REVIEW: DeadKings

The game of Checkers1 is an old one, possibly the oldest. It’s rules are relatively simple; two sides, two sets. Men can make diagonal moves on the board, only going forward, while King pieces—having reached the other side of the board unscathed— have the luxury of moving diagonally in either direction. The idea is to ‘trap’ and / or ‘capture’ all of your foe’s pieces. There are good moves and bad moves2, and a fair amount of strategy involved, but generally, anyone can jump right in and play.

Ditto for DeadKings3 ($1.00), although in many ways, Checkers isn’t the game’s primary focus. As the sequel to a fan-favorite game called, appropriately enough, BloodyCheckers4, you’d kinda expect it to be. I mean, you’ll play plenty of rounds of Checkers, against the AI and / or human players. All of the parts and rule sets are there, mind you, and some not-so-official powerups, but DeadKings is also all at once a dungeon crawler, an RPG, part roguelike, and even a co-op adventure game, if you prefer to play nice with others.

Dead.Kings - Screen

To that end, you are a reincarnated knight, brought back to the entrance of a vast, extremely hazardous, and unmapped castle. Your ‘goal’ as stated is to ascend the floors of said castle, finding ways around locked doors and gates, triggering a number of devious traps and enemies, and challenging dozens of opponents (including Death Himself) to a very impolite game of Checkers5. All of this, in order to eventually level up your knight and reach max level, to open every door, and to claim the Sword of Valor for your own.

Easier said than done, natch. Though really, it’s not the ‘games’ you should be worried about. The castle itself is the real challenge, practically a living, breathing character, providing multiple ways for you to die and get lost in its labyrinthian corridors. That said, you can also thrive, once you’ve built up a small treasury of gold and earned a few abilities / items. From there (and once you’ve gained the ability to warp around the map), it’s essentially an open world. Do as you wish. Uncover some secrets, burn some bats, or troll your co-op partner and teleport him to the pits of the castle6.

Whatever happens, it’s important to keep your light handy. As in the original game, your candle is basically life itself. Should your flame be snuffed out, you are in a world of trouble. Besides the obvious result of being left in the dark, you cannot open chests, doors, or enter paintings (how you start Checkers matches, buy certain powerups, etc.) without it. Later in the game, this is potentially less of an issue, but in the early going, you’ll have to be on guard.

Dead.Kings - Screen2

Given that mechanic, the maze-like floors, and the shifting nature of its hazards (DeadKings has its own version of Lost‘s Smoke Monster), the sheer scope of the castle can sometimes be intimidating. The game is built with co-op in mind, which should cut down on any frustrations you may have. Although, as is the case with other games this size, a few bugs still exist in the current form. Fixes are inbound, but none really detract from the overall experience.

Thankfully, the game keeps you too busy and too entertained to notice. Play some Checkers (or don’t), solve the castle’s various mysteries, adventure with— or against— a friend, and, perhaps most importantly, continue to explore. Even then, you’ll likely never run out of things to do. After five-plus hours, I’ve only scratched its surface7. And that’s a very good thing. However you choose to play, and whatever endeavor you wish to focus on, DeadKings— and its expansive castle— gives you plenty of excellent options.

  1. Checkers is my game, and really, my only game. Although I was taught the basics on a couple of occasions, I still to this day can not sit down and play a game of Chess. My simple mind just doesn’t know it. Mock me if you’d like. I deserve it. 
  2. And if you should need some refreshment of the rules or wish to learn some new strategies, DeadKings offers plenty of lessons. Educates as much as it entertains, if you will. 
  3. This review is also featured at Indiepitome
  4. An admission: the game was released before my time reviewing XBLIGs, and therefore, I have not played it to any great degree. Again, mock me if you’d like. I deserve it. 
  5. If you so desire; a forthcoming update will add a few minigames to spice up the match-playing, and you can always bypass the Checkers games entirely (see ‘RageQuit’). 
  6. A sarcastic ‘Thanks!’ to GNAWMAN for that. 
  7. Only 25% completed, and I’m Level 18. Seems there’s a lot of castle still to discover. 

49 thoughts on “REVIEW: DeadKings”

  1. Finally had a proper go at it during weekend, and so far it’s pretty awesome and more than a worthy sequel. Currently I’m in the flooded basement. Damn those spiders. Best thing is to hug the walls and hide in the corners.

