Arcade USA – CheckMate by Midway Games



Released by Midway Manufacturing Co. in 1977,  CheckMate is an action strategy game where 1 to 4 players try to run each other into their walls (I always wondered if the writers for Tron were inspired by this game for the light cycle game sequence).   the Arcade game had a nice blue overlay over the game screen which gave the playfield a nice blue glow.   The sounds are monotonous but are not that noticeable in the heat of play.

The game consists of 2 to 5 rounds of play depending on what the dip switch settings are set to.  Each player has their own 4 way joystick to control their avatar whereas the game controls the speed.   Scoring is determined by giving 1 point to each surviving player during the round.   So if you survive to the end of the round, you get 3 points.   The player with the most points after the preset rounds wins!

There were some ports of this game to the home consoles as well!

CheckMate – Bally Astrocade – looks and plays very similar to the arcade game but in full color.  The sound effects are also greatly improved.  Up to 99 rounds can be set up to do some marathon gaming.  This is a built in game on the Astrocade and supports  up 4 players!  A true arcade type experience for the home!

Surround – Atari 2600 – A two player version of Checkmate that shares a similarity with Dominos by Atari that was also released in 1977.  Graphically less advanced, but very well done on the 2600!  Has several modes of play and a drawing mode included to make pictures.

Snafu – Intellivision – A two player version as well like the Atari 2600, however it also includes two more computer controlled players.  Of all the home ports, this one has the most gameplay options (playing the game with obstacles on the playfield makes it very challenging and fun!)  Very nice graphics and sound, even has a tune after the round ends that is pretty cool to hear!

So how would I rank these ports?

  1. Bally Astrocade
  2. Intellivision
  3. Atari 2600

One of my best memories of this game is playing it with my older brother at our local movie theater.  The loser had to buy the soda and popcorn!

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