Before anything else, we’d like to thank Punkcake Délicieux for a press copy of the game!
Now that that’s out of the way, Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate is a game of chess but in a world where the black king piece has a shotgun and there’s a bunch of modifiers to the board. The concept is very silly, but what’s cool is that it ends up being a highly strategic and surprisingly difficult roguelite.
The goal of Shotgun King is to climb through 12 floors of a chessboard dungeon and kill the boss at the top. Instead of your side of the board having a typical set of chess pieces, it’s just your king and his shotgun.
Shooting your shotgun uses 1 shell in the clip and then you have to move to a new square to reload. The white chess pieces have a movement speed system to them; most pieces move every other turn instead of every turn, as indicated by the pieces shaking.
There’s also an interesting card system where at the end of each stage both your king piece and the opposite side of the board get an upgrade. You have to choose between two rewards which one has the best advantage and least disadvantage, such as adding 4 pawns to the stage, but your gun gets more range, or swapping a pawn for a bishop. It’s a really cool balancing act that adds a lot more depth and run variety to the game.
You would think that having a shotgun in a game of chess would make it easier, but actually, I’ve found the game to be incredibly difficult. You really have to think about and calculate each move you take and pay attention to what pieces you’re shooting at. Simply shooting the wrong pawn could place you in checkmate, thus ending the run.
I’ve found myself in several situations where I had to stop and think and seriously plan out my move, only for it to fall apart due to a bishop I wasn’t paying attention to. Even if you find the game’s starting difficulties easy, there are 2 more difficulties to be unlocked and an endless mode to climb. I really thought going in this would be a pretty mindless adventure to go on, blindly shooting pieces off the board while waiting for dinner, but the reality is you have to think as if it’s an actual game of chess.
I really like the pixel-y presentation of Shotgun King. The noises all have a crunchy punch to them and when combined with the screen shake and the pieces exploding into bits, the game has an incredibly satisfying game feel.
My only criticism of the game is that the music isn’t very notable or interesting and is more there for the ambiance, but that is a very minor issue. The controls just require a mouse to point and click, and there are a few accessibility options mostly related to visuals.
Shotgun King is actually more interesting than I could have hoped for, and it’s impressive for the short development time and the reasonable asking price. The strategic components of the game were surprisingly challenging, and I like the card system a lot. I highly recommend this strategic coffee break roguelite.
Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate
Chess with an attitude
+ Strategic, difficult gameplay
+ Visual presentation
+ Solid run variety
+ Nice replay value
– Wish for a more prominent soundtrack