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Virtual Kasparov
Score: 68%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Titus Software
Developer: Titus Interactive Studio
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Strategy

Graphics & Sound:
Well, well, how good can a chess game's graphics truly be? All you have to do is make the chess pieces look like chess pieces. You also have to make sure each square on the chessboard is the opposite color from its adjacent square. Guess what? Titus has done a captivating job doing just that. In 2D, the pieces look 'chess'-tacular, while the board retains any pizzazz that a normal chessboard would have. Unfortunately, 3D mode leaves a lot to be desired, with pieces being sharp and gangly. You can choose from over 20 types of pieces, and board backgrounds, but a lot of them hurt my eyes with some really funky color schemes. Some of the concepts are neat with pieces like 'animal,' and 'army,' but they are truly an eyesore when putting them against any background but the default black and white. If Virtual Kasparov came with a pair of sunglasses, it might have been easier, but for the time being, stick with the 2D mode.

The sound is definitely there. As to whether its good or bad, well the jury is still out on that one. The in-game music is a real mellow, skippy type of music. No heavy guitars, or booming drums here. Whilst playing, a couple of different songs flitter which add to the emotion of the game. (After all, chess is staging itself to become an Olympic sport). The unfortunate thing is there is no way to select which song plays, so if you're about to start a grueling game, and an annoying song comes on... Needless to say, it doesn't make for quelling the nerves. I wish sound had been integrated more into the options, so the user can control it. It's worth listening to all the songs once, but some you'll like and some you won't.

How much gameplay can a chess game like VK have? Well, it does quite well with itself. It doesn't have different Modes like your normal games. It has, well, chess. For those of you that don't know how to play, it has an excellent tutorial. Garry Kasparov teaches you the ropes, and will have you out there castling, opening, en passant-ing, and capturing in no time. You can then move on to Beginner Mode where the computer is decently lenient. You can then change the individual game difficulties until you find a level that suits you. The levels range from 1, which is fairly easy, allowing you bragging rights; to levels in the mid-twenties, which will pounce every mistake you make, causing you to sob violently. All the bragging rights go down the drain. There's also a library where you can see some of Kasparov's trend-setting openings, and there's analyses of chess games by former grand masters. These are geared to show you an in-depth game in which captivating play dominated the board. Finally, for those of us with a little 'news reporter' in the blood, there's an interview with comrade Kasparov himself, and his exquisite history, and the history of chess itself. All in all, Virtual Kasparov has enough chess for folks 8 to 80, man or lady.

The difficulty in Virtual Kasparov is easily manipulated to provide a challenge for all skills. In the upper difficulties, the AI takes considerably longer to make moves, in which time you can jog around the block, or microwave enormous amounts of beef and cheese burritos. Still, the controls are easy to learn, and easy to 'control.' The menus might be tough to navigate at first, but after a while you'll be dashing through the menus much like Rudolph and his notorious red nose on your rooftop around the 25th.

Game Mechanics:
Virtual Kasparov takes up an almost untraceable amount of memory card space. The manual is very small, with lots of information stuffed into few, few pages. The controls are of no important factor in the overall game, but easy enough to supervise as is. After the 'spin-cycle' is through, VK is a decently put together game, although it could have used some more glue in some places. I feel as though Virtual Kasparov boxed me in with its lack of playability. Sure, the 2D was great, but anything past the first few levels of difficulty was numbing and tedious. The 3D Chess Mode is essentially a no-go, as no one can look at the pieces or backgrounds for an extended period of time. It was like solar flare coming off of my 27-inch. I think that VK is geared for really, really hard core chess fans, and not for everyone. A lot of the extra features are good once, but nothing worth watching again and again. There's not much that's going to attract gamers besides visuals in a chess game, and Virtual Kasparov just came short of its mark.

Riot Rundown: I love chess, and this game is bearable. It's nothing mind-blowing, and unfortunately, the 3D aspect was only a sigh of disappointment. If you want a run-of-the-mill chess game, with a few neat frills, and Monsieur Kasparov's name attached, then you've got yourself a date with Virtual Kasparov !

-Sydney Riot, GameVortex Communications
AKA Will Grigoratos

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