I really like this Kindle version of a classic game.
The option to fire a single shot or a salvo of shots adds to the fun.”
Chess (4/5 stars, all ages, currently priced at 99 cents)
Since its origin in India more than 1,400 years ago, chess has become one of the world’s favorite pastimes. This culturally transcendent game of strategy and intellectual warfare now unfolds in the palm of your hand with AI Factory’s challenging Chess app.
Based on AI’s innovative Treebeard gaming engine, the app allows you to play chess with a more human style. It’s a trait not found on typical chess programs and represents a modern approach that pays homage to the grandmasters of this ancient board game.
The chess engine that eventually evolved into Treebeard sprouted back 1976 within the chess program Merlin. In the nearly two decades that followed, its code morphed and had a notable appearance from 1997-2003 as the force behind Shotest, a world-renown Shogi program. Shogi originated 1,000 years ago after the early, Indian version of chess moved east from the Asian land mass to the Japanese islands.
In 2004 the Shotest engine was reworked for chess and renamed as Treebeard. The first appearance of its current form came with the release of the Global Star Tournament Chess II program, and it drives Microsoft’s MSN Chess.
See Treebeard’s next potential move outlined in blue, one around the piece and another around the square it may occupy, while the legal moves of your selected piece are shown with green dots.
The game analysis Treebeard uses is unique and proprietary to AI Factory: unlike conventional programs, the engine does not search millions of positions to counter your moves. Instead, Treebeard uses a probability-directed search to examine fewer positions but with greater detail.
With such a powerful engine driving AI’s Chess app, your mental mettle will be tested, and, when combined with the app’s well-designed user interface, you have the opportunity to hone your chess game to a sublime point.
Featuring 10 levels of difficulty, Chess is suitable for novice and expert players alike. Treebeard employs intelligent-weakening for the lower levels, which makes it perfect for beginning players, too. There’s also a complete chess-move manual included for those completely unfamiliar with the game.
While there are many unique aspects of the app, one in particular proves helpful in improving your game at any level: the Show CPU Thinking option. Once activated, Chess reveals which move Treebeard is considering next by placing a blue border around the piece the computer wants to move and another around it’s targeted square.
If you want to try your moves against a person rather than a machine, the app also has a two-player mode. Just like when you play against the computer, the manual mode allows you to use a game clock that limits play from 5 minutes to 60 minutes and moves from 5 to 60 seconds.
Chess’s user interface presents players with three chessboard layouts and three choices of chessmen to customize the feel of your game. In a game’s Match Settings screen, the handicap adjustment feature offers an interesting twist, whether you’re playing against the computer or a trash-talking opponent. In both modes you can choose to handicap the white chessmen by removing a pawn, knight, rook or queen. If playing the black chessmen against the computer, this option is particularly handy when testing your skills against Treebeard’s higher levels.
After checkmate, you’re immediately presented with the option to step back through each of your moves to see how you won, or lost, the game. Chess also stores your gaming history and generates statistics based on your level of play against Treebeard.
The app features full touchscreen and trackball capabilities. The free version of the game is supported by unobtrusive banner ads. Whether you’re playing against Treebeard or against a living opponent, Chess will help you continually push the limits of your game.
Checkers (4/5 stars, all ages, currently priced at 99 cents)
Classic Gameplay, Current Technology
Checkers features a robust game engine that works well on both tablets and smart[device]s. Smooth animations and tastefully designed graphics make for an effortless gaming experience, while useful functions like Undo and Hints add to the rich interactivity.
Play two-player games against another person or try your hand in one-player games against a computer opponent. In one-player games, ten difficulty levels ranging from Beginner to Expert allow you to scale opponent skill level to match your own. Unlike many commercial checkers programs, Checkers correctly plays the common 2K v K; essential for quality checkers play.
Play Your Way
Custom tailor your gaming experience with a number of different options. Forced captures, a rule in official U.S. and English matches, can be turned on or off. Select from different boards and different piece styles, and toggle Sound and Screen Transitions on or off.
A helpful How To Play section quickly brings newcomers up to speed on the basic rules of gameplay. Keep track of your progress by viewing the statistics page, which tracks Wins, Draws, Losses, and Win Percentage for each difficulty level played. Checkers is ad-free.
Backgammon (4/5 stars, all ages, currently priced at 99 cents)
Play the ancient tables game of skill, strategy, and luck on your [device] with Backgammon. This version of the game is full-featured and free of advertisements, with challenging AI, pass-and-play multiplayer, and a host of helpful options.
The uncluttered, attractive interface of Backgammon makes it easy for experienced players to jump right in and new players to learn the ropes. A helpful “How to Play” link on the home page runs you through playing and choosing gameplay settings for Backgammon with your [device]‘s controls. From there you can read the rules if you are unsure of how the game itself is played.
Let’s Get Started
Once you’re ready to start, you’ll either select a single player game against the challenging AI or two-player pass-and-play multiplayer. You’ll then get to choose the color of your piece (white or black), set the difficulty of the AI from one to five, choose between one and fifteen points to play per match, and set the presence of the doubling cube on or off. Keep it selected to raise the stakes of a round and put pressure on your opponent.
You can also choose to turn off CPU-controlled dice rolls with the “Manual Dice input” feature on the “CPU Strategy” page. With this option selected, you provide the entries based on dice rolls from an outside source, like real dice or a dice app.
A Helping Hand
Backgammon provides an “Undo” button during gameplay if you decide to change the previous move and a “Hint” feature in the menu to suggest what the best possible move would be for a player to choose next. It also can optionally highlight all legal moves on the board to assist players with seeing their options and speeding up the gameplay.
This app is all about convenience for its mobile audience, catering to it with speedy play options like the ability to speed up turn movement animations. If you’re playing on the go or need to exit quickly, the game also has a “Save and Quit” option to keep your game progress.
Backgammon tracks the current match statistics–including the score, dice total used per player, and doubles used–which you can view with a simple menu option. The app also provides historical gameplay statistics, including total points scored, opponents’ pieces hit, doubles rolled, and amount of matches and rounds won by the player or the CPU on each difficulty.
Reversi (4.5/5 stars, all ages, currently priced at 99 cents)
A Classic Game of Wits
AI Factory’s Reversi brings the classic board game to your Android [device]. Reversi sports a clean and intuitive interface, features 10 levels of difficulty, and provides an Undo button if you want to make a different move. Play against the AI or a human opponent.
Reversi is played on an 8×8 grid. The game begins with four tokens: two light tokens for the first opponent and two dark tokens for the second opponent. The tokens are placed next to each other at the center of the board.
You must place your token so that two of your tokens are on two sides of your opponent’s single token or line of tokens. The tokens between your two tokens are then flipped over to your color. Conversely, your opponent flips your tokens to his color in the same manner.
The object of the game, of course, is to end up with more tokens by the time game board is filled up. Reversi, much like chess and go, is a duel of cunning strategy and cold logic. The corners and edges of the board are crucial to the game. You should do your best not to give up these positions.
Full of Options
This Reversi app comes loaded with options. Choose from two different boards and tokens, and toggle the sound, screen transitions, and legal moves. Get suggestions from the AI on your next move, and keep track of your games against the AI at all 10 levels. Reversi also comes with the full rules.