Dust off those thinking caps, boys and girls, Mindscape is back with the newest version of their popular series, Chessmaster. You wouldn't think it was possible to improve on a fine chess program, but Mindscape pulls out all the stops for Chessmaster 6000. Chess is the ultimate strategy game, which has been passed down for centuries from one culture to the next. Forget the explosions of war, forget the screams of soldiers, if you really want to test your strategic thinking, pop in Chessmaster 6000 for the ultimate challenge. You have the option of playing rated games, where at the beginning you choose what level of a player you are and then proceed to play against 95 preconfigured opponents gaining and losing rank when you win or lose. You can also choose to play an additional 64 human-like personalities, with photo, bio, and playing style.
Chessmaster 6000's tutorials are from the master himself, Bruce Pandolfini, the renowned chess coach and author. The program also includes Illustrated Voice Analysis from Josh Waitzkin in the annotated games. Throw in more than 30,000 games from the Interactive database and you've got yourself one mammoth chess program. If you get bored after several games, you can always log onto www.chessmaster.com and play human opponents over the Internet. You can also view games being played by other people. All in all, this is a complete package that is sure to test the brain.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
When the opening screen pops up you will feel as though you have just entered the creme de la creme of chess colleges. This game makes you want to learn and get better, and why shouldn't you when at your disposal is customizable coaching windows and Natural Language Advice? Some other chess games make your palms sweat, some make your nerves edgy, and some just plain put you to sleep. Chessmaster 6000 does none of that; instead you are treated to a serene environment that lets your mind fully flex its muscles. Some of my most peaceful evenings in the last two weeks have been when my rated opponent "Vanessa" and I have locked horns in chess, while soft classical music filled the room. If you choose to play fast and tense, then the computer opponent will surely accommodate you (at your own peril of course!). What I love most about this game is that when I'm done playing, I know that I've learned a couple of new moves, learned what moves not to make, and how to think ahead by six or seven moves. You control everything in Chessmaster 6000 with the mouse. You drag-and-drop to easily move your chess pieces. You can also open, close, and resize the different coaching boxes with a click of the mouse.
When you start choosing different chess sets, you really get to see what kind of graphics are in the game. You can choose between at least 15 different set pieces and boards. If you wish to play on a fine marble board with art deco pieces, so be it. Or how about Napoleonic pieces on a fine cherry board? Mindscape also did a great job with the coaching boxes; you can shrink or enlarge them to your desired size, and the letters and symbols are easy to read. You have a choice between a digital clock or an old-fashioned clock for timed games. Chessmaster 6000 is a welcome relief from the plethora of 3D engine-based games out there whose developers have to worry about frames per second. Here, you're given a simple game with tons of options. Just add brain, shake well, and your have one of the more challenging strategy games around.
When was the last time you listened to Bach or Mozart when playing a game? Well, my friend, you are in for a treat. What better way to get into a great thinking game than with classical music in the background? The melodies in Chessmaster 6000 enhance the gaming experience without distracting you; this is important considering it might take you ten minutes of serious concentration before you make a move. The Natural Language Advice is also a wonderful feature. When Chessmaster speaks to you during a game, the vocalization is very clear and precise. When learning from Josh Witzkin in annotated games, it's easy to understand and follow what he is saying. The audio in this game really makes you feel as if you are in a fine learning establishment, being taught one of the finest games in history.
Windows 95/98, P-90 MHz processor, 16 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive (4X or higher recommended), 15 MB hard disk space, SVGA video adapter and monitor capable of running 640x480 res. and 256 colors or higher, 28.8 KBPS modem for Internet play
For those of you who are familiar with my reviews, you know that I'm never really blown away by manuals; I like to use the Help and the game tutorials more. Well, in this game you need the manual as much as you need the CD-ROM for the game. The manual is filled with hundreds of options for the game -- everything from different chess sets, coaching boxes, clocks for timed games, pieces that have been captured and so on. Read the manual, my gentle reader, because without it you will never get the most out of the game and its different functions. I have read the manual twice and I'm still learning new functions and options for the game. Who knows? Maybe if you read the manual, play the games, and follow the teaching lessons, you might become a Grand Master.
No witty dialogue or sarcastic stuff this time, just the facts. If you want one of the most challenging strategy games that has been around for centuries, if you strive to be a better chess player, or if you've always wanted to learn this fine game, then I highly suggest that you pick up Chessmaster 6000. My father taught me how to play chess when I was nine years old. I then joined the chess club in junior high school. I've always played chess and will continue to play. And thanks to Mindscape, who has given me a wonderful program, I will get better at the game I love. It doesn't matter if your are an experienced player or just starting out; this game will teach you, entertain you, and most definitely frustrate you. On that note, gentle reader, I bestow upon Chessmaster 6000 the score of 90/100.