Chess lends itself extremely well to a handheld console like the Game Boy, so it's not surprising that Chessmaster is a popular choice. First released over two decades ago now (where *does* the time go?) it was updated for the Game Boy Color in 1999, and that's the version I'm concentrating on here. Although one or two other chess programs for the Game Boy platform do exist (Nintendo's "4 in 1 Fun Pak" cartridge has a mediocre implementation) it's Chessmaster that is the title Game Boy owners will think of first - and with good reason.
The game offers a fair amount of options to keep you happy, most important of which are the 16 levels of difficulty. At the lowest level, even real novices should have a chance of winning - I tried a really standard king's pawn opening and the console player seemed to get utterly confused, moving its queen back and forth aimlessly and inviting a quick defeat. On the higher settings, it's a very different proposition: naturally an 8-bit chess program is not going to offer Nigel Short a tough challenge, but for most of us it'll be quite hard going up there.
A really useful option for newcomers to chess is the "teaching mode", which shows where on the board pieces can be moved to. You can also set the program to allow moves to be retaken; handy if you keep getting your king and queen forked! There are two 2-player options: you can either use a "hot seat" mode, whereby you simply pass the console back and forth to make moves, or you can connect two Game Boys with the Game Link cable. Those things aren't too common any more, and I don't have one myself so can't be absolutely certain, but if you can find one that works it should be good fun.
Chessmaster's graphics are fine, by Game Boy standards anyway. Chess is not a game where you're in any need of flashy animation, and indeed some chess programs fall down precisely *because* they try to show off too much on that front; unless 3D is very good indeed, for example, I much prefer an overhead 2D board as used here. This is the area in which Chessmaster offers you some degree of customisation: you can choose from several different board and piece colours and several different piece designs - although none of them are all *that* original and, annoyingly, there doesn't seem to be an easy way to preview the look before committing yourself to a game,
When the original, monochrome, version of Chessmaster appeared in 1990, one of the things that people noticed was the synthesised speech, though in truth there wasn't very much of it: the initial "Welcome to Chessmaster", and the words "check" and "checkmate" just about covered it. With this version, things don't appear to have progressed very far, if at all: actually, all you get are some rather harsh bleeps. Okay, so a thumping techno soundtrack might be rather odd, but this is a game you can play silently without losing too much.
As you might expect, there's a battery backup on the cartridge, so you can save your position and restart it next time; this makes it even more useful for train journeys and the like. It's also a very easy game to find today, though you do need to be careful not to buy the original monochrome version (not that there's anything *wrong* with that; it's just not, well, as colourful!) for a fiver or so. If you have the slightest interest in chess, and own a Game Boy model capable of playing GBC cartridges, there is no reason not to get Chessmaster.
"The Chessmaster" is a long standing series in console gaming history; bringing the classic table game of Chess into the virtual world. It is particularly geared towards amateur to intermediate skill players, and remains an introduction to the game for many regardless of the platform which it is played on.
There is some element of customization in this Gameboy Color title, with the player being able to choose from various designs and colours to apply against the pieces and game board. This seems to have been almost a necessary implement as the only objective in this title is to "simply" play Chess. Gameplay, control wise, is simple. A player will guide an image of a hand, using the arrow keys, to his or her designated piece for movement and select it by pressing the "A" button. It is then, depending on the attributes for movement, up to the player which direction to move it in using the arrow keys once more. I particularly liked the addition of a second player option via separate game-link cable, and feel this would be a title to play for the ages should a suitable physical opponent be located.
Graphics are simple as to be expected. The player observes a chess board from an "eagle eye" view which looks down on the chess pieces. As noted previously, there is a variety of board colours and piece design to choose from which makes for a continual refreshment in terms of visual appeal. It is easy to distinguish between the chess pieces regardless of chosen design.
There are only a few audio cues in this title; "Check" "Checkmate" and "The Chessmaster" at the introduction. With each move there is a sound effect that is meant to resemble what I assume to be middle age horns. There is little by the way of sound to review in this title which is acceptable considering the more mental nature of the game.
Overall, "Chessmaster" for Gameboy Color would make a suitable addition to any player's collection. While the title is solely a game of Chess it remains "fresh" through the ease of swapping designs and colours at will.