"Shame on you" those who winced in morbid apprehension on seeing the title of this game! It is perhaps however commonplace and not entirely unusual that a natural reaction to even the thought of chess as that hobby traditionally embraced by the sad lonely individual who rejoices in dark rimmed spectacles and used to get beaten up at school dinner times by a percentage of fellow pupils seemingly envious of an IQ over 50.
Attack on the cool kids aside, it is however a reality that a game which has been around longer than a Michael Jackson trial and played by many infamous civilisations including the Romans, ancient Chinese and even those spam eating Vikings (who admittedly did probably just use it as a means to starting fights) is considered to be dull.
Perhaps at this stage it would be appropriate to make a confession of my own - I never really played a lot of chess either (though I didn't beat up the kid in the glasses either).
So, on to Majestic Chess and the seemingly stern challenge of making an interesting chess game capable of drawing my younger sister's attention from her mobile phone for more than 30 minutes.
I've played chess games before and so exciting where they that I can neither remember their names or the last time I played them. As such, I didn't greet Majestic Chess with any resounding excitement.
The game immediately strikes you as being something different - a desire to break the mould and offer gamers some intrigue, adventure but most importantly, some excitement. You are presented with the option of playing either single player one on one against a computer opponent, braving the chess adventure or multiplayer online.
One on one against the computer is exactly what you would expect - you play against a computer opponent of varying difficulties so can wallop a basic non thinking kamikaze opponent or receive the same treatment from a grandmaster if you are so inclined. You re also able to select a playing board and pieces from a vibrant collection. The backgrounds are interesting and colourful and make for a very pleasant playing experience indeed. All of this is very well, but this feature on its own would still only put it in the same league as any other average chess game.
Where Majestic Chess really comes into its own is the chess adventure option. Chess adventure is cleverly a mixture of several things. Firstly, it's a tutorial designed to enlighten the most beginner of players. Secondly, it's a whole computer game in itself that is both entertaining, challenging, funny and generally well put together. In the adventure option, you control a knight on horseback who has to conquer 8 fantasy kingdoms filled with all manor of nasties. This is set out in the form of a map which you view in 3D from a birds eye view point, though the design is colourful and detailed. As you travel through the kingdoms, you receive help and tutorials on chess moves and tactics from visiting castles and monuments housing laughing three headed monsters and smelly monks to name but a few. Mixed in with these helpful fonts of knowledge are other places to visit whose occupants set a variety of challenges which test your knowledge. As you progress, the levels become increasingly difficult - enough to test even the hardened of players. The beauty however is that you can go from never having played the game, to being extremely competent without necessarily realising it. If nothing else, the adventure is quite simply plain old fashioned good fun to play through. Winning the challenges set by crazy monks, talking sphinxes and goblins in castles allows you to win pieces, gold or gems which you can use to purchase extra pieces or magical items which will help your to victory by suggesting your best move, banishing one of your opponent's pieces or take back a move (which, if like me you make a mess of it on a regular basis, is a very nifty tool). The best part is that you cant really lose. If you fail a challenge, you simply replay it until you win ensuring that you have learnt the lesson set by the challenge but also eliminating the frustration factor.
The adventure is accompanied by interesting, light hearted and humorous storylines which make it so much more than just a chess game.
The graphics are impressive and allow for rich and detailed boards and pieces. If you chose so however, you can revert to a traditional style 2D board if you prefer. The sound effects and music complement the feel and atmosphere to the game and provide for a sometimes haunting experience. This is accomplished without demanding system specifications past anything other than average. If you own a system with a 500MHz PIII or equivalent, 128Mb RAM and a 16Mb Direct 3D graphics card then you are all set. The recommended specifications are not much greater and only ask for an 800MHz CPU, 256Mb RAM and a 32Mb graphics card.
All in all, this is a wonderfully playable and entertaining game which above all else, can cater for all ages and abilities. It offers everything you would expect from a chess game and a whole lot more besides. If you wish to simply play a game of chess, you can do that - either against the computer or online against a human player. If like me however you are looking for something a little more entertaining and involving then the chess adventure will provide a welcome respite. If you like chess games this is a must, if your not sure, there is no doubt that Majestic Chess will certainly entertain : "The greatest game of all time just got better" (Anatoly Karpov - former World Champion)