National Lampoon's Chess Maniac 5 Billion and 1. (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Jim Smith
Chess Maniac is a chess program that refuses to take itself seriously. In a market dominated by programs with an emphasis on speed and strength, a chess game with a definite sense of humor is a welcome break.
The manual for Chess Maniac, written in the style of National Lampoon magazine, is a delightful parody of everything pompous about intense chess players; however, the program itself is disappointing. It ships on 12 disks and requires 27MB of hard drive space--the installation process took over two hours on my system. Like too many games, it requires EMS, so I had to reconfigure my startup files to play.
The game is a fairly simple chess game which offers a choice of standard or animated character sets in either two- or three-dimensional views. You choose from ten opponent strength levels (the opponents tend to be weaker than those in other chess programs). Of course, if Chess Maniac was the chess program that grabbed your attention at the local computer emporium, you may be more interested in watching the on-screen antics of the chess pieces than in searching for a cybernetic Bobby Fischer anyway.
The pieces capture each other in unusual ways, ranging from a deathly lambada by the belly-dancing pawn to gory decapitations by the sickle-wielding rook. Frequently, animated distractions flash across the screen, and the program occasionally cheats by stealing your pieces. This is an interesting feature, but it isn't very useful to your computer opponent, since you can easily use the program's board editor to get your pieces back. Moving the pieces with the mouse can be very difficult, and at times it seems impossible to place a piece on the correct square. Two-dimensional and standard chess sets are available to help keep you oriented, as the character board is often cluttered and difficult to see.
Chess Maniac doesn't play world-class chess, but it does add some hilarious touches to what can be a staid, stuffy game. Unfortunately, the difficulty of discerning piece positions, along with the stiff hard drive requirements, puts a bit of a damper on the fun.