Review: Pure Chess (Wii U)

It’s chess. What else did you expect?

By Jake Shapiro. Posted 04/04/2014 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
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1-Up Mushroom for...
Ambitious cross-platform play, luscious graphics and sound
Poison Mushroom for...
A bit too expensive for a classic board game you can find elsewhere for free.

It’s hard to review Pure Chess, the new game from English developer VooFoo Studios. The game mechanics of Pure Chess are exactly the same as real chess. To review a video game adaptation of one of the most iconic board games of all time, we must look at the advantages virtual chess has over its tabletop progenitor: the ability to play against the computer AI, and the ability to play online. Pure Chess is adequate in both departments, but there are better, cheaper options elsewhere. It’s not simple enough for newbies, and it’s not in-depth enough for veteran chess players. Pure Chess serves to fill a gap in the Wii U library, but unless Nintendo’s home console is your only way to play virtual chess, it doesn’t quite warrant the $7.99 price tag.

The greatest feat of Pure Chess is its technical accomplishment: the fact that a small indie studio was able to implement cross-platform online play between the Wii U, 3DS, iOS, and Android versions of the game, with the possibility down the road of connecting to the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita versions as well. Your save data is also persistent between accounts on all devices– you could start a match on your 3DS, make a few moves on your Wii U, and finish the match on your iPhone.

The game is displayed in a strategic, adjustable bird’s-eye view on the Wii U GamePad, with intuitive touchscreen controls to move your pieces. The TV screen displays a drop-dead gorgeous 3D render of your chess match from cinematic camera angles. It doesn’t really serve a purpose other than to look pretty, but you can pick between a handful of piece sets and different materials, as well as a handful of environments for your virtual match: a library, a penthouse, and a museum. The places smart people play chess! And what do smart people listen to while they play chess? Pure Chess features a soothing score of classical, jazz, nature, and “chill” compositions. The perfect soundtrack to cerebral board games.

Pure Chess is split into four main modes: “Play,” “Play Online,” “Chess Challenges,” and “Learn to Play.” The basic play mode lets you compete against the computer or locally against a friend, with customizable rules and difficulty options. Chess isn’t exactly a fast-paced game anyway, so the slow connection doesn’t make that big of a difference. “Chess Challenges” are basic set-ups where you’re tasked with forcing a checkmate within a certain number of moves. “Learn to play” is a series of tutorials that probably aren’t inviting enough to teach total newcomers how to play, but if it’s been a while since you’ve played chess, it’s a nice refresher that includes a few strategy tips.

Since Pure Chess is also available on iOS and Android, it’s hard not to compare this version to the other iterations of the game. While Pure Chess is $7.99 on the eShop, it’s free on mobile devices… with ads and microtransactions galore. The Wii U version features a few more options and piece sets than the stripped-down free versions, although for eight bucks, I would have expected a bit more. You can purchase six new piece sets with unique backgrounds from the eShop– three are $1.65 each, and the other three are $2.69 each. Considering how pricey the core game is, I wish some of these would’ve been available for free. It’s particularly appalling that even the Lewis chessmen that appear on Pure Chess‘ title screen are part of one of the piece sets locked behind a pay wall. One of the advantages Pure Chess has over other virtual chess games is its beautifully-rendered 3D graphics, and it’s a shame we can’t appreciate more of those graphics without paying extra.

The Wii U and 3DS versions of Pure Chess are nearly identical, including their $7.99 price tag. If I were to pick one version of the game, I’d opt for Wii U. VooFoo Studios boasts about Pure Chess‘ marvelous 3D graphics, and the HD capabilities of Wii U are able to take advantage of this much more than 3DS can. The Wii U version of the game has chess-porn quality renders of its boards and environments, with adjustable camera angles so you can fully appreciate the detailed 3D piece models. The Wii U version of Pure Chess also runs much more smoothly than its 3DS counterpart, with faster loading times and fewer hiccups.

Pure Chess is in a tough place. When it’s based on a game as ubiquitous as chess, it can’t avoid comparisons to the countless other iterations of the classic game out there. You can find superior, cheaper virtual chess games everywhere. If you’re a casual player, check out (which is free), and if you’re more experienced, there’s the Internet Chess Club. Unless Wii U or 3DS are your only way to play virtual chess, look elsewhere. Nevertheless, Pure Chess must be commended for its ambition when it comes to cross-platform online play. I look forward to whatever VooFoo Studios does next on Wii U.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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