Majestic Chess attempts to make learning chess a fun experience with an adventure mode as well as more traditional chess gameplay. In the story mode, players take command of a King and travel around a map to recruit other chess pieces. The goal: recruiting an entire set so that the battle against the invading King's army can be won. To successfully recruit other pieces, players must pass tests, complete quests, and earn gold. Players can also opt to play normal games of chess against a computer or user. Post-game analysis allows players to learn where things went wrong during a game and plan more successful strategies.
The last chess game I reviewed, Chessmaster 9000, was extremely competent. It offered tons of difficulty levels, extensive training, multiple types of boards (including some geared toward a younger audience), and well, it was able to kick my ass. Majestic Chess is all of that and then some. Except for a few missteps, developer Fluent Entertainment has stepped up to the challenge, in some ways surpassing its only competition.
While I can't explain how to play chess here (there are tomes written on the subject), I will say that the single-player game is very accommodating. If you're new to the game, you can play against the equivalent of your three-year-old niece (or your cat), and, instead of having a static 1-100 rating for the opponent, you can individually tweak specific aspects of their game. For example, if you're always screwing up early on, but you're good after the first four or five moves, you can tell the computer opponent the go light on the opening moves. If you're just having trouble avoiding the stalemate, tell the computer to dumb it down a little on that aspect of the game. It's a very welcome addition and perhaps the best way to practice certain aspects of your game before venturing online.
Although it's been around for ages, many people have no clue how to play chess. Thankfully, Majestic Chess has perhaps the most approachable training of any chess program to date. Much like you may expect from a console racing or fighting game, there is an adventure mode. It is here that those new to the rules of chess will learn everything they need to know to become respectable players. While it's slightly convoluted, the idea works. You start off learning simple things like chess notation and the names and movement abilities of each piece. You also learn about the board (ranks and files), and how to properly set up a chessboard. Unfortunately, though, for those already familiar with chess, you have to go through a few chapters of adventure mode before more advanced moves (en passant, castling, etc.) are explained and tested, and it's not until the end that you're really challenged.
Despite those minor flaws, what makes this stand out is that everything is presented as a rather lengthy series of mini-games, complete with areas to visit and challenges to tackle. For example, after you learn how to use a few pieces, you'll have to beat an opponent using only those pieces. Success grants you new pieces and some gold. This booty can buy you special moves, such as a "take-back" (after realizing you've made a bad move), a suggestion for your next move, and even the destruction of a player's piece (sans the king). It's not exactly within the rules of chess to do these things, but it's a fantastic teaching tool. If you realize you've screwed up, then you have learned some of the in-depth strategy required to be truly good at this game.
Despite a few blemishes, Majestic Chess is a major contender for Chessmaster's crown. The game includes multiple boards, 2D and 3D displays, and even a musical score. There are enough options to keep newbies and grandmasters busy for months. The adventure mode is especially a plus for newer players, and even veterans will find plenty of challenge.
People who downloaded Hoyle Majestic Chess have also downloaded:
Chessmaster 5500, Monopoly (1999), Battleship: The Classic Naval Warfare Game, Battle Chess for Windows, Battle Chess Enhanced, Game of Life, Chess Wars: A Medieval Fantasy, Battle Chess 4000
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