Chess Ultra Switch Review

Developer: Ripstone

Publisher: Ripstone

Release Date: 2nd November

Price as of Article: $12.49 USD, £9.99 GBP

Audio

Chess Ultra features an expertly crafted soundtrack featuring 40 songs with about 10 unique tracks per location.

These background melodies are subtle in volume and do not distract but add a nice touch.

Visuals

A couple of years ago Ripstone published Pure Chess and you can see the team at Ripstone have used this basis and improved upon it. There are four stunning locations ranging from a chic looking penthouse to a spooky looking Gomorrah setting.

Each location feels unique and has a bunch of attention to detail that adds to the sense of playing in person without ever getting in the way, in the grand manor there is a fireplace crackling away that casts moving shadows onto the table. The study has an assortment of accessories around the place and you are able to manipulate the camera with the right stick in order to get a good look around. The pieces themselves come with a number of options to choose from style to material that lets everyones tastes get met. There is only so much you can do visually in a game of chess and this meets that without reaching the gaudy or distracting stage.

Gameplay

The game of chess has been around for centuries and needs no explanation or introduction, gameplay here rather represents how well the game plays and the breadth of options available.

When playing Solo you can start with a rather lengthy series of tutorials aimed at beginners, whilst anyone experienced will likely skip these they do serve as a foundation and explain the basics in short lessons meaning you can find the area you are unsure about a run that single tutorial.

When playing against the AI you have up to 10 levels ranging from Novice up to Grandmaster, the AI performs well and was actually tested and approved by a real Grandmaster.

Apart from just a single player game you have challenges to contend with which fall into two categories – Check Mate in a certain number of moves from 1 to 7 which are a nice puzzle based on the ones found in newspapers or online and the other being a series of historic games in which you take the seat at a crucial point playing the final moves to victory. These are some of the most renowned chess matches ever played and as such have an extremely advanced difficulty level but serve as a very interesting challenge for those who are a bit more advanced.

Playing on a TV with a Pro Controller feels great, the controls are very simple and are balanced well. Highlighting a piece shows its potential move range as default though you can turn it off. On the move the game can be played either docked with a single Joy Con or fully controlled by using the touchscreen. Either options works well though with the touchscreen option you cannot simply slide a piece, you need to click it and then click the square you want to move to.

You have a nice number of Game Timer options which includes none, for those wanting to take their time, blitz which gives each player just 5 minutes, a Standard 45 minute timer, the famous Fischer timer which gives you 30 minutes to begin with and adds an extra 30 seconds which each move taken and a marathon timer which gives players 24 hours to make each move.

Chess Ultra offers a number of multiplayer options both locally and online with each option giving you the choice of which timer, location and pieces to use. Playing on a TV worked fine however there is a strange requirement to share a single controller rather than having one each which is a strange quirk that feels like an oversight in the development of the game.

Playing whilst not docked forces you to play the game as if the Switch were the board, you lay the console down in the middle of you and the UI flips on your turn mimicking a real life board. Thankfully it plays well this way and feels very natural, you can play this with a joy con each or with the touchscreen.

Jumping online and the game includes cross-platform play, a smart choice for what is effectively a rather niche game.

When you start the game it loads your profile as your online presence and gives you a base ELO rating, playing in online or single player matches affect this rating giving you a nice easy way to track progress and show off your prowess.

All of the timer options are available here which is a smart move enabling you to play at your own pace – something that has put me off other chess games in the past. Whilst I enjoy playing I don’t often have the time to dedicate to an entire match and even when I do my friends often won’t, as such we play online and our experience historically has been on one of the number of free mobile phone apps.

By giving me 24 hours to take my turn this gives me the same level of freedom and offers me some additional timer options with a superior graphical and audio experience that just feels better.

As well as a single game you can create and compete in tournaments that play out in a knockout style. The game currently has a large tournament on the go in place from the developers and more are planned.

No additional online features are here for your convenience, there is no notification system utilising either the Nintendo Switch app or any other format and there is no verbal or written communication with your opponent. You can easily play people you have played before and can find your friends to play a match very easily.

Whilst notifications and chat are not essential they are features that would have enhanced my personal play experience as I like to play a casual game with friends and would like to know when my turn is up.

The game features no single player campaign or in game achievements which would have been a nice touch, perhaps you could unlock additional textures or gain badges as your rating goes up, these features don’t detract from the game itself but would have been nice to see.

value

At £9.99 in the UK and $12.49 in the US the game is keenly priced considering how polished it is, the excellent online cross-platform performance and the specific Switch features like touchscreen and tabletop modes.

There are 80 chess puzzles and an integrated ELO ranking to keep you entertained as well.