Battle vs. Chess Impressions

If you've been yearning for a combo system and a health bar in your games of chess, you're in luck here.

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Here are a couple of interesting facts about the game of chess that you might not be aware of. One: It has been around for well over 1,000 years. Two: If you do a search for it on this very Web site, you'll find nearly 400 results. Those are imposing numbers for any game developer looking to do something new in the world of little wooden horses doing battle with tiny clergy hats, but that hasn't stopped TopWare Interactive. Together with publisher SouthPeak, TopWare will soon release Battle vs. Chess, a game that takes the familiar rules of this classic game and throws in more than a few modern trappings.

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Perhaps the biggest change is the titular Battle mode. This mode--purely an optional way to experience the game--replaces the method for knocking out opposing pieces with something much more gamey. This mode turns your attempt to eliminate an opponent's piece into a quick little beat-'em-up in which your fully animated piece has to attack your opponent's similarly lively piece. Think of it as a brief little fight scene complete with a combo system and the ability to move around a temporarily unrestricted chess board. A queen can easily kill a handful of pawns, which makes chess sense, but that queen also has a finite amount of health that carries over from one battle to another, which presents a new strategy element in determining which pieces you use as a game draws to a close.

Other modes in the game seek to appeal to chess tenderfoots and veterans alike. There's a Tutorial mode that teaches you the basics of the game and offers advice on a turn-by-turn basis, as well as a Placement mode that lets you create a custom game scenario if you want to see how well you can do when backed into a corner. Interestingly enough, there's also a mode that lets you relive famous chess matches throughout history, if you're the type of person who yearns to put that smug Deep Blue supercomputer in its place once and for all.

You're given multiple options in how you want to see the game presented, ranging from a traditional top-down view of a plain-Jane chess board to the aforementioned animated chess pieces set against a colorful fantasy backdrop. There's a bit of a story campaign in there as well, which tells of the light side against the evil dark side (where pawns are naturally represented as vile gremlins). Each "level" is a pre-fixed scenario that gives a quick story for why the pieces are set up the way they are.

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All this runs on the Fritz11 chess engine, which sounds more than a little bit like Greek to us, but it's nevertheless something the developer says is among the top chess systems in the tech world. Either way, it looks like there's quite a bit of content in Battle vs. Chess. It's available next month as a $39.99 retail purchase.

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