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Anthony Adam
Board Game
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Bourne

Artic have made claims in the past to being the producers of the best computer chess games for the Spectrum - it's obviously a matter for argument! Death Chess 5000 is a novel departure from the chess format and certainly no ordinary chess game as it incorporates arcade sequences within the framework of normal chess. For a start off the chess board, although traditional, has quite different looking pieces.

Pawns are represented by tanks, kings and queens resemble lethal looking missile combinations, bishops look like high powered science fiction wind surfers, only knights and rooks are instantly recognisable. In all respects the strategy and rules of chess apply. But what makes Death Chess 5000 really different is that when you challenge the computer's pieces or vice versa the screen cuts to an arcade sequence. Winner of the arcade game retains status quo on the board. So, if you move to take a computer operated piece, before you can you must fight it out. The computer may win, in which case you will loose your challenge piece instead.

There are six different games. Pawn takes pawn: you must drive your tank forward to save the city whilst avoiding the bombs raining down from an over-flying helicopter. Bishop takes bishop: escape from the vaults of the enemy avoiding the ghosts. Knight takes knight: hit the enemy horsemen before they reach your edge of the screen. Rook takes rook: scale a tower avoiding the falling barrels of oil. Queen takes queen: navigate the star trench and hit the enemy flagship. Piece takes different piece: shoot through the galactic barrier to hit the opposing ship.

Additionally it is possible to select a normal game of chess without the arcade sequences. On either game there are seven levels of play from 0 to 6. The easiest level replies in 2 seconds, level 4 in five minutes and levels 5 and 6 play a strong game and take a long time. Input is with the traditional chess notation. In the straightforward chess mode Death Chess will recommend a move if desired. Castling is allowed with the King's move entered, and capturing en passant by pawns. Games may be saved or sent to hard copy if you have a printer.


'Chess is a natural for the computer and I have enjoyed many games, many versions, so I was very dubious when I loaded Death Chess 5000. My suspicions deepened when I saw the pieces. Chess boards on computers naturally tend to be small and novel piece design can be confusing. On top of that, would a game of chess interrupted by arcade sequences be a travesty? Well the answer is no. I haven't had as much fun in a long while in fact. On the chess side, Death Chess is a perfectly good game and a few minutes play gets one used to the odd looking pieces. All the arcade sequences are well done. In fact plunging into the trench is a better looking game than Rabbit's Death Star. I can highly recommend this version of chess to anyone who not only likes a serious chess game but is also looking for a new angle on the game.'

'After seeing the screen load I felt that this could not be an ordinary chess game. I was right. The arcade bits are pretty good, as good as you could expect from a multi-game package such as this. The combat idea is refreshingly different from traditional chess; so that if your strategy is not up to scratch you can make up for it with arcade skill. Problem is that the reverse is also true of course. Overall, a nice change from chess, but l don 't think it will get to world tournament level!'

'As soon as you start playing you can see why the traditional chess pieces have been redesigned. The chess graphics are well defined and easy to see with a definite shape. Board colour combinations are very good (green and white pieces on blue and black). The graphics in the game sequences are large, detailed and smooth. The trench sequence has an effective use of shadow under your ship. Most of the game ideas are good, some good enough to be games on their own. Attic couldn't do much to improve this game, except perhaps by really having knights jousting and tanks firing missiles for real on the playing board.'

Control keys: chess - alphanumeric input, Q-T/A-G up/down, O/P left/right and bottom row to fire
Joystick: ZX 2
Keyboard play: responsive
Use of colour: generall quite good
Graphics: well detailed and recognisable, generally very large
Sound: not much
Skill levels: 7
Originality: chess isn't exactly original, but this version is very different
General Rating: For both serious and non-serious chess players, very good value and generally recommended.


Screenshot Text

Unusual pieces in Death Chess.

Rescue the city and save your piece, just one of the many arcade treats.