Rejoice all ye who knowest what the TIE stands for in TIE Fighter!
Rejoice ye that playeth the Game of Chess, for no longer do you have to get out all your old Star Wars figures (devaluing them by taking them out the packages) and make an oversized chess board to re-enact and imagine what would happen if C3P0 were to take on a Sandman or if Chewbacca somehow managed to lose a fight against a Stormtrooper – it’s not just me, is it? - Star Wars Chess is here!
Digitized Soundblaster Blasters and the unforgettable Star Wars themes abound. Digitized voices are also a pleasing addition, if not exactly the voices you remember.
At first, I thought this would just be “Battle Chess enters the Star Wars universe”. I wasn’t far off the mark. But this game is a LOT funnier than I first thought it was going to be. Surprisingly so, in fact.
The battleground has been moved from the vacuum of space, the forests of Endor and the frozen wastes of Hoth to the somewhat smaller, but by no means lesser, arena of the Chessboard.
Not only content with being Emperor, Palpatine also takes the title of King, appointing Darth Vader the title of Queen (really, who else could he play?) and makes his gambit for Galactic Domination. Though this not the Vader I grew up to know and love - none of the malicious and sadistic quirks and foibles that are his trademark here, I’m afraid.
Boba Fett, playing the part of the Empire’s Blaster-Wielding, Jet-Packing Bishop, is perhaps the closest to George Lucas’ “Dark Side” characters to act out their part in this game. The Rebel army is more as you would imagine it to be.
The Dark side of the Force is a shade lighter than it could be. But then, the appeal of Star Wars spans all age gaps. This game is definitely a 3+ age rating, so don’t expect any captures to as graphic as they are in other animated Chess games.
t first, I wondered where Han Solo came into it all, but then I spotted him – still encased in Carbonite in the corner. Relegated to a mere few pixels. Woe is He.
The captures for different pieces are great little comic book animations. Some of them are very unexpected. I don’t really want to say too much about them because watching them the first few times is really what makes this game great. The novelty does wear off but the capture animations can be switched off, not only saving time but also removing, to some extent, the repetition factor that is any animated chess game’s downfall.
The area will be cleared of pieces and the stage set for a short battle between the two characters.
C3P0, as a rather fittingly camp Bishop, asks Boba Fett, “Don’t you know how dangerous these things can be?” before swiping his blaster from his hands, throwing it to the floor and resulting in an accidental discharge decapitating the hero of my youth.
A rather disturbing Yoda, grinning and giving a thumbs up (well, that’s what it looks like to me…), as a Rook, is by far the most humorous character in this game. Watching him tell a Stormtrooper that “Backwards their gun is, yes” then using the force to get them blasting their own heads off made me laugh out loud.
I spent several games figuring out which moves to make just so I could watch every single capture animation! Sad as I am...
Then I turned them off, because they slowed the game, made me forget what it was that I was planning and became irritatingly repetitive. I even turned the sound off after a while as the movement music started to grate…
Watching Yoda shuffle his way across the board, taking his sweet time to do so can lower the pace somewhat, too.
The major disappointment, apart from the AI being a little easy for my liking, is that when Check-Mate is made, there is no finishing animation. I was looking forward to seeing Luke Skywalker get mullered seven ways from Sunday by each piece in turn but, alas alack, it is not to happen. “The game is over” you are told, and that’s it.
For those not so learned in the wiles and ways of the 2nd best board game in the world, the Mentor Menu will give you a hint on what move may be best next and allow you to gloat over all the pieces you have captured.
For experienced players, the AI is also set in this menu. Though, the difficulty is set by allowing the AI more time to compute it’s next move rather than accessing an higher complexity database set.
This can be a touch frustrating, as the computer will take nearly the entire time allotted to it for each move. You can choose to Force a Move (that’s force Palpatine Kasparov to make the move it is currently deciding on, not use the Force, young Padawan…) from the Actions Menu, but this rather defeats the purpose of the AI.
From the Actions Menu you can also Switch Sides, for those who always wanted to drop kick Yoda, give a Wookie a Wedgie or perform Unspeakable Acts upon Princess Leia.
From the Play Menu, you can choose to play against another human opponent instead of the AI, or simply spectate and watch the battle unfold between the two sides. You’ll also find the “Look and Feel” option in here, which is basically whether White is at the top or bottom – these can all be changed mid-play so there’s always the opportunity to change your mind should you get tired of watching Leia wiggle up the board or staring at a row of Stormtrooper’s armoured arses.
In the Actions Menu there are the standard Chess game options of recanting a move, setting the board up as you want (utilising a simple interface that is easy to use) and offering a draw as well as the options, found in the Settings Menu, to turn the animations and sounds on and off. Settings, Save, Load and New Game are all available through the Game Menu.
For a Chess game, with another human opponent, this game is great fun. Until the novelty wears off and you go back to using a regular board – an option that is not available as it is in Interplay’s BattleChess – or to play the game from a different viewpoint.
This is most certainly worth a play through, if only for the capture animations. Though if you are looking for a Serious Chess Challenge, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for…
(By the way, TIE stands for “Twin Ion Engine”)
Overall, this game is what a game should be – Fun. But for a Chess game, it’s not the best. Its redeeming qualities are the fact that it’s Chess, it’s Star Wars and it’s Funny. ‘Nuff said.
If these are things that you like:
Get this game!
This game is multi-lingual. Just edit the SWCHESS.CFG with any text editor, and change ENGLISH to GERMAN, FRENCH or SPANISH to play in these languages.
Under WinXP you probably have to edit the SWCHESS.CFG with any text editor and change the 5s after MUSICPARAMS and DIGITALPARAMS to 7s. That doesn't mean that you will have sound, but you can run the game at least.
The introduction whizzes past unless it’s at around 500 cycles, but the game needs to be played at around 10,000. Even then, the pace can be slow because of the movement animation. Set the cycles any higher and the music will stutter. Frameskip and you’ll miss out on all the animation that you’ve downloaded this game for.