Phantom Force is one of those chess sets that uses magnets to move its own pieces. I always wanted stuff like this when I was a kid, and If I were still 10, I would be all over this thing.
As it is, it’s a cool toy, but not much of a chess set: the gimmick gets in the way of the game. But as a way to get youngsters away from the dangerous outside world, it has its charms.
On top of the loud, grinding magnet mechanism hidden underneath the board’s surface, it has sound effects, voiced warnings, and an integrated LCD display. The AI offers 136 levels of difficulty and is claimed to play at a 2000 Elo rating. You can set it to play certain opening lines, speak English, Spanish or French, and give you hints when you suck. It requires C batteries or the included A/C adapter.
It evokes The Turk, a fake chess playing automaton of the 18th century and one of science’s classic hoaxes. But in its array of fruity sound effects (swords clashing, horses neighing, cannons firing) it also recalls the annoying computer game Battlechess, which was also funny the first time.
If you need the gimmick, go for it. If you don’t, the same company’s cheaper toys offer the same AI features for far less than Phantom Force’s $249 retail price (It’s cheaper at Amazon).
Here’s some video of it in action.
Phantom Force [Amazon]