1-2 players, horizontal game
Telegames, for the Atari Lynx
We all knew it would happen, sooner or later. After all, even portable video gamers cannot live on action-arcade titles alone. Now filling a void, Telegames Inc. has released THE FIDELITY ULTIMATE CHESS CHALLENGE for the Atari Lynx. There's not much that needs to be said, really; this is a one- or two-player version of (Western) chess, following all of the standard rules for the game. If you don't know how to play chess, get a different game.
(Quick note: Though this game seems to be packaged and distributed by Atari, there are enough signs that this is an independent developer's effort. Everything on this game is credited to Telegames Inc., so all praises and criticisms must fall squarely on their shoulders...)
What does this version of chess offer? FIDELITY CHESS (for short) lets one or two players play chess with a _single_ Lynx. The computer offers 17 levels of difficulty -- 8 levels based on search depth, 8 levels based on analysis time, and an "ultimate" level using unlimited time and searching. You can ask the computer for hints, force it to make a move immediately, and take back moves (up to 100 full moves can be taken back). The board offers gold and silver pieces on a 2-D or 3-D board, and game sounds, messages, and other features can be toggled and selected during a game. Finally, the entire current chess game is logged in standard chess notation, and can be reviewed, along with a running count of the players' scores (based on pieces remaining).
The most important question, naturally, is how well FIDELITY CHESS plays the game. Though I enjoy the game, I don't claim to be a chess expert; however, the Lynx appears to play a very respectable game. For a test, I pitted FIDELITY CHESS (on the Lynx's 65C02) versus the computer game BATTLE CHESS (on a 68000). Although the Lynx took longer to make decisions deeper into the game, it ultimately checked and mated in 23 moves. With "ultimate" mode, FIDELITY CHESS may just be almost impossible to defeat. On higher levels, it can take quite some time for the computer to make a move. To counteract this, the Lynx's automatic shutoff feature is disabled.
A few minor quibbles with the game. Control response is the most sluggish I've ever seen in a Lynx game. Specifically, response to button presses are not always instantaneous, for some reason. Also, while there is an icon-driven Setup screen to help you set options, not all features are available. Without reading the manual, you'd need an accident to find out about features such as taking back a move (press A and B simultaneously).
There is one large flaw in FIDELITY CHESS, however: The game has no "board set up" feature. The manual suggests that you can set up a game by playing a two-player contest to the desired point, then switching to a one-player game; however, I find this suggestion cumbersome and unfriendly. Essentally, then, you must either finish a game at one sitting, or log all the moves to recreate (and continue) a game at a later time. Very dissappointing.
The graphics and sound on FIDELITY CHESS are functional, but nothing more. That's fine, though; flashy graphics and noises can be a distracting irritant if done improperly. The chess pieces in both 2-D and 3-D mode are clear and distinctive (though a little large in 3-D mode, in my opinion). Sounds are similarly sparse; aside from a musical ditty played at the title page, the only noises available are the chimes that are played when a piece is moved, or a message is displayed.
Telegames has made a respectable entry into the Lynx game market with this title. As a chess game, THE FIDELITY ULTIMATE CHESS CHALLENGE fits the bill. It plays a strong, challenging game, though it presumes some knowledge of chess on your part. The lack of a board set-up option, however, is inexcusable; it could have been added with very little effort. However, if you can live with this omission, and want to play chess on the go, then FIDELITY CHESS is a good solution.
GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 6 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7