99Games iPhone App review: Chess Lite and Chess Pro

Platform: iPhone
Application Name: Chess Lite | Chess Pro
Application Type: Game
Game-Genre: Strategy
Cost (Chess Lite | Chess Pro): $0.99 | $3.99
Powered by: 99Games
Summary: Wanna play chess?

Chess Lite and Chess Pro are two great ways to play chess for cheap.   Being a $0.99 app, Chess Lite is obviously just a teaser for the Chess Pro version, though there are a couple reasons why you would only want the lite version.  Chess Lite features one difficulty – medium, one theme – 2D, the ability to save your games, and the ability to play against another player.  If you’re only looking for a way to play Chess against another player and you don’t care about the graphics then this is a great choice.

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However, 99Games does an excellent job at making the Pro version worth the extra $3.00.

Graphics: 9/10
Starting with the graphics, the Pro version does the iPhone Chess experience so much more justice.  The game is played in a 3D environment with real Chess pieces.  There are 3 themes that you can use in the Pro version (as of this writing – they’re supposed to add more with the next update).  There’s the black and white 2D theme, and then a metallic or wood 3D theme.  I find the metallic to be my favorite.  The only improvement I can see being made here would be the possibility to change the actual design of the pieces.

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Difficulty: 8/10
The difficulty settings are set forth as follows: Easy can be beaten by anybody that knows how to move the pieces correctly – and the board helps you out a lot because when you click on a piece it tells you all the possible places that you can move your piece.  Medium difficulty is a large jump from easy and actually takes a little bit of skill.  One of my only gripes with the application is that the jump from easy to medium is so large for beginners.  Hard is very difficult and I haven’t beat it at this difficulty.

Overall Gameplay: 9/10
There are some great aspects of the overall game play that make this Chess application enjoyable.

  • Selecting pieces seems fairly easy, even though the squares are so small, and the pieces can be either drug or clicked from one square to the other
  • The indication of the spots that your selected piece can move to occupy is appropriately styled so as not to be too obnoxious
  • The movement from one square to the next is smoothly animated
  • The computer makes its move very quickly, even at the higher difficulty settings
  • The game’s save and resume features are great for finishing a game later and making sure your game doesn’t get lost if somebody calls you while you’re playing
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move options with the queen selected

Audio:
Chess doesn’t usually have any audio so I’m not going to give it any score at all.  I will say a few words however: Chess with sounds is annoying.  The only exceptions to this rule is if the chess pieces are animated and kill the other chess piece when they take over their place.  The audio in this application is no exception.  The sounds are obnoxious and I would suggest you leave them off.  Note: 99games says that the audio will be customizable in the next update.  Perhaps they’ll come out with a less intrusive sound set that would be more pleasurable to leave on.

Game Modes:
There are multiple game modes in Chess Pro, including Regular, Suicide, and Losers mode.  Suicide and Losers mode are different forms of Antichess.  Suicide chess is a different version of chess where the goal is to lose all your pieces and your king is treated as a normal piece.  Pawns may be promoted to kings, just as pawns can be promoted to queens in regular chess.  If you can capture a piece you must.  In suicide chess castling is not allowed.  The losers version of chess is similar to suicide chess, with the exceptions that pawns are not promoted to kings, your king cannot be lost, and you win if you force yourself into a checkmate.

Extras:

  • You can castle – many low quality chess applications forget this basic rule but this application does not.
  • You can Save/Load up to 5 games.
  • Unlimited undo of your moves
  • Hints for your next move.

Verdict: 9/10
I’m a fan.  I like it a lot and this will continue to be my Chess application of choice.  The only reason this application doesn’t get a ten is because it’s missing battle animations when you overtake the enemy pieces and there isn’t anything that pops out as a great way to innovate on a classic.

What’s great:

  • Gameplay is enjoyable
  • Computer is quick
  • Graphics are great

What’s missing:

  • More intermediate difficulty levels
  • Different piece themes/designs
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