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Check vs. Mate PC Review

Check vs. Mate is a title I heard about while over in Europe back in 2010 (known as Battle vs. Chess in the European countries). It was a title that promised me my childhood. The 3-page fold-out poster that came with the local German magazine offered me so much. Battle Chess would be back with a burning vengeance.

A little back story: Back in the days of old when people had to use DOS to play games and illiterate people were unable to operate a computer, Battle Chess came out. It was a simple game that had 2 modes: versus AI or versus another player. Back then, skill settings for the computer didn’t exist and every match against the computer was a slow but sure defeat. It was a game that occupied much of my childhood as I intentionally offered pieces to the enemy just to watch the unique ways they could kill each other off (all 6 chess pieces had a way to call any of the other 6, making this game quite entertaining on a rainy day). It was a more innocent time back then.

As they say, the first thing lost in war – and lousy video games – is innocence. I’ve quickly come to the realization that any game I want to be decent this year is going to let me down. Check vs. Mate has only served to prove my theory. Before I sorrowfully load into the game’s flaws, I do feel obligated to mention its strengths. The graphics are beautifully displayed cartoon designs. Additionally, there is a difference between the black and white pieces, allowing for a total of 12 unique characters. It even has some pretty decent sound. So where did Check vs. Mate go wrong? It got lazy sometime after they finished designing the characters.

The first error is that it lacks personality. Battle Chess was a very simple title. It had a total of 6 characters and a blue and red version of each. The updated Check vs. Mate has a total of 12 unique avatars and should therefore be capable of even more death animations than its predecessor. However, this is where things begin to go wrong. Regardless of which piece is captured, every unit will have the same kill. Whether it’s a slash, a breath of fire, or a simple swing of a massive stone mace, all the kills are the same. A bishop will kill a queen in the same manner he uses to end a pawn, and so will a rook. While these make fine filler animations, the meat is gone. It’s bland and boring. Players would have as much fun with this title as any of the countless free online chess sites available to them.

But wait! There’s additional features, right? There’s a paper thin DDR-style battle system, and a ‘tactical’ combat gameplay mode (both of which destroy traditional chess rules in favor of mindless mini-game fun). Additionally, one of the designers must have read a scenario book, because the game offers a few cute puzzles for when a full game of chess isn’t what the player wants. Even the alleged storyline is just puzzles with text before them.

Check vs. Mate screams half-baked. If I didn’t know that it’s been out over in home turf England for the last year, I’d be convinced I was playing a bootleg port of the alpha. It’s an incomplete title that tripped twenty meters at the finish line and didn’t even feel the need to get up for third place. Rather, it sprinted off the track to go hang out with Operation Raccoon City behind the bleachers.

Perhaps the biggest insult in all of this is the multiplayer system. Chess is designed to be played with someone else, and while the single computer play works just fine, the online is straight out of networking hell. It’s a system that took my buddy and I two hours to get working properly – and we had to use Tuungle to do it. Put simply, it’s just not worth your time.

In the game’s defense, it is a solid chess title. Most children getting into chess would probably have a blast with it. The problem is that it’s not what we were promised and it’s not what it should be. Check vs. Mate could have been very good if the developers hadn’t been lazy with character animations, or if someone had taken the time to write a legitimate story. Plus, the multiplayer experience is difficult for anyone who isn’t certified through CompTIA. Had some more time been put into it, this could easily have brought in flocks of old gamers who haven’t touched computers since King’s Quest stopped being 2D. However, Check vs. Mate is an empty attempt that I can see being sold on Steam for $3 during the Christmas sale.

4 out of 10