Brawl Chess – Gambit aspires to offer a family-friendly chess experience; with quirky cartoon visuals and a variety of difficulty settings.
Developed by RedDeerGames, Brawl Chess can offer a fun and accessible local multiplayer experience. Unfortunately, the game is all style, but very little substance.
As someone who has recently started to take a real interest in chess – no doubt inspired by the excellent Queen’s Gambit series – I was excited by Brawl Chess’s engaging visuals and medieval aesthetic.
Mechanically, the game plays almost the exact same as regular chess; there are no crazy changes of the rules, which the ‘Brawl’ label might imply. This is fine. As a base chess set simulator, the game is good; not that this is much of an accomplishment.
The visuals of your pieces ‘brawling’ as they eliminate each other from the board or your King cowering in fear as he is vulnerable to the opposing player, does offer some initial entertainment. Mixed in with some good use of sound effects and appropriate grunts, there is definitely an added layer of visual engagement that will help younger learners engage with chess. As a family-friendly package, Brawl Chess does show some initial promise. Initial being the crucial assertion.
Sadly, these eccentric visuals cannot mask the fact that the game is sorely lacking in just about every other area.
Brawl Chess is bereft of content – which for a game that strays mechanically so close to basic chess – is incredibly disappointing. Whilst local multiplayer is fun enough; an absence of online multiplayer is underwhelming. The prospect of being able to play online with others, would have been a major boon for players and seriously helped the games replayability.
Moreover, whilst the five different difficulty settings offer a good deal of challenge – for beginners and experts alike – I was disappointed to see that there was no in-game tutorial that could aid someone like myself in the finer nuances of the game. I think they really missed an opportunity here; to double down on the game’s accessibility for all players by offering a much more consumable and visually appealing guide to chess.
This example really sums up my overall issue with Brawl Chess: the game is half-baked and doesn’t do enough to justify paying £8.39 for it, when there are cheaper or even free alternatives out there(such as your dusty old set at home, which you really should dig out). Not to mention that the medieval characters you can play as( one of the cooler parts of the game), are largely locked behind additional purchases. I only had access to three different characters to choose from at the beginning, and whilst they don’t affect the gameplay, this is just another area in which the base game puts itself in check(I tried!).
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it(or at least try a lot harder!):
I really hoped that Brawl Chess might encourage me to play chess on a more regular basis. It didn’t.
Beyond all the fun visuals and accessibility options, Brawl Chess fails to offer a genuinely worthwhile family-friendly Chess experience. For all the games initial promise, a failure to follow-up from the designers and hone in on what works, leads to an unremarkable title – with limited content.
However, conceptually the game touches on a niche that I think should be followed up on. There is definitely a market for a more family-friendly chess experience that can offer a diverse visual experience for both children and adults alike. I appreciated the use of a medieval theme, and there are a lot of historical figures and armies that could be translated to the chess board. Something for RedDeerGames to think about.
Unfortunately the game in its current form, is just a first draft. Better to stick with your home chess set, for now.