To say Battle vs. Chess is just a chess game would be a grave disservice. While it is a chess game that utilizes the acclaimed Fritz 11 chess engine, it also has such a wealth of mini-games and specific challenges that it becomes more a general puzzle game that just happens to revolve around chess.
There’s a separate campaign for both sides — yes, both sides as in “white” and “black” — but these campaigns aren’t some kind of forced story mode. They consist of a series of specific challenges. One set-up gave me two bishops and a king, while my opponent got four pawns and a king, and told me to take all the pawns using only the bishops before my own king was killed. It was surprisingly tough, since every time a bishop moved into position the pawn would just move forward out of the way, inching ever closer to my king. Each campaign has dozens of differing challenges.
In addition to the campaigns, there are several mini-games organized by the number of moves you’re given— for example, you must win in a certain number of number of moves. One game places only a few pieces on the board and asks you to “take the unprotected piece,” by which they mean the one piece you can take that won’t result in you getting taken the next turn. Another game drops you into the middle of a game and asks you to get the king in check (not checkmate, and important distinction). Another mini-game drops all the pieces onto the board at random, and lets the whole game progress from there. The final mini-game surrounds a specific piece or pieces with gems, and you get points for every gem you take. The catch is that you don’t actually have to take the gem, just into position to, so this means you can maneuver yourself and “take” multiple gems at once; the goal is to get to a certain number of points before a timer runs out.
But what would Battle vs. Chess be without some kind of battling going on? When playing a normal game you can choose to play it in “arcade mode,” which adds a couple skill-based mini-games to the mix whenever a piece is taken. The attacking piece must hit a series of scrolling button prompts, and doing so successfully hits the defending piece. Miss one prompt and the attacker gets hit instead. These individual hits are important because pieces actually have health, so even if an attacker is fought off, the defender will be weakened and easier to take on future turns.
Another battle option is to start a full scale war. If you’re attacked or are attacking, you can choose to turn the board into a third-person, action-adventure-style battlefield with your pieces attacking in real-time. You can choose how many times this ability is available in games.
Battle vs. Chess is a comprehensive chess game that gives you as many ways to play chess as you can think of.
Battle vs. Chess
Gaijin Entertainment/Southpeak Games
For XBox 360 (also for Playstation 3, Wii, and Windows)
Available September 28