Chess is the game of kings, at least so the saying goes. The history of this game can be traced back to almost 1500 years ago, to India where it started. From there, it spread across to Persia and the world.
A game of strategy and patience, many games have embraced this art form, from the early years and portable chess machines and then on PC; chess games where the pieces would battle each other. But what happens if you give these pieces a backstory and personality and then… a shotgun. Well, Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate opens up a new world in the game of kings.
The whole idea of combining a game of chess with a twin shooting mechanic should win all the awards at the end of the year. In Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate you play as the evil black king. Nothing is redeeming about this protagonist, like a cartoon villain who just wants to rule the kingdom with terror, defeating his enemies no matter what the cost. But the king is betrayed by the black bishop, and so gets kitted out with a shotgun from the vaults. From there, he goes on a rampage to destroy the white king.
There isn’t a huge story here because it’s all about the gameplay. But what it does do it does very well with humour and glee. I like playing the villain and just love the whole setup of the story itself.
In terms of gameplay, Shotgun King follows the same system and rules as chess. In each of the floors that you play, you just have your king to start with and a limited amount of ammo for your shotgun. On the opposite white team, you will have their kind and depending on the level several pieces; Pawns, Rooks, Knights, Bishops, and the Queen. What you have to do is basically kill off the pieces on the board, making the most of your shotgun or going straight for the king, taking him out to win the game. Each piece has different hit points and this will determine how many shots are required to take them down.
Once you win a level – or a floor as they like to be called – you get a choice between upgrade cards. You may get extra power in your shotgun, or it may take away a Knight from the opposing board. But the kicker is that whenever you choose a card, the opposing side will also get a card. Whilst you may be happy with a shotgun upgrade, they might get an extra Queen on the board. It’s a nice system that ensures you need to rethink your tactics, keeping the game forever challenging.
If you like chess and have a good understanding of how the game works, then you should be well sorted with Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate. However, there’s a chance that if you have never played the standard game before, or haven’t found love with chess itself, even with the addition of a shotgun, you might struggle here. It is a tricky game but not unforgiving; just let it be known that various tactics are required in order to succeed. Once you are done with the main mode – the Throne mode with its multiple floors – then this unlocks an endless mode for those who want to go on and on with the game.
The sound and the visuals have a full-on 8-bit retro vibe to them. Visually the game uses pixel art with its style for the board, pieces, and upgrade cards. But the cutscenes utilise still comic book scenes that wouldn’t look out of place on a ZX Spectrum. The soundtrack complements; a perfect mix of effects and synth soundtrack to fit perfectly with the game’s design.
I’ve loved the twist on the standard chess mechanics that comes with Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate. It feels like a different game each and every time you play, challenging but not impossible to grasp. Yes, it may get a bit repetitive after a while, especially after the main Throne experience, but ultimately this is chess… with a shotgun. Does it need any further selling?