Chesstopia II

by John C. Knudsen profile

Episode 2 of Chesstopia

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Chess and time travel, but I want more, January 20, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

The author of the Peter Patzer series decided, after a long hiatus, to switch things up a bit. The Chesstopia series is a bit more serious, focusing on actual improvement and spreading appreciation of chess, and it doesn't have some of the parser bugs and helter-skelter feel that made Peter Patzer charming in its own way. The whole series shouldn't be very intimidating. I felt C2 was probably the most substantial of the three, but it should not take more than a half-hour.

The plot is this: Caissa, the chess Goddess who set you on the path to chess enlightenment in Chesstopia, has informed you that nobody can play chess because a bishop from her personal collection of sets is missing. Harsh, but she makes the rules.

Your quest consists of poking around the area. You have three stats: happiness, a chess rating, and strength. (Spoiler - click to show)None of these matter, and, in fact, they seem to increase or decrease your stats randomly. The time machine is the main attraction here. With it you visit historical figures and play chess with them--or not. Figuring whom to challenge and whom to evade is the main mechanical crux of C2. You have a few moral decisions, and once that's over, you report back to Caissa. You can actually fetch the missing bishop but lose.

This doesn't make C2 very replayable, beyond the slightly harsh but amusing insteadeaths. The first time through, though, it is fun to poke around, and it appears to be a lot less on rails than C1 or C3. Given how quickly the game ended once I found the bishop, I'd have hoped for more interaction with the NPCs crowded around Caissa at your home base, when mostly. There were all kinds of ideas I wish had been developed.

The other two entries are worth playing if you are a fan of chess, but the choices are a bit too obvious at times. Here there's imagination and conflict and a bit of loss, and you don't feel like being asked "Come on, you want to win, here, right?" C2 is fun for what it is, and it seems like the author had much more to offer, especially since they hosted a correspondence chess website. The conflicts of long games versus short games, tricks versus general knowledge, and so forth, seem like fertile ground that could keep non-chessplayers interested, stuff that might even be natural to the author but they might blow off as "but everybody knows that." (They don't! Experienced chess players forget that, yes, the Opera game or even Scholar's Mate was neat when we first saw it.) Instead C2 feels just a bit like wish fulfillment, though it's a wish I might not mind, either. Maybe Chess Limbo is where it's really at.

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