I didn’t always have access to video games growing up. So, when the changing of the seasons pushed me indoors, I often turned to chess to fill the colder months. And while virtual chess games are easy to find these days, Checkmate Showdown offers a unique experience that’s part hectic instinct and part meditative strategy.
Checkmate Showdown largely functions as a chess game. The board — deemed a battlefield by the developers — hosts the usual court of pieces and follows long-established patterns. However, taking my opponent’s tokens requires me to win a actual fight, complete with combos and tag team mechanics. So, hopping into a game means putting both reflexes and strategic thinking to the test. The unusual match-up makes for a fair rainy-day diversion.
There are several different modes, both online and off. But considering the nature of chess, you need an opponent to play. That can be a friend on the couch, a stranger on the internet, or a CPU waiting on a chance to destroy you.
Aiming to make the game accessible for fighting game enthusiasts unused to chess and chess aficionados lacking in arena experience, the developers have created a suitable friendly systems. Touching board pieces highlights all their possible movements, while the fighting combos are easy to pick up — though leaving room for skilled players to engage more deeply.
My mid-level skills in either of the game’s disparate genres means a win is hard-earned. There are certainly players ready ruthlessly cut through the board and my defense. The CPU is no pushover either, and I would have liked to have difficulty options here.
However, I do hope Checkmate Showdown catches on in the competitive scene, because it seems made for spectation. I can only imagine watching a chess master who just also happens to be a top-tier fighting game player would be a sight to behold.