It’d be understandable if you thought that we’d seen all that Match-3 can offer. After all, it’s a very simple format – that’s what works so well for it. Chesster takes that comfortable format and adds a hefty Chess style twist to things. It takes a little while to click, and it looks quite rudimentary at times, but it gets the gray matter working.
Starting out, there’s little guidance. While Chesster gives you a heads up on things like creating Queens and what happens if you don’t match a line, it actually forgets to teach you the very basics. If you’ve got some knowledge of Chess, that’s not so bad, but it also doesn’t allow for matches in the same kind of way as other Match-3 games. The difference here is that Chesster is more of a turn based experience.
Each session has you provided with a certain number of turns in which to score a particular amount of points. Along the way, you can collect up treasures, which work as a kind of twist on the ‘three star’ system of scoring your progress. Once you complete the required number of moves within a turn, Chesster wipes out the corresponding pieces and then figures out if you’ve created any combos. That means you need to plan ahead with each of your moves, rather than simply change course move by move. It takes a little practice to truly get your head around, but it sort of works. It just means that you have to consider your moves much more carefully than in other puzzle games.
The chess component relates to how you can place the pieces. A pawn, for instance, can only move one space away from its original place (and only forward), while a bishop can only go in diagonals. While Chesster doesn’t explain this initially, it does provide guidance through highlighted boxes, demonstrating the possible places that a piece can move to. You can create Queens through placing pieces in a certain arrangement, and they end up much more powerful than any other piece.
This kind of methodology means that Chesster feels a much more intelligent Match-3 game than most. With limited moves, even during the early stages, you have to plan carefully in order to gain enough points to progress. That’s further reflected by its series of puzzle levels that have you trying to clear an entire board in the space of a few moves. They’re often quite tricky to deduce but a great way of highlighting what works so well for this hybrid game. In each case, you gradually get into the correct mindset, learning how to make the pieces work best for you. As is typical for the genre, aiming to clear pieces near the bottom is generally a great way of setting up a series of combos that can pay off hugely.
Such strategical thinking does come at a price though. Chesster feels quite awkward and rarely natural. Moving the pieces involves dragging them around, rather than simply swapping, and it’s surprising how such a small tweak can instantly make a game feel more cumbersome. The visuals are dark and rather gloomy too, with text sometimes not as clear to see as it could be. These are all relatively minor things in the grand scheme of things, but it’s those small things that add up and mean, when faced with a bunch of options, you might veer to something more welcoming.