    And the weird neon light (??) thing is back, and this time it’ll drain your HP. Nice. Seriously, most of the time I was running away from that thing. 😀 Would’ve been cool if it were the image of some translucent ghost. Now that would be creepy.

    Tim said: Personally, I see myself alternating between Asteroids and Checkers.
    C’mon man, show Breakout some respect 😎

    1. Nothing wrong with Breakout, of course. Tell you what, I’ll add it into my DeadKings rotation, under one condition: Once I get down to the last brick or two, and start swearing because I can’t seem to hit them, I get to curse your name for making me play. 😛

      I just called the ‘neon thing’ the Smoke Monster. Yes, I’m aware it’s not made of smoke, but it shows up at inopportune times, and I never miss out on a Lost reference.

    2. Hey, my name might get inducted into the dictionary.

      (to) soosh: Cursing, while playing ‘Breakout’. Example: “Damn, couldn’t hit the last two bricks in Breakout.” – “Ah, so it was you who sooshed the whole time.”

  2. This game is THE game.
    I’m at 70%, and i’m still enjoying it, a lot. And oh god i never laught so hard while trolling noobs haha 😀
    (Putting them in ‘jail’ with the king crown + pig collar when they didnt find the king’s crown yet, try it out haha)
    Amazing game.

    1. @Derp: I teleported one guy to the pits, just to try it out. He stopped dead in his tracks, looked around for what happened, and saw me… just in time for me to warp the hell out of there. 😀 I felt bad afterward, of course.

      @kilroyfx: Thanks for the video. Personally, I see myself alternating between Asteroids and Checkers. Always nice to have the option. 🙂

  3. Boyo… boyo… listen, there is this proverb from Checoslovaquia that says “Tiny boobs will not look spectacular by themselves, but add a good bra that gives them some power, and it may turn in something beautiful”. Sometimes you need to do things for your health, wealth or even your well being, but you don’t do it because you don’t like it, but add some chocolate powder to that milk, and in the end, you will end up liking it. Just as in life, it needs some spice to keep it fun. I’m not big into checkers, I don’t find it that fun (but I play chess, take that 30s-something ppl) but add a castle, traps and mystery I will end up liking it. I have not play much of the game yet (got it on the first day it got release it) but I love it so far. But, is does not feel like a sequel more than a BIG DLC, what I mean if you see pictures from both games, you will not know which is which, now that is not a bad thing, because is one of the best DLC. Is this were a 10 dollar game on XBLA I will pay it, happy and with no complain. I will probably not play checkers in real life, but add a castle of traps in a indie channel of boobs and I will gladly be your opponent.

    1. That’s another good proverb to add to the list. 🙂 That’s part of my philosophy anyway. The only way to freshen up a game’s genre is to mix it with other gameplay elements, or add a lot of varied content. DeadKings does both.

      You do have a point on the ‘Big DLC’ angle; I didn’t get much time in with the original, so everything in DeadKings, I was pretty much experiencing for the first time. Similar parts, though, absolutely. That said, it’s an incredibly fun, incredibly varied game that you can put dozens of play hours into, so really, $1 is a steal even with the familiarity. Like you indicated, this could be an XBLA game and people would gladly hand over $10.

      And man, I really need to learn / pick up the game of Chess now. I feel like I’m missing something ‘basic’ to the human code that the rest of you already have. 😀

    2. Xionix55 man I love reading your comments. They always bring a smile to my face. Maybe because you mention tits, boobs or strippers in most of them. My immature mind loves that!!

      I have to agree with you that it was just like a major expansion to the original however the original get expanding for free if you recall. I suppose it got to the point where either it was not feasible to continue to add or either due to coding issues or financial issues but either way I do also agree that paying $10 would be ok for this game.

    3. I’m telling you, we should be collecting all of these golden sayings. Eventually, we’ll put out a book, ‘Contemporary Proverbs, as told by xionix55’. He’s a true savant, speaking in the language of boobs 😀

  4. Well after 3 days I just 100% completed the game last night and now the farmer is a Golden Knight of the Valor. Great review Tim. I’m glad so many people can now get to play one of the best Indie games ever made.

