioning of players on the online leaderboards as it genuinely makes you want to improve your performance to be able to climb the leaderboards and there is no way of doing so without really being on top of your game. However, you can also sort the positioning of the leaderboards by the total number of games played; alongside the amount of games won, drawn or lost.

The online multiplayer features cross-platform multiplayer, so if you do not know any friends who own the game for the Vita, but you have a friend that owns the game for the PS3, then you can challenge that friend to an online multiplayer match. The problem with the design of the online multiplayer component is that it does not deliver an immediate organised experience via lobbies, but instead opts for an approach referred to as Play by Mail. Play by Mail allows you to start a game, challenge your opponent, make a move and notify your opponent that you have made a move via a PlayStation Network message, such as “I have challenged you to a game of chess by mail. I’ll play as white – my first move is h4.” The positive aspects regarding the Play by Mail design is that it allows you to make a move whenever you want to, resulting in an online multiplayer match taking as long as both players want it to take in their spare time, while another positive comes in the form of being able to leave an online multiplayer game whenever you get into a tricky checkmate or stalemate situation and being able to refer to the tutorial to seek advice, then return to the online multiplayer game with a solid game plan for your next move. The multiplayer features also contain the ability for two players on the same Vita to play a multiplayer game by taking turns, which is a huge bonus in the case that you have a friend that you would like to play the game against that does not own a Vita or PS3.

The replayability of Pure Chess stems from the accessibility of the game in regards to how easy the game is to learn once you have progressed through the key areas of the tutorial and as with any board game or sport; the unpredictability of the result is always a factor that will have you returning to the game time after time. Another area of replayability is the amount of amazing chess sets, chess boards and environments that you will find in Pure Chess: Complete Bundle.

Overall, as someone who has only occasionally played chess before this game; I found Pure Chess: Complete Bundle to be a thoroughly entertaining experience and education in how to play the game. Not only will it teach you how to play the game with an in-depth thirty-eight step no jargon tutorial, but it will provide you with plenty of customisable options, cross-play multiplayer for Vita vs. PS3 online multiplayer and local multiplayer for two people to play on one Vita, plenty of chess boards, chess sets and environments, alongside stunning graphics. The only criticism that I could actually level at Pure Chess is that the game is not cross-buy with the PS3 version, but considering how much enjoyment and replayability you get for the low price of £4.99 for the standard content or £9.99 for the Complete Bundle; a lack of cross-buy functionality is certainly forgivable given the otherwise exceptional qualities this game possesses. Pure Chess: Complete Bundle is the best chess game out there with an unprecedented level of features and graphical detail that will astound you; regardless of whether you are a fan of chess or not, you need to play this game as you will find it quite hard to find any board game or sports game for that matter that has been as devotedly crafted as Pure Chess: Complete Bundle!

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Pure Chess: Complete Bundle
  • Publisher: Ripstone/VooFoo Studios
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: Yes (Vita vs. PS3 Online Multiplayer)
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes (2 Players on 1 Vita / 2 Players with Vita vs. Vita or Vita vs. PS3)
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 349Mb (Game) / 606Mb (Complete Bundle)
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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this review.
    It makes me want to buy the complete edition.
    When playing on same device, can we put the device on the table and move the pieces like on a board, or do we have to handle the device ?

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