This is one for serious chess heads who don't mind concentrating for hours on end.
Chess is one of those games that, if it weren't already designed by now, probably would never be invented in this day and age. Think about it from a video-game design point of view: Who would want to put their money behind developing a game that plays entirely in 2D, has no animation to speak of, is designed for multiplayer use only, and has rules and strategies so complex that it can take decades to truly master? What a nightmarish alternative Earth that would be. Thankfully we don't have to worry about any of that, as Checkmate is here for the Game Boy Color.
So, how do you go about making chess interesting without ruining its timeless appeal? Well, adding a host of computer-controlled characters for you to challenge is a good start. These guys (and one supercomputer) can be taken on one at a time or encountered as you climb up the ranks in tournament mode. Extra goodies, such as being able to take back moves, watch replays, swap sides at any time, and customize the board layout, let you hone your skills under certain conditions. If you're stuck against a particularly tough opponent, you can even ask for advice. These things are typically hard to find when you're playing this in the real world. One thing that is notable by its absence from the presentation department is a two-player mode via linkup - having to pass your GB over to your opponent during play is a needless pain.
While the graphics or sound will hardly push your little handheld to its portable limits, the classic gameplay shines through. The board is presented clearly enough with an option to change the color of the pieces to suit your chromatic tastes, and standard board coordinates are used. The static screens of your opponents talking to you before and after each game is all you get as far as decent graphics go, though. A bit of extra work here would have made winning a match a worthwhile experience.
Like most computerized chess simulators, the enjoyment level is heavily reliant on the AI (or lack thereof) displayed by the CPU opponents. This is Checkmate's biggest weakness. Unless you're prepared to extensively use the "cheat" functions - in which case, what's the point of playing? - the difficulty level is stacked pretty high. While not professing to be Dr. Chess or anything, this reviewer found even the earlier stages to require some serious deep thought. Speaking of which, the higher up you get in the ranks of the tournament, the longer matches take - the Game Boy spends eons (well, minutes, but you get the idea) pondering moves and possibilities. Even though you can save your game to battery at any time, this is not a game to play absentmindedly during class. This is one for serious chess heads who don't mind concentrating for hours on end, perhaps.