    1. Great Review !! On Tuesday, another update….fixing bugs and adding 2 more minigames to the portraits (I am sure I have already mentioned this) also you can get cursed and it may take 10 mins to wear off. Getting cursed changes your appearance (red ghostly) and makes you a bit weaker. Do something bad and get cursed. Also LOOT is now on the compass and hmmm spiders are tweaked in favor of the player.

    2. Thanks guys! Happy to get the word out, though I suspect the game was going to be popular regardless. 🙂

      @kilroyfx: Good news on those spiders; hate the bastards. 😀 Fixes are always welcome, of course, and I’m eager to try out the minigame selection.

      @GNAWMAN: Three days, eh? How many hours in total playtime, do you think?

  5. I forgive you Tim for not playing much of BloodyCheckers HOWEVER I’ll mock you for not playing Chess. The greatest board game ever made. But of course I feel this way because I’m a bit of a chess champion if I do say so myself. Don’t do well against AI’s on the game and TBH don’t do well playing the game on a computer/console but if I sit down in front of a board across from my opponent I’m very difficult to beat. And play the same opponent more than 5 games I become unbeatable. I’ve had plenty of friends stop playing against me due to this fact. They could only take getting beaten so many times in a row before they just didn’t have the heart for it anymore.

    I used to carry a portable table and pieces with me in a fanny pack (now you know how long ago this was) and sit in coffee shops waiting for someone to sit down and play a game with me. Most of them where casual players (as I consider myself too since I never played in any competitive fashion) and more times than not I would win.

    Ok done bragging on me and chess but isn’t it funny how when I play over the internet on a computer/console it’s just not the same game. I think sitting over top a playing board it was like “A Beautiful Mind” for me and I could see things without even knowing why but on the monitor I just don’t have the same effect.

    1. Argh, Chess. I never, ever got into this game. And I tried, I really did. But it’s just not my thing. I think it’s one of those things you either like or hate.

    2. @Dream Poet: A Chess prodigy!?! Nice! Mock me all you like, as you’ve earned it being an unofficial champion. I suppose I’ll even forgive the fanny pack. 🙂 Chess for me is kinda like ‘learn to play the piano’, or ‘speak a second language fluently’; it’s on the bucket list. I’m crossing them off incrementally. Just remind me never to challenge you to a match.

      I can understand how the game changes depending on whether you have the physical pieces in front of you; I’ve got the same thing going with Pinball— can’t win at the digital version. Strange issue to have, like you said, but a totally valid argument.

    3. Hell it will take me more than 20 hours since I will explore every nook and cranny at least 3 times before I’m sure there is nothing in the nook or cranny that I need/want.

    4. Digitally played chess is much more difficult to play, mainly because there are so many things you interface with that it is difficult to maintain concentration, as well as the fact that few people have several hours to dedicate solely to a game that requires strict concentration. As a (formerly ranked) USCF competitive chess player, I prefer playing in person EVERY TIME I play. There are few thrills like playing a 3-4 hour ranked match that requires absolute and intense concentration. As an adult it is difficult to demand that level of attention to anything if you haven’t trained to do it. And once you have kids? Well, that explains why I am “formerly ranked”. ; )

      Checkers, on the other hand, I never got the obsession with. Strategically it compares with jacks.

    5. What?!? Is everybody here a Grand Master Former and / or Current Chess Champion? Man, I feel like a real idiot now. I can’t— oh, wait, my phone just got a notification. Wait, what? What’s this? ‘Achievement Unlocked’?

      Intellectually Inferior … 0G

      Huh. Well, that’s not very nice, phone. Could have done without that.

      @andregurov: Well, props to you, as well as for Dream Poet. Trying to learn it as an adult would prove difficult (due to the ‘time commitment’, as you said), but clearly I’m in the presence of great ones here. 😀 Will have to step my game up accordingly.

      And hey, I like Checkers, alright? It’s the best game for us simpletons. 🙂

    6. Hey … I never said I was ranked highly! I’ve lost more competitive games (my worst was to a 10 year old!) than I care to remember. Dead Kings though, I will remember. It is very good. XBLIG may be dying, but there are some real classics being spawned in its death throes … I see Xenominer Swarm just came out as well.

