Review: The Knight Watch20 Sep 2017 0
Review: The Knight Watch
Released 04 Sep 2017
Due to a certain show about a chair made of swords, dragons and zombies that are not quite zombies but are absolutely zombies, finding The Knight Watch on Google is not as easy as Seele Games would have likely hoped for. With that small SEO critique out of the way, The Knight Watch is a modern twist on the classic game of Chess that revolves around playing as the knight to eliminate all other pieces from the board in as few moves as possible.
As you may be aware (or not if you’ve never played Chess - but stick around for the review) the knight is the most curious piece on the board due to its movement. All other pieces follow a fixed path whether it be vertical, horizontal or diagonal. The knight decides to play by its own rules and flings around in an L-shaped pattern making it equally a frustrating and advantageous piece to use. It also makes for the sole mechanic of The Knight Watch but expands on the concept by slowly introducing the other pieces found in a game of chess over time.
Split into a 100 levels, the game plays the simple rule of rewarding you with a gold medal for each level complete in the minimal amount of moves required, and works its way down in value with each additional move needed. It’s pretty basic in its formula, but going back over prior levels to iron out wasted moves will keep you coming back till you are the master.
I reviewed a couple of games last year that focused on changing up the formula of Chess. Both Really Bad Chess and Moveless Chess succeeded doing so in their own unique way. However, what we have here is less of a reinvention and more of a stripped back approach. No puzzle should take anymore than a minute, with the biggest obstacle always figuring out what square you need to be on to get the knight into position to land the killer blow. Puzzles that have a large number of pieces on screen feel satisfying as you mow through them in quick succession till you’re left the last scraps to pick of. Movement is short and snappy, tapping on the square you intend to move to is super responsive and adds to the feeling of these short bursts of bite-sized gameplay.
The opposing pieces are stuck in place, only venturing to take you out if you fall in their sight of line. So as with normal chess you’re playing cautious to not get caught out, but here, make one mistake and it’s game over. The game is nice enough to highlight the available squares your knight can move to - but if you’re event remotely aware of how Chess works this shouldn’t be needed. This extends into the biggest issue The Knight Watch suffers from: it’s a relatively easy game. Certainly for the first half at least, and though a few levels will take a couple of goes to get right the absolute lack of punishment for failure or any risk/reward type mechanic means you can brute force your way through the game. Obviously, if you intend to get gold medals for each stage this will take longer, but it’s more a process of elimination than skillful prowess. With that said, attempting to brute force levels will usually mean running head first into a rook, so more often than not taking your time to solve a level will be the fastest way. The trickiest piece to deal with I found was the king, as trying to get close enough while zig-zagging around in an L-shaped direction meant wasting several moves to line up correctly.
The game visually is rather basic, but the pieces all have their own unique design - though the bishop in particular could have done with something to make it stand out a bit more. The whole thing from the pieces to the UI feel secondary to the core gameplay, which is fine, it is Chess after all, but it’s just uninteresting enough that it needs to be pointed out. There are a few throwaway comic book-style cut-scenes, but anyone looking for a game with in-depth lore should look elsewhere.
The other mode available is ‘Rush’ with the goal being to capture as many pieces as possible in a minute. You get time bonuses for capturing bishop, rooks and kings, and chaining together combos will boost up your high score. It’s a super simple set-up but it works well - forcing you to act quick but still keep an eye on where you’re landing. Though it feels like a throwaway mode added for content, it’s global ranking has me coming back. I’d like to Seele Games expand upon this in the future.
So that’s it really. For a couple of dollars you’re treated to a nice little twist on Chess but not much more past this. Hopefully in the future Seele Games will do more to actually expand on the original concept and take it in new directions. Environmental traps or changing the shape of the board would add some variety. As it is, if you’ve enjoyed the previous games mentioned and Chess in general, you will enjoy enjoy the several hours on offer here, with the possibility of the Rush mode keeping you around for a little longer.