Checkmate Showdown Preview: Take Shots At The King

“I play chess like a wet sock,” admits Antoine Bordeleau.
Checkmate Showdown‘s marketing partner and I are facing each other in an early preview of the chess-meets-fighting-game title. Unfortunately, it seems like fighting games aren’t his forte either as I stomp him into the dust whenever our pieces encounter each other.

In fairness, my challenger was meant to be a member of the development team. However, during my session, the team was getting the pre-alpha build prepped for today’s reveal, which unexpectedly required all developers to man their battle stations. This unfortunate change of plans left Antoine in the unenviable position of sitting across the board from me that morning. Luckily, the game — currently being developed by ManaVoid Entertainment and BadRez Games — is being built for players less skilled in its interesting mix of genres.

The game starts with all the traditional pieces, and each — rooks, knights, bishops, etc. — move exactly like they do in the real-world game. A pair of clocks above the virtual battlefield counts down from five minutes whenever the corresponding player takes their turn. I thought at first this meant I had five minutes to make a move per round, but I soon regretted the assumption.

I actually only had five minutes in the entire game to make my moves. Every time I stopped to think, the proverbial sand poured through my hourglass. And I couldn’t get it back, making every turn more and more desperate for time. So much for a leisurely game.

An even bigger twist on the ancient game’s formula is having the pieces literally fight each other. I quickly tested this out with a bishop, who I slid sneakily into place to attack a rival, king-defending rook.

Once the two pieces touched, the board disappeared and I found myself controlling a lithe fighter with a familiarly shaped head. It turned out to be a less balanced match than I expected because my opponent transformed into a hulking brute crowned with crenelations.

Unlike many fighting games that require players to memorize a huge list of movesets to dominate, Checkmate Showdown is built around shorter, more versatile combos. Even without seeing the moves before the start of the match, I quickly identified the jump, melee, dash, and power-up buttons.

These I tried in different orders, noting when something triggered a particularly punishing result. I didn’t lose a single bout that match. Afterward, Bordeleau took me through the work-in-progress menu explaining the team is truly aiming to build a game even newcomers to the fighting genre can pick up.

And that may be more than the developers bargained for as the buzz surrounding Street Fighter 6 draws players in. The team got a sense of this a few months ago when the title caught the public eye during GDC. Bordeleau talked to me about the heady confusion behind the scenes as thousands of fans seem to manifest overnight. And with chess’s reemergence in pop culture with hit shows like Queen’s Gambit, he and the team hope even more players will be interested in checking the game out now its been featured in the OTK Showcase.

Checkmate Showdown doesn’t have a set release date yet, but its Kickstarter is up for anyone that want to back the title and Bordeleau promises more news by the end of the summer.

One response to “Checkmate Showdown Preview: Take Shots At The King”

  1. […] this being a World Premiere, but I’d just like to point out The Indie Informer dove into a preview of this game back in June. If you’re a fan of chess or fighting games, you’ll want to check it out […]

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