It seems that recently my life has been involving Chess in some form or another. First the musical ‘Chess’ which I enjoyed at the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre and now ‘Chess Free’ – a game for Android that as the title aptly describes as a free game of… well Chess.
Chess as we know it today was formed in the 15th century and it continues to be a mind battling experience that is hard to match. Prestige is on offer for those who present their brain prowess at this most challenging of board games and a sense of inferiority for the rest.
Chess Free brings this same sense of grit determination and addictive prospect of success all within your Android phone – with an attempt to bring a very life-like AI opposition.
Other Chess games will no doubt consider all the moves available before making a decision. This will probably give the best possible move, however as humans (especially those who aren’t strong Chess players) we just don’t consider our options in that way. We do our best to cover all of the possibilities and then consider the after effect it may have, but inevitably at some point we make a move that damages our chances or is a bit more of a gamble. Chess Free incorporates the Treebeard Chess engine, which to you and me results in a more human-like contender calculated entirely by the computer.
There are 10 levels of difficulty, so beginners at least have a chance of taking part and learning the nuances of the game – however even on the easiest of settings, Chess Free will obliterate you if you move without a small dose of concentration. On the harder settings, Chess Free will push you to the extreme, but even then you can make life a little easier and increase your playing abilities as you go.
A trusty ‘Undo’ option sits at the bottom of the screen if you make a move you later regret. You can also view the computer’s favoured moves, which will give you a little insight to how it thinks and what you should be wary of – revealing your vulnerabilities. If you are really cruel, you can even remove one of the more important Chess pieces from the computer’s arsenal – obviously giving you a slight edge. If all else fails, there is also a ‘Hint’ function with a suggestion of what your next move should be.
Once the game is over, you can review your entire game history move by move again adding to the educational value of improving your performance as a player.
If you fancy a ‘real’ opponent, you can always select the two player option and pass the phone from one person to another as you progress. Handily, the board flips around so no matter whose turn it is, the board will always give an equal playing perspective.
Visually the game looks the part with a selection of board and Chess piece designs from a 2D top-down perspective. Sounds can be turned on or off if you wish to play in silence or with a few basic auditory indicators.
Chess Free includes the usual advertisements you would expect from most free titles, however for a little expense these can be removed entirely.
Chess Free provides a rich and challenging experience of this classic board game, all within the confines of your Android smart-phone. The AI includes human-like tendencies and a crippling difficulty for those who think they are ‘hard enough’ to compete at the very highest of levels, yet a more forgiving introduction for those newbies who need a helping hand.
Rating: 4 / 5
Android Market Link: Chess Free