Zen Chess
Title Zen Chess: Mate in One
Developer Zen Chess Club
Publisher Zen Chess Club
Release Date 11/04/2018
Genre Casual, Puzzle
Platform PC (Steam)
Age Rating Unrated
Official Website

Chess is one of the most well-known board games and has had many incarnations in gaming. From the Super Mario-branded chess set to its appearance in the Agenda-developed DS mini game collection 42 All-Time Classics, chess is a game that is accessible even to non-gamers. Hence it is a target for developers to capture the casual market. Enter Zen Chess, a budget release incorporating PC gaming with a particular variant of chess – Mate-in-One.

Zen Chess I Gameplay 1
The chessboard – sky blue edition.

The goal of the Mate-in-One variant of chess to get a checkmate of the opponent’s pieces in one move. Pieces are set up on the board so that it is possible for this to happen and the player has to work out what piece makes it possible. The puzzles in this game were selected by a Chess Grandmaster, hence they are professionally verified. There are 100 default puzzles that have been picked for this title so there is a large quantity. You have to play them in order; there is no skip function.

Zen Chess I Gameplay 2
The chessboard – pink edition. Note the pieces have a different appearance.

This game is only $1 and this is reflected in the game’s aesthetic, which is described as “minimalistic” by the developers. Graphics are very simplistic, with colour schemes being fairly simple. One of six possible colour schemes can be chosen. They all look very nice and aren’t visually problematic. The chess pieces also have two designs. If you are unfamiliar with the appearance of chess pieces it can be difficult to work out what pieces match which type.

Zen Chess I Gameplay 3
The chessboard – purple edition (featuring very few pieces).

Similar things can be said about the game’s soundtrack, or more specifically, ambience. There is only one melody that is more specifically designed to be background noise, designed to aid concentration and it’s surprisingly effective, in small doses. Eventually the repetition of this ambience gets annoying, especially as it is so short, hence I turned it off. There is an option setting for this in the game.

Zen Chess I Gameplay 4
There isn’t too much to see with regards to the gameplay (like at all) but the colours are nice.

Overall, this game is a decent time sink for its price, if you know chess. There are no instructions included about how to play chess so this game relies on a lot of assumed knowledge prior to purchasing. However, when this knowledge is applied the puzzles can often be worked out in one attempt when you apply logic about how to play chess. This means the game can be breezed through quicker depending on your experience/skill with chess, as the more experienced/skilled you are the easier it is to clear the puzzles. For me, it took just under two hours to clear the first 100 puzzles. The developer has since released more free puzzles for the game, thus adding longevity and increasing its value. If a casual chess experience for cheap is what you are looking for, this game is a good choice.

Review Score

Review copy supplied by the publisher

Former Staff
Former contributor for Operation Rainfall whom has now headed out to pursue new challenges outside of games journalism. Their passion for games continues with many games of all kinds being on their list of games to play and games they love. Haru Okumura is best girl.