      Now, when is a Virtual Jacks game coming out on XBLIG? Perhaps in that I can beat a 10 year old …

    7. Ah, well then, maybe I don’t feel as bad. Although a ten-year-old could likely beat me at Checkers just as easily. Kids can be wizards like that.

      Saw Xenominer Swarm after posting that last comment. Looks like they moved on from DownGate Deathmatch, and wisely put ‘Xenominer’ back in the title. I’ll bite, though. Was going to download Recall, but something tells me I’ll vastly prefer whatever happens in Xenominer Swarm… 🙂

    8. Hrmm… I’m pretty bad at chess, but I have a cousin who’s a genius at it. Does that count?

  6. Want to try out DeadKings for yourself? Of course you do. Simply be the first to reply to this comment, and you’ll earn yourself a copy of the game, courtesy of developer BigCorporation.

    1. Well, I was just about to read the article when I noticed your comment. And believe it or not, I didn’t even realise DeadKings’ been released. I think you mentioned it over at the Indiepitome, but it was already quarter past go-to-sleep so I might’ve missed it.

    2. Ah, yeah, if you’re not constantly checking the ‘New Releases’ like me, or didn’t see the comments on the preview article, then yep, easy to miss. Maybe that article I had up about XBLIG being down for the past few weeks had the opposite effect, and it drove people away, thinking the service (and this site) were done for. Didn’t mean to cause a panic, guys! We’re still in business! DeadKings is here! 🙂

    3. Soosh, five minutes from post for code to reply wanting code. I think that is a new record. I normally read the review before I read the comments and was only able to read half earlier. Came back and saw 7 comments and was like WFT!! So read the comments first before I finished the review.

      Game is everything and a bag of peanuts and even more than I expected. I’m loving it so far and your review as always is very well expressed Tim. This series (can we call it that now that there are two of them?) is one of the best if not the best on the Indie channel. I mean 2 bucks for both games and hundreds of hours of playing time exploring. You can’t beat that.

    4. I’m not sure, but I think the all-time record for a ‘free code‘ reply here was around 60 seconds and was for STRACO: Purge and Conquest. I should know, because it was me 😀

    5. @Dream Poet: I’d consider it a ‘series’ now. Two games is good enough. You’re spot on with the content, too. Certainly no shortage of things to do. I honestly had fun just playing Checkers. That reminds me, still need to go back and defeat Death a few more times…

      Oh, also like the ‘alternative’ shortspeak you’ve got going there: WFT!?! 😀

      @Soosh: Fairly close to sixty seconds, yeah. Officially, the time I posted the code giveaway was 7:12 Central. Your reply came in at 7:14, so you are certainly within two minutes. That record may stand for the rest of time. Whatever else happens, you’ve got that accomplishment under your belt. 🙂

    6. Well, I’ve got the advantage of having lunch over here every time a new article gets published. But no worries, I won’t claim the next couple of free codes, would be a bit unfair to everyone else.

    7. @Dream Poet: Okay, okay, I’ve got you covered.

      Get Creative … 40G1

      @Soosh: Hey, there’s no limits here. First come, first served. If it’s a game you’re keen to play, you’re welcome to it. You do have that time zone advantage, though. A good chunk of people in the Central Time zone are still asleep at 7, and on the West Coast… very early timing. Guess I favor the European market with my posts. 🙂

      1. Achievement Description: Create your own vernacular. Yes, even WFT. 
    8. Sweeeet…..I feel super special getting an achievement. Now I’m stoked to see how many other hidden achievements I can find in these posts. 😛

      Hmmm…Tim maybe you combat that advantage by putting your posts on hold (you know you can put them as drafts at first) and then at some random point during your day, when you have time of course, you could post it and leave the comment giving the code away. Only do that on the ones where you have a code to giveaway. Just saying. 😀

    9. I could try switching up the times. 7AM in my time zone just seemed like a good middle ground. So far as Twitter / Facebook go, it doesn’t seem to matter when I post an article. It’s worth a look for the next review that comes with a code.

      However, your achievement hunting may be for naught— Soosh is sitting on 20,020 ❗ , I believe, after his bug hunting work for STRACO.

    10. Oh, you get nothing for that. That’s like beating a game on the original Xbox; you get a ‘Congratulations!’ and then the credits roll. Achievements are not retroactive! 😛

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