Chess. The game of kings. The game of queens. The game of explosions?
Chess is a game as old as your standard geology professor and as dry as the conversation at a geology department’s Christmas party. So, it’s about time something was done to shake things up a bit in the way that geologists are always shaking upon their rocks. Cue Chessplosion, the game that surgically grafts the concept of explosions onto the concept of chess, except the surgeon is completely unconcerned whether the patient survives the procedure.
Chessplosion borrows quite a lot from Bomberman, the bomb-laying and friendship-ruining arcade game. The main innovation that Chessplosion makes is swapping out the bombs for chess pieces, which are also bombs. This change is more than just cosmetic, as the pattern of the explosion generated by one of these bombs matches the direction in which the chess piece moves (rooks explode horizontally, bishops blow up diagonally and the queen just nukes the whole postcode). This allows for some genuine strategy, control and skill, which is sometimes missing in the game’s spiritual predecessor.
There are a few different modes in Chessplosion, each of which plays as an almost completely different game. As such, we’re going to go through each of the modes in turn and undertake a mini-review of each. Unfortunately, I’m burdened with the crushing reality of only being one person, despite the assumptions you might make from the size of the ego. As such, I haven’t dived into the tasty chunk of the game that is the multiplayer. However, the final mode I’m going to talk about is basically a multiplayer mode with bots instead of real people, so feel free to draw some conclusions about the multiplayer from there. Anyway, without further ado, here are some mini-reviews of the modes in Chessplosion for your perusal.
Mode 1: Adventure Mode
Adventure mode is interesting because it feels like the ‘default’ mode of the game due to being the first option you come to on the main menu – ‘the way the game was meant to be played’ if you like. The reason this is interesting is because it is the worst mode in the game. In this mode, you need to kill some little dudes on the chessboard by planting the chess-based bombs. The little dudes can kill you by charging into you, so you need to explode them before they smash you to death with rocks that they probably acquired from those blasted geologists. The problem here is that the bombs take a few seconds to explode and the little dudes move randomly and in real-time. This means you can’t really apply any strategy, as placing a bomb to attack a specific square is pointless because the little dude could be in a different hemisphere by the time the bomb explodes. In the end, you need to spam bombs in a way that won’t kill you and hope that the explosions eventually take out the little dudes.
Mode 2: Puzzle Mode
Puzzle mode is probably my favourite mode of the game as it strips out some of the randomness of the explosions and breaks the game down into a purer skill-based art form. In puzzle mode, you have a specific set of bombs that you need to place in such a way that the first bomb will set off the subsequent bombs in a chain and, more importantly, so that the combined effects of the bombs will destroy the targets placed around the arena. This starts quite simply where you’re only using rooks and all the targets are perpendicular from each other, but quickly ramps up into genuine puzzle territory where you have to study the placement of the targets to reverse engineer the correct places to put your bombs. This mode pairs satisfying puzzle-solving and gratuitous explosions in a package that leaves a nice, if gunpowder-y, taste in your mouth.
Mode 3: Survival Mode
In this mode, the exploder becomes the explodee. All your bombs are taken away and you’re put on the back foot, needing to avoid explosions rather than cause them. Bombs will appear on the chessboard and you’ll need to move your little dude to a square that won’t be hit by the inevitable explosions. This combines some elements of puzzle-solving with the mad panic of being in a room full of short-delay explosives. You’ll need to make quick and accurate decisions to determine where the plethora of bombs on the board are going to destroy and where it will be safe for your little dude to cower. You’ll be bathed in sweat by the time you manage to successfully navigate through the increasingly deadly waves of bombs and manage to use some tricksy manoeuvres to survive for the requisite minute.
Mode 4: Arcade Mode
Here it is, what all your training has been leading to. In true Marvel movie fashion, it’s time for a same versus same boss battle. It’s you versus another you in a 1v1 battle to the death. Armed with only your wits (and a lot of high explosives), you’ll need to carefully place bombs to trap and kill your enemy without blowing yourself up, all while your enemy tries to do exactly the same thing to you. This is the mode that channels that real Bomberman energy and feels the most like the multiplayer. Unlike Bomberman there is some real skill to be deployed here, assessing the bombs you’re randomly given and placing them strategically to outmanoeuvre and outmurder your enemy. It’s almost like chess or something.
Chessplosion is a lot of fun. It’s got a real party-game feeling and the range of different modes on offer means there’s almost certainly something in there for you to get your teeth sunk into, no matter where you sit on the spectrum between chess and explosions. I love the way that all the modes train you up in a different skill that you’ll need in the arcade/multiplayer. You feel like you’re getting abilities pumped directly into your brain like Neo in the Matrix except it’s less “I know Kung Fu” and more “I know adventure mode”. If you’re a fan of Bomberman, this is definitely one for you to give a try. If you’re a fan of chess, maybe not so much – you may even weep at the Frankenstein’s monster of a game that your beloved chess has become. Probably blame a geologist.