Game Reviews


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| Chesslike
| Chesslike

Chess was the original turn-based strategy game - or at least, it's the one that not only survived, but thrived in modern times.

From classes with specific powers to grid-based battlegrounds and turn-based movement, the influence is obvious.

Not many make the link quite as explicit as Chesslike, though.

Off the grid

There's no denying it, Chesslike is rough. It's really rough.

Its simple 2D graphics go well beyond the term 'retro,' there's absolutely no sound whatsoever, and it took me about half an hour to realise that the ugly level select screen had some kind of progressive structure to it.

Put simply, my first impressions of Chesslike were pretty rotten. But like a grandmaster pretending to be wounded and vulnerable before striking with an unforeseen pincer movement, the game soon had me at its mercy.

It's a simple premise, really. Imagine a straight forward roguelike dungeon crawler, but with chess pieces and their related movesets inserted in place of the usual fantasy warriors.

It results in a game that's low on spark and panache, but high in mechanical intrigue.

Pawn star

You start out in one of the game's three pre-made castles as a knight, with its typically wonky run. It forces you to make a staggered dash to each room's exit, past free-moving pawns and bishops and rooks, in a uniquely wary, considered manner.

If you're like me, encountering a sword or a shield for the first time in one of these castles will be the moment the game really clicks for you.

Collect one and suddenl, your fiddly knight transforms into a lethal bishop or rook, granting you added manoeuvrability and attacking potential.

It also, ingeniously, opens up certain sections of the level to your unique movement patterns.

The goal in each castle is - what else - to defeat the king. It's defended by the most powerful piece of them all, the queen, in one of the many rooms.

In between these castles there are various one-hit levels that teach you the basics and position you in certain scenarios, often with multiple pieces at your disposal.

These levels won't keep you going for all that long, however, and any real longevity comes from the user-created content that you can access. This means that the game's ongoing appeal will be dependent on a community building up around the game.

Chesslike is certainly interesting enough to warrant such commitment, but as we said at the outset, the game's rough, bare-bones, faintly amateurish presentation might keep all but the most persistent away.


A deceptively compelling roguelike with a clever chess-based theme, but boy is it rough around the edges
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.