Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I'm going nuts; it's been days since I played a game with a storyline. And I'm really tired of playing games I've already played before, without a PC even. I'm not sure I even consider these games.

Still, Chess is a winner. I was dreading this, because I remember playing Battlechess in CGA when I was like 10, and I remember the games taking forever to play. Playing GNU Chess at the age of 27 did not match that experience - either I'm worse at chess than I was at 10, GNU Chess is smarter than Battlechess was, or my sense of how long "a really long time" is has changed immensely.

Probably all three. Anyways, I had a blast getting my ass kicked by the computer in this chess game. I was using about as much strategy as, I dunno, an earthworm lying on the sidewalk after a big rain, and the computer player made me pay for it, so I assume it's a competent opponent. I should note that I had the difficulty on "Normal" so it's probably even better on "Hard" - I don't think it could possibly get checkmate quicker than three moves, which it did to me (twice! the same way! ouch!).

As far as basic functions go, this game is pretty much perfect. It's a no-frills, eminently usable interface for playing chess. Nothing more, nothing less. In 2D mode, the pieces are easy to distinguish and aesthetically appealing if not
exactly impressive. The only real feature that isn't a chess-piece and a chess-board is the board numbering, which was useful for me as I learned that the letters go from right to left, for some reason, but otherwise unattractive and pointless.

Activating 3D mode required installing some packages through Synaptic for OpenGL support, and proved to be totally not worth the effort. On my Athlon 2000+ XP with a 512MB nVidia AGP card, it was sluggish, ugly, and very jagged looking. Rather than black and white, they were two different colors of brown (I assume they were supposed to be wooden; they couldn't spring for the virtual onyx n' ivory? Or whatever they're traditionally made of?), and I've never been a fan of brown, but they were also kinda hard to distinguish at times, and the texture that was mapped to them was really ugly.

My issues with 3D mode may have been user error - for all I know there's some anti-aliasing setting in some text-file that configures OpenGL to not look like utter crap when being used to display static chess pieces. But if so, it wasn't mentioned in any of the menus for configuring the game, and since I got no errors, I'm going to assume my OpenGL is working optimally. In which case, just avoid the 3D mode; it blows.

Outside of that, this is a solid port of the classic board game chess. There are snazzier, prettier versions of chess, but this one is free, comes with Linux, and plays single or two-player chess just fine; all the rest is unimportant.

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