Here's a draughts game you won't catch a cold from. Draughts Genius is the first release on Hewson's new Rack-It budget label, but don't fret - this isn't a cover to release old dross as new but cheaper dross. With Mastertronic handling the business end, Hewson promises a regular supply of high quality games at hilariously low prices. And starting it all off, Draughts Genius at £2.99, is a classy little package.
With eight levels of difficulty, it's you against the computer in the form of Einstein (sic!) who's rather nattily realised in the good, bright and colourful graphics. The violin-playing prof burps little speech bubbles to tell you it's your move, or that you've done something ilegal. He also scratches his head while thinking (and the screen turns blue), and looks bored if you take your time, though he's a good enough sport to shake hands if you're triumphant.
You're always black and go first if you're up against Einstein, but he can also play himself, or you can go into a human head-to-head. Most of the screen is the board so you're given a huge wide of your pieces than you'd get in many (more expensive) chess simulations.
Moves can be made with joystick or keyboard, and are achieved by clicking on a draught, then double clicking over the required square. This facility gives you the opportunity to suss out what a dumb move you've made and change your mind. On-screen info lets you know whose move it is, how many moves you've taken, which level you're on and the time elapsed.
All genius has its flaws of course, and this one's no exception. It only plays the "English" game, where you have to take, no huffing. This cuts down on possible subtleties. And I wonder if the early levels are not a little too easy. It wasn't until level five that I wasn't able to beat Einstein first whack. (But then you've always been a clever clogs, haven't you? Ed). Mind you, it makes a pleasant change to beat the machine, and gives the game tremendous playability for every age and skill. Let's hear a big cheer for a cheapie!