Developed and published by PUNKCAKE Delicieux Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate is an indie chess-based turn-based twin-stick shooter. In this PC title, you play an evil shotgun-wielding King out for revenge and packing heat. It is a story of betrayal, vengeance, and erm, chess! Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate has been an odd one to review but a fun one.
Behind the slightly wacky concept, Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate hides a great gaming experience. And makes for what might well be one of my favourite games this year. With a cool soundtrack and an ever-evolving challenge thanks to its upgrade system there is a lot to enjoy. However whilst the game is a lot of fun it can be terribly difficult. As you are essentially playing a game of chess with only one piece. Which might prove a little too hard for some players.
STORY – HAIL TO THE KING BABY!
In Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate you play the villainous Black King. An all-around nasty piece of work if ever there was one. He is a mean 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 being replaced by the far nicer and virtuous White King. And with that, the Black King sets out on a quest for revenge to save the day (at least from his point of view) and reinstate his ruthless rule once more.
As you can tell by the title and the premise the Shotgun King is a tongue-in-cheek affair. This isn’t some deep and dark revenge story that is an allegory for the writer’s daddy issues. It is a more comedic story. And from a pure writing point of view, it’s decent. It is every bit as humorous as it needs to be without being too self-referential or without undermining itself by being too irreverent. Sure, it isn’t the funniest title I have reviewed in my time working for Keengamer but it is still a lot of fun. Shotgun King didn’t need a story, but the story it has is a lot of fun and really adds to the experience.
GAMEPLAY – THIS IS MY BOOM STICK!
If I had a penny for every time I reviewed a chess-inspired twin-stick shooter then I’d have two pennies. Which I grant you isn’t much, but it’s wired that it’s happened this many times. As previously stated Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate is an indie chess-based twin-stick shooter. However, unlike Chess Is Stupid you are far more restricted as you must follow the rules of chess more closely. Now, this review isn’t going to become some comparison between the two titles. As I feel that is frankly disrespectful to both games and their development teams. They are both different games with different aims and quirks.
Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate is a hard game to pin down as far as what one would describe it. As to give it its fair dues, is an Indie Turn Based Twin-Stick Rogue-lite Chess Puzzle game. All the pieces in the game, including your own move as they would in a conventional game of chess; Bishops can move diagonally, Rooks in straight lines and so forth. And other pieces only move when it is their turn to do so. However, unlike your standard chess game, you defeat other pieces by using your trusty shotgun. To complete a level you must either destroy all the enemy pieces or kill the enemy king. Once a level is completed you are given the choice of one of two upgrades. And, in the event that you die you have to restart from the beginning.
INSANE IN THE UPGRADE
The upgrade system is itself not without its own challenges. Each upgrade you get will also grant an upgrade to the enemy side. These upgrades can mean their side getting more of a particular type of piece, or they might get to move further, or attack at a greater range. This somewhat bucks the trend in titles like this where you can end up becoming far more overpowered than your foes. And adds an extra dimension to your upgrade choices. Sure, you could pick an upgrade that makes you more powerful, or gives you an extra life, but that might also give your foes more Queens. So sometimes you are better off taking a worse upgrade just to stop the enemy from getting a better advantage.
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 aren’t careful you can easily find yourself getting trapped into unwinnable positions if you just 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 game due to some unforeseen quirk or trap, I have lost due to my own mistakes. And given that, outside the impact that the upgrades can have on your enemy team, the levels are identical each play through I can always come back and try again.
BISHOP GOES SIDEWAYS
To be blunt with you dear reader, whilst I have enjoyed playing through Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate for this review I know that it isn’t the game for everyone. The difficulty of it can and will make it a tall order for more casual gamers. And despite technically being a twin-stick you can’t play the game with a controller. Well, you technically can if you play the game via steam but at that point, you are essentially just using the controller as a mouse.
Otherwise, the game controls perfectly fine with the mouse. And given that this is turned-based and isn’t as much of a twin-stick shooter as Chess Is Stupid it isn’t like you need quick reflexes. Shotgun King is a slower-paced game. More tactical in nature. And I feel that if you are looking for an action puzzle game with a solid challenge then this might be the game for you. And thankfully for those who really do dig it, there is an Endless mode that you can unlock after completing Throne Mode once. Well, providing that you are skilled enough.
GRAPHICS & SOUND – THE QUEEN’S KETCHUP
The graphics and art style are fairly your typical pixel art affair. With each piece almost resembling the designs on some early home computer chess games. Complete with a CRT style filter to add to the throwback feel. This is apt given that in general Shotgun King has this retro aesthetic look and sound to it. In truth, it feels more like a general pastiche more than a specific reference to any particular game or platform. This isn’t a bad thing. As this makes the game feel far more unique rather than a tribute to one thing or another.
The soundtrack and sound design of the title are also decent. Like I say, the title is somewhat retro-inspired, with the soundtrack itself sounding rather synthwave-like and the sound effects sounding sufficiently 8bit and gameic. It acts as great background to the adventure itself and helps to create a solid title overall. The sound and graphic production of Shotgun King are really top-notch. As good as it looks the title’s design is practical as well. You can easily tell what pieces are about to move, and the range of your shotgun, and when you hover the mouse over a piece you get to see the health and a diagram showing how the piece in question can move. Which is a great addition for anyone who isn’t familiar with chess and how the pieces move!
Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate was reviewed on PC via STEAM.