Overall Score 84%
I'm pretty sure all of you reading this will be familiar with the game of Chess, if not the rules. Two armies face each other across a checkered board, the aim of both being to capture the enemy king. I won't go into the rules here, it would take far too long.
Chess Commander is the game brought to the computer. It's not the first time this has been done, of course (I used to play chess on my 8-bit Atari, about a decade ago). But Chess Commander brings the game to the PC with some panache and, best of all, a degree of upgradeability.
Because it runs under windows (though a fullscreen mode is available), Chess Commander is easy to operate. Menus and options are easily navigated and all the features, like the music, your online profile, board designs and so on, can be changed to suit your tastes. Mouse control is all you really need (unless you want to play online, when your profile will need some keyboard entry). And in the game itself, you merely 'drag' a piece to move it.
Start up Chess Commander and you're instantly aware of its sound. The game has music! Two distinct tracks in the full version, which you can turn off if you wish. In addition to "March of the Chessmen" you also get realistic sounds of the pieces as they are placed down on the board, and a range of voices that speak the moves you've just done!
Graphically, everything is well presented. The initial menu screen can seem rather cluttered at first, but you soon get used to it. Chess pieces are well defined and you have a range of chess sets to play with (two are pictured in these screenshots). You can download more chess sets if you tire of these ones.
I have to admit that, though I know the rules and used to play a lot in my youth, I am very bad at chess. Even on the easiest settings the computer beats me every time. Despite this, I enjoy playing - everything plays quickly and clearly, and you have the option to use timers, adjust the difficulty and so on. You can also save games and play online against real people.
There isn't really much negative I can say about this game. Graphically it doesn't excel, but it doesn't have to - the simplicity is clearer. There aren't many sound effects with board games, and it does well with what it has. I can't beat it, but that's due to my own poor playing skills. One feature I would have liked is a 'tutorial' of some kind that attempts to teach newbies how to play. If you tire of the chess sets or the game engines you can download new ones. If you're fed up playing the computer, find an opponent online.
Chess Commander is a professional, no-nonsense utility for playing chess, with many good features and excellent adaptability. If you play chess, this is an excellent way to spend your spare time. If you don't, why not?
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