I’m going to do it again: Chess? Bor-ing! I often hear that from people who don’t play/never played the game. I don’t play that often, but man – give it a chance. Need to know the rules? Play Chessarama. Know how to play Chess? Play Chessarama.

There are only so many takes on the game one can make without breaking the rules and creating something completely different, so for that reason, you’re not likely to see anything unique, hence why I always refer to Battle Chess as one of the greatest Chess games of all time. Which came out on the Amiga in the 90s.

Minimol Games and Hawthorn Games don’t want to play by those rules, yet they still respect them. In Chessarama, you’ll participate in various campaigns, implementing individual pieces in a completely different environment from the classic game. Though the classic game is available to play, grandad.

Chessarama
Source: Steam

Take, for instance, the first biome called Farm Life. You’re quickly introduced to the knight and their skills, but instead of putting that into action on a board, you have to move the piece around crops to help grow some produce. Say what? Weirdly, it works.

For my kids, who are unfamiliar with the rules, doing a Chessarama review would be a great introduction as it’s not a case of moving a bit of wood, plastic or ivory (say what!?!) around a fold-out board waiting for someone to tell them if the move was ok or not. From a digital perspective, there are only so many options. 

That said, the setpieces certainly look the part, and the game is a colourful, minimalist sandbox that borders on zen. Until you realise that, like the game it is based on, this isn’t something you can pick up and ace your way through. Like hooning down a 65º sloped downhill track with no brakes, you need to plan so many metres, or moves, ahead.

Like I said, I’m not a Chess player per se, but when I do play, I’m at least a handful of moves ahead – anticipating my opponent’s move. Here, you’re up against the primary goal of whatever the biome is, plus optional tasks that, quite frankly, are tricky to pull off when you first play the game. Methinks that this will be on the replay list.

Chessarama PC Review - Football, rules
Football, rules! Source: Steam

The game has eight puzzles with a host of levels attached, varying from sokoban-based challenges to football. I understand the principle of game design, unlocking levels as you progress. Still, I wish there were the option to choose from the available biomes rather than push through linearly and earn XP to unlock.

Hand on heart, if I had bought this instead of receiving a review copy, I may have shelved it for a while. That’s not a fault of Chessarama – it’s just that feeling of being rushed to get through the theme park and try every ride and attraction before closing time. I’d have liked to have spent more time on it as I either got sidetracked with other titles or repeated a level to complete all the objectives in fewer moves. I just couldn’t let it slide.

This is a game predominantly about challenging yourself. However, for those who like to leave their lights on and curtains open or leave the toilet door ajar while assuming the position and sharing their world with strangers, you’ll be pleased to know you can ‘compete’ with other players via leaderboards. I don’t feel compelled to compete and am happily motivated by my insecurities about completing objectives, so it’s nice that Chessarama has my back on that.

Undoubtedly, this is the most unique Chess-inspired game I’ve seen outside of a wacky Japanese game show, and I think it is finally time for Battle Chess to pass the torch to Chessarama as the greatest Chess (inspired) game available.