Review – Knight’s Retreat (PS4)

According to its developers, Knight’s Retreat is a chess game without any chess. When I first read this sentence in a press release, I thought to myself: “what the hell are these guys talking about?” I installed the game, not knowing what to expect, and just a few minutes later, was already sold on the premise. It features a myriad of issues, but one thing needs to be said: this is a very creative puzzle game.

Knight's Retreat Minimalism

Knight’s Retreat is all about minimalism, for better or worse.

What the folks at Minimol said is true: this is a chess game and also not a chess game. Your objective is to rearrange your chess knight pieces in order to lead them to a bronze-colored spot in each map. Each piece moves like its chess counterpart, but the gameplay isn’t focused on capturing pieces. All you need to do is ensure that all of your bronze-colored knights reach their bronze-shaped destinations.

There are some elements in here that add an extra layer of challenge to the overall experience. First of all, your knight cannot go back to any tile it has previously landed on, as a bunch of arrows will destroy that spot immediately after you leave it. You will also need to move other gray-colored pieces in order to clear a path for your knight, also following the rules of chess. You will have to control queens, bishops, rooks, and other knights. While they can freely move around the level without ever having to worry about previous tiles being destroyed, they can’t land on any spot destroyed by an arrow.

Knight's Retreat Puzzles

This is actually one of the easiest puzzles in the game, believe it or not.

As you can imagine, the first few levels are simple, offering little to no challenge. I have to commend the developers for coming up with a challenging yet extremely fair difficulty curve. There was no moment where I noticed a sudden difficulty spike. That doesn’t mean that the game taught me how to play it right from the get-go. Due to its minimalistic visual approach, Knight’s Retreat didn’t even bother teaching me its button layout, or how its mechanics work. I had to figure everything out on my own. While learning about the ruleset was fine, I was annoyed at the lack of explanation on the multiple kinds of rewind buttons included in here.

This whole bare bones approach is cute at times, especially when it comes to the game’s art style. However, I didn’t like the nearly nonexistent AI or the lack of a proper explanation of the controls and ruleset. I also wasn’t exactly a big fan of the sound design, which is also minimalistic like the rest of the game. It’s not necessarily bad, as it’s comprised of original compositions, but it’s very forgettable. You’ll barely even notice that there’s music in the background while you’re playing the game.

Knight's Retreat Bishop

Other pieces, like bishops and rooks, will be added throughout the game.

Knight’s Retreat might have some problems derived from its excessively minimalistic approach, but I have to commend the developers for coming up with a completely unique and very entertaining premise for a puzzle game. It doesn’t require a lot of your time, as it only features eighty puzzles, but it’s good while it lasts. A game like this is a good call if you want something that resembles chess in any shape or form after binge watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.

Graphics: 6.0

Its minimalistic art style is actually pleasing to the eyes, but the game could have had a better designed UI.

Gameplay: 7.0

Knight’s Retreat uses the classic rulebook of chess to dictate how each piece moves onscreen. The gameplay premise is smart and the controls are basic. However, the game is so hell-bent on being simplistic that it forgets to teach players all of its mechanics, nor does it explain its button layout.

Sound: 5.0

Just like the rest of the game, the soundtrack is also somewhat minimalistic. You will barely remember there is music being played on the background.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Knight’s Retreat‘s premise and puzzle design are so good that they more than make up for how underwhelming its presentation is.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Knight’s Retreat is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Knight’s Retreat was provided by the publisher.