In the new game ‘Checker Kingdoms’, by developer Centurion Games, one will find a multitude of reasons for which the stock value for your favorite headache remedy of choice is about to sky rocket. Whether it’s Tylenol, Advil, or bourbon, if this game hits the mainstream for any reason – stock owners of said companies will rejoice. Having been adorned with a $0.99 price tag here in the US, at least anyone who has fallen prey to what sounds like a cool concept will fortunately not be feeling the hurt in the wallet as well as in their cranium.
Checker Kingdoms, (CK from here on in – just a head’s up), takes the simple childhood favorite Checkers and dresses it up for the new era of gamers. Thus adding some of the coolness of custom chess sets to a world that is usually ruled by black and red – and no I don’t mean the alcoholic beverage, though that might help me feel better. In CK we are treated to themed boards such as; classic, WWII, and sci-fi. Each of the boards features it’s own board/staging ground and it’s own pieces. In WWII you roll a tank and maybe even perhaps hold a Generals rank. In sci-fi you get to fly either man made space craft, or become alien invaders using bio-mechanical craft. Sounds cool right? Well, as far as I can tell that’s the only thing they got right. Cool factor gains them one point. Doing a competent job on graphics, that gains them another point. However, let’s talk about layout and playability.
In CK the board is set on an angle so that you perceive the board as a diamond shape and not a square. At first I thought this was simply a default view that could be changed, perhaps a good way to show off their animations, sadly though you are stuck in this mode and this is where most of my headache began. This mode made my eyes go buggy right from the get go. I couldn’t properly make the correct spacial relationships between where pieces are and where they were going, couldn’t rightly tell where a jump would take place or not, and I couldn’t right off the bat figure out how to tell if I was about to lose either. Four hours later I have determined that either -I-simply suck that hard core at checkers, and my years spent as house champion at checkers was all a lie, or that the computer (even set on dumber and dumbest level) is really a chess playing god in disguise. I’ll freely admit that I have been taught the basic rules and moves for chess and have played for over 15 years and still in this time have only managed to win three games ever. I will also fully disclose that one of those games was while playing against myself. That being said, playing chess sounded like a lot more fun and I felt more confident at winning at that than ever winning against the CPU here. Force jumps are not only enforced here but are also not able to be turned off, and the computer uses this to it’s calculated advantage. It will guide you into set ups where you will unintentionally commit eight of your pieces to their death in one turn, this really happened, true story. The controls in this game are finicky at best and if that undo button weren’t present, my iPhone would also not be. I think they would somehow find it in the tenth dimension, and promptly declare war on it. I even tried using my pogo sketch stylus here to try and make picking the proper pieces more accurate, but that didn’t help either. There are other features to discuss though.
One such feature, which I welcomed graciously, is iPod integration. Allowing the typical, add your own soundtrack sort of option. Though I did not notice any sort of mini player control. Just an on/off switch in settings. Open Feint is used here, and probably just because it was easier for them that way. I didn’t notice any achievements here, just the ability to challenge others. You can do local or online multi-player action. Sadly for my testing no one was around for a sample of the online gaming experience. They also had an option/button that leads right to their website, but that doesn’t do much either. All that is left is my other gripes.
I suppose some of these are just nit-picking but I thought they were worth mentioning. There is no dead body counter. No auxiliary method of keeping score of how many of the CPU’s men have fallen, just have to count those that remain on the board. I always thought half the fun of playing chess or checkers was to line up the dead and taunt the opponent with them. Another gripe is the board itself is sort of trippy. It would play tricks on my eyes big time. This one is very minor but it stood out to me as obvious. In the two levels that have custom pieces, they don’t always fire their weapons directly at the opponent. They have the cannons stuck in one position and still hit a target that is in the opposite direction. I know it’s a cheap game but talk about lazy.
In conclusion, this game has much to improve upon if they ever want me to spend a dollar on this title personally. From the AI that is a genius (even when the slider is set to idiot level), to the game board that makes my eyes wobble and my head spin, to the magic bullets being fired from tank statues, all of these need improved. I just have to say thanks for taking a cool idea and ruining it for everybody. Three points out of ten for what little was done right.
Game rated on a ten point system.