TopWare Interactive showed me this strange little game, already released in Europe as "Battle vs. Chess." It's been renamed to "Check vs. Mate" for the North American release to avoid potential conflicts with Interplay's Battle Chess, which is probably a smart move considering the similarities to that classic game.
There's more going on here than just a simple Chess game, however. TopWare is claiming that Check vs. Mate features the most sophisticated chess engine to date, based upon Fritz! 11 chess algorithm software.
It's also gorgeous, with an art style that straddles the lines between Warhammer Fantasy and Warcraft to create a bold middle-ground that is striking and beautiful. Knights are bipedal horses with human arms while rooks are massive golems that thunder across the board as they move. When they go into combat, you'll be treated to violent animations as pieces are removed from the board.
Where Check vs. Mate really stands out is in its third-person battle sequences where you control your piece in a battle against your opponent in order to claim a space. Once two pieces meet, the board is cleared and you get direct control over one of your units, working with some AI-controlled pieces in a fight to survive. The attacking player does get an advantage, so defending a space can be difficult but can also completely turn the tide of a game.
TopWare also recognizes that it's hard to justify paying full retail for a chess game, no matter how pretty or how many options it has. That's why Check vs. Mate will be releasing at a reduced price point of $39.99 on PC 3DS, PSP and Wii and $49.99 on PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles. TopWare also plans to release downloadable content for the game, including new sets of pieces and boards to play on.
The game looks like a lot of fun, particularly for people like me who have always liked the idea of Chess but lacks the skill to play it well. You can look forward to it releasing this September.