Many game makers strive for the right to hold out their finalized products and proclaim, “You’ve never seen a game like this.” Chess 2: The Sequel‘s claim is epically contrapositive.
The premise seems simple at first: chess with a twist. Anyone planning to delve into Chess 2, though, should expect an experience closer to chess with dozens of twists. Even for the player well-versed in the rules and strategies of classic chess, this game adds enough new gears and widgets to provide hours of tinkering – some frustrating and some rewarding – and several Saturday mornings of thoughtful competition.
Made exclusively for the Ouya console, Chess 2 will impact a community of gamers and developers interested in pioneering efforts, and should certainly stand out by merit of technical and visual refinement. My first impression of the game was based on its gorgeous 2D and 3D assets. The game’s high-res menus, HUD and icons for chess pieces, and armies proclaim legitimacy and 18th-century etiquette. Starting with the tutorial (and a general understanding of the Ouya’s hardware limitations) I was immensely impressed by how visually appealing the whole in-game environment was. The 3D chess pieces and board were clearly given tedious attention - so much, in fact, that I think I missed some of the tutorial’s vital tips, because my first competitive game caught me off guard.
Chess 2 brings an already-complex board game to an entirely new battleground, chalk full of mathematical possibilities. Its core static differences from classic chess include the possibility to win by midline invasion – that is, if a player’s king passes the half-way point on the board without being in check – and a dueling system whereby players can wager stones to change the outcome of captures. Its dynamic differences are overwhelmingly plentiful, but at least not too few. Here are some examples to portray this mathematician’s paradise:
The game’s primary feature is the player’s use of his or her pieces, or army, to systematically counter the enemy’s army. Armies define the player’s abilities and – hopefully – strategy against the opponent, as each army has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the Reaper army has a Reaper piece instead of a Queen and Ghosts instead of Castles/Rooks. The Reaper and Ghosts can teleport to any space on the board except the back row and the enemy’s King, and while Ghosts can’t capture pieces or be captured, they’re useful for blocking the enemy King’s advances toward the midline. With an enemy Reaper on the board, one must be careful to keep pieces clumped together, lest the Reaper single out and capture pieces without a moment’s notice.
The Reaper army is only one of six playable armies in Chess 2 that introduce asymmetrical play to a game otherwise aided largely by memorization. Rather than employing age-old stratagems against a fixed set of pieces, players in this variant must engage in an intellectual tug-of-war, hoping to influence the opponent’s play by controlling board space and aggressively threatening the enemy’s greatest strengths, which vary greatly from match to match.
A technically and visually impressive re-imagination of a classic pastime, Chess 2: The Sequel earned an 8 in the realms of both graphics and gameplay because, to quote our scale, “If this is the type of game that appeals to you, then this one should be an automatic purchase.” This appraisal is conditional, though, because players new to the game of chess and those uninterested in competition through critical thinking may easily give up on Chess 2 after a few online matches. As the game uses a ranking system based on victories for online matchmaking, however, and includes local co-op and single-player modes, even chess greenhorns should enjoy this experience for a good while before moving on.
But for those hungry for the wealth of possibilities that Chess 2 offers, the game is an arena in which dozens and dozens of matches are destined to be played out at tedious length; for this reason, its lasting appeal earned a 9.
In terms of game sound effects, there isn’t much to say. Audio design for a board game dictates that sounds play when pieces are moved, among other events, but the shining element in this realm is certainly the music. Several high-quality selections from famous classical composers accompany the upright and highly-polished play that Chess 2 has to offer. While other genres lend themselves to more expansive sound libraries, this audio design undoubtedly performs its function well enough and earned a 7.
Chess 2: The Sequel should stand out among Ouya titles as an enjoyable competitive experience, filled to the brim with possibilities. Anyone who owns an Ouya should at least give it a go, and anyone who owns an Ouya and loves chess should plop on the couch and hit “Discover” as soon as possible.