STAFF REVIEW of Chessarama (Xbox One)

Monday, March 18, 2024.
by Brent Roberts

Chessarama Box art Games have been a part of human existence for centuries. What started as simple sticks and stones evolved into games of thought and skill. This evolutionary trend continued all the way till now where we have hyper-realistic graphics and virtual reality. Along this evolutionary track, there are few games that stay consistent along their path, and Chess is one of them. The game of kings has gone through several iterations, innovations and other attempts to break the board down into something mathematically manageable. While some games will beat you like Bobby Fisher and not look back, others take a more cartoonist approach to their games, and Chessarama is that very title. Minimol Games has released Chessarama in an attempt to capture the spirit and excitement of this legendary game. Is Chessarama going to make you a chess wizard or will it get checkmated? Let's find out.

When we load the game we are greeted with what would appear to be the pieces of a chess board come to life, and you have a few game modes to select from: Campaigns, Battles, and Chess Match. Normally when chess games get released, they try to deliver things such as "challenges" where you have to think through your moves as you try to get, for example, mate in 6 moves. These modes, while challenging and skill developing can become mundane, boring, and often overlooked. Chessarama strives to overcome this by using Campaigns.

These are a series of stages that gamers can play that contain challenges in the stage itself and focus you to work on developing a strategy with one particular piece. For example, the first campaign is called Farm Life and focuses solely on the Knights (the horse piece). If you have never played chess before, this piece can move either move in a 2x1 or a 1x2 fashion and Chessarama's very first campaign is 24 stages of pure Knight challenges and 25 level challenges.

There are little twists and turns as well within the game. Staying with the Farm Life example, you can only jump on flower plots one time as opposed to being able to hop into its multiple times like other plots. When you start to incorporate numerous pieces, you really have to start planning your pathways, otherwise achieving the side goals will elude you. These types of stages introduce a fresh perspective into the game of chess and can lead to either incredibly euphoric triumph, or controller smashing frustration.

Outside of the campaign you also have Battles which put you against the computer utilizing the pieces from the Campaign. This means your first battle will utilize your king and an army of knights. What makes this game unique is that not only can you choose the difficulty, but the board layout and piece positions are purely random, including the flower boxes so you'll never start the same way twice. This always keeps things fresh, but the downfall is that it prevents any type of consistent strategy.

These battles have their own goal criteria that you must meet to gain an experience bonus, and you'll need every bit of it because the ability to unlock other battles require thousands of XP. When you realize that you can earn between 10-50 (easy - very hard) XP per victory, and to unlock the second battle you will need a total of 3000 XP. This means it's time to get comfy because you'll be grinding this out for a long while. Along the way you'll unlock other piece sets, and completing these challenges becomes the only real value. This becomes a letdown when you take into account how much grinding you have to do just to unlock the pieces and sets. I'm all for the 3000 marks, but how about 50-100 per match?

If you do get tired of the grind you can find another challenge in the classic Chess Match mode. Here you can pick your set and play a match. When you win your rating will be adjusted based on win or loss and that's posted to the leaderboards, so there really isn't anything outside of bragging rights on Chessarama's leaderboard.

Graphically the pieces and models look nice and the matching boards really fit the feel of the pieces, but there isn't much content available. With only a handful of boards and pieces, tChessarama feels devoid of a ton of content. Older chess games on past generation consoles have provided more content choices to enjoy.

It's these natural shortcomings that make Chessarama feel like a good idea and premise, however the execution came up short and then abandoned all together. This is even more heartbreaking when you consider how rare a chess game actually is on the Xbox platform. Go ahead and search for the store. There are only a handful of titles, and some are even free. When you take these factors into consideration, Chessarama should be a title that is avoided or wait till it's free. I can say with a sad heart that when you have free games that offer more content, why pay for it?

**Chessarama was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Please provide more content and support your gaming community that buys your games.

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 4.5 / 10


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