Chess is a pretty intimidating game, I think. I can play it and occasionally win when going up against novices such as myself, but never against anyone of competence. As such, I rarely play it.
Knight’s Retreat, therefore, is a bit more appealing to me. It takes the core moveset of chess and breaks them down to single-player puzzles. You’re a knight, and you’re retreating to your kingdom. The challenge comes from the very precise path you must take to get there.
You’re presented with 80 scenarios in which you must take specific steps to get your knight (or knights) to the ending square. You can only move like a knight on an actual chessboard, and you cannot return to a square once you’ve left it. Other chess pieces will get in your way, and you’ll need to clear them out. Again, each piece moves as it would on an actual chess board. It’s very easy to trap yourself or any of these pieces, so you’ll be restarting often.
That’s pretty much it for gameplay, and it’s engaging enough. These are the types of puzzles where you’ll think you have it, only to discover you don’t, but one more quick try will certainly get you through. And maybe after a half-dozen restarts, it will. Fans of puzzle games such as Golf Peaks will find plenty to enjoy. I imagine chess players will also enjoy the challenges within the familiar rules.
A couple design elements, however, can detract from the overall experience. Although I enjoyed the relaxing audio, the graphics are basic and flat. I like the nicely “carved” chess pieces, but the landscapes are quite stark and the animations are very abrupt. The overall vibe could certainly be friendlier.
Also, the camera controls are unwieldy. You can zoom in/out and rotate around the playing field using the Joy-Con or the touchscreen, but the awkward movement rarely results in optimum placement. Puzzles of this type don’t really need a 360 degree field of view, so I’d prefer if there was just a single preconfigured camera angle (or perhaps just four fixed options).
These are both minor complaints, of course, as neither affects the puzzles. With those, redundancy will be the only issue. Although they certainly get much more complex, they don’t really change. More squares, more pieces, more time. Knight’s Retreat doesn’t change up enough to refresh the overall experience, so how long you stick with it will depend upon how much you enjoy the challenge of the puzzles themselves. In other words, the better you are at chess, the more fun this game becomes as you move along. Novices, however, may resign before they’re halfway through.