You’ll find hundreds of puzzles in Zen Chess Collection. What you won’t find is an actual full-game of chess. It’s a curious omission. How does it impact this release?

Thankfully, Zen Chess Collection doesn’t cost much. It’s regularly $3.99 but I purchased it for just 99 cents as part of its launch sale. At that price, I can tolerate omissions, especially since I find many of its challenges enjoyable.

Zen Chess Collection is “designed for experienced chess players and newcomers alike.” There’s no tutorial, so maybe ‘advanced’ newcomers if that makes any sense. Certainly, the mate in one puzzles are good for chess newbies with just a basic grasp, and my recommended starting point. But those more familiar with the game can try the mate in two, three, or four challenges. The game is non-linear in that way, to its benefit, although actual levels in each category still need to be unlocked.

What’s not to its benefit is the presentation, particularly the graphics. My expectations were already low, having seen screenshots. But with only two types of pieces, a single camera view, and a plain board against plain backdrops Zen Chess Collection is a drab game to look at. It’s very minimalist, delivering the essentials but nothing beyond.

The soundtrack fares better, with appropriate tunes. I’m not sure they actually “increase your focus and concentration” as claimed, but I enjoy them. The in-game volume defaults at a soft level so adjust it up or wear headphones if playing Zen Chess Collection in handheld mode.

I am concerned about seeing the “More game modes” box in the corner of the main menu. It directs you to the eShop, although there is no DLC at present. I hope Zen Chess Collection doesn’t take the route of Chess Ultra that now has lots of overpriced DLC. At least this game isn’t buggy, like the former. If DLC is added, I’d suggest more background and piece options, a tutorial, and an actual game of chess, sensibly priced.

Zen Chess is inexpensive and has many enjoyable puzzles for chess fans. But its drