Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate Review: Kingly!

Developed and published by Delicious PUNKCAKE Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate is a chess-based turn-based twin-stick shooter. In this PC title, you play as an evil king armed with a shotgun for revenge and packing heat. It’s a story of betrayal, revenge and failures! Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate was weird to watch again but fun.

Behind the somewhat wacky concept, Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate hides a great gaming experience. And makes what might just be one of my favorite games this year. With a cool soundtrack and ever-changing challenge through its leveling system, there’s plenty to enjoy. However, although the game is great fun, it can be terribly difficult. As you are basically playing a game of chess with one piece. Which might prove a little too difficult for some players.

Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate is now available on Itch.io and STEAM.

STORY – SALUTE TO THE BABY KING!

In Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate you play as the evil Black King. A complete bad job if there ever was one. He is a wicked and decadent tyrant who rules his kingdom with an iron fist. However, one day, he is betrayed by the black bishop and he soon finds himself replaced by the much kinder and virtuous white king. And with that, the Black King embarks on a quest for revenge to save the day (at least from his perspective) and restore his ruthless rule once more.

In Shotgun King, you play as a less than noble king.

In Shotgun King, you play as a less than noble king.

As you can tell by the title and the premise, the Shotgun King is an ironic affair. It’s not a deep, dark revenge story that’s an allegory of the writer’s dad issues. It’s a more comedic story. And from a pure writing standpoint, it’s decent. It’s just as humorous as needed without being too self-referential or undermining itself by being too irreverent. Sure, it’s not the funniest title I’ve seen since working for Keengamer, but it’s still a lot of fun. Shotgun King didn’t need a story but the story it has is great fun and really adds to the experience.

GAMEPLAY – THIS IS MY BOOM STICK!

If I had a penny every time I reviewed a chess-inspired twin-stick shooter, I’d have two pennies. What I’m granting you isn’t much, but it’s wired that it’s happened so many times. As previously stated Shotgun king: the final checkmate is an indie chess-based shooter. However, unlike Chess is stupid you are much more limited because you have to follow the rules of chess more closely. Now, this review will not become a comparison between the two titles. As I think it’s downright disrespectful to both games and their development teams. They are two different games with different goals and quirks.

Kill the enemy king and the rest will crumble.

Kill the enemy king and the rest will crumble.

Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate is a hard game to pin down insofar as one would describe it. As if to give it its due, is an Indie Turn Based Twin-Stick Rogue-lite chess puzzle game. All game pieces, including your own move, as they would in a conventional chess game; Bishops can move diagonally, rooks in straight lines and so on. And the other pieces only move when it’s their turn to do so. However, unlike your standard chess set, you defeat other pieces using your trusty shotgun. To complete a level, you must either destroy all enemy pieces or kill the enemy king. Once a level is completed, you have a choice of one of two upgrades. And, in case you die, you have to start over from the beginning.

CRAZY IN UPGRADE

The leveling system itself is not without its own challenges. Each upgrade you get will also grant an upgrade to the enemy side. These upgrades can mean their side gets more of a particular piece type, or they can move farther or attack at greater range. This goes somewhat against the trend in titles like this where you can end up becoming much more overpowered than your enemies. And adds an extra dimension to your upgrade choices. Sure, you can choose an upgrade that makes you more powerful or gives you an extra life, but it could also give your enemies more queens. So sometimes it’s better to take a worse upgrade just to prevent the enemy from getting a better advantage.

Shotgun King's upgrade system adds an extra layer of complexity.

Shotgun King’s upgrade system adds an extra layer of complexity.

Shotgun King can be an incredibly difficult game, even on the lowest of difficulties. You are essentially playing a game of chess with one piece. And if you’re not careful, you can easily find yourself trapped in unwinnable positions if you treat this like a turn-based shooter and not a game of chess. However, as difficult as it is, the difficulty is fair; I have never lost a match due to an unforeseen whim or trap, I have lost due to my own mistakes. And since, aside from the impact upgrades can have on your enemy team, the levels are the same every game, I can always come back and try again.

THE BISHOP GOES AWAY

To be frank with you dear reader, while I enjoyed playing through Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate for this review, I know this is not the game for everyone. The difficulty of this one can and will make it quite a challenge for more casual players. And although it’s technically a twin-stick you can’t play the game with a controller. Well, technically you can if you’re playing the game through Steam, but at this point you’re basically using the controller as a mouse.

Despite using a soul, I still put myself in an unwinnable state.

Despite using a soul, I still put myself in an unwinnable state.

Otherwise, the game is perfectly controlled with the mouse. And given that it’s a turn-based game and it’s not as much of a two-handed shooter as Chess is stupid it’s not like you need quick reflexes. Shotgun King is a slower paced game. More tactical in nature. And I think if you’re looking for an action puzzle game with a solid challenge, then this might be the game for you. And luckily for those who really dig it, there’s an Endless Mode you can unlock after completing Throne Mode once. Well, provided you are qualified enough.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND – THE QUEEN’S KETCHUP

The graphics and art style are pretty typical of your pixel art business. Each piece almost resembling the designs of some early computer chess games. Complete with a CRT style filter to add to the feedback feel. This is appropriate since in general Shotgun King has that retro aesthetic and sound look. In truth, it feels more like a general pastiche than a specific reference to a particular game or platform. That’s not a bad thing. As it makes the game much more unique rather than a tribute to one thing or another.

If you're bored, you can count the scanlines.

If you’re bored, you can count the scanlines.

The soundtrack and sound design of the title are also decent. Like I said, the title is somewhat retro-inspired, with the soundtrack itself looking more like a synthwave and the sound effects sounding sufficiently 8-bit and playful. It acts as a great background for the adventure itself and helps create a solid title overall. The sound and graphic production of Shotgun King are really on top. As beautiful as it sounds, the title design is also practical. You can easily tell which pieces are about to move and the range of your shotgun, and when you mouse over a piece you can see the health and a diagram showing how the piece in question can move. Which is a great addition for anyone unfamiliar with chess and how pieces move!

Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate was reviewed on PC via STEAM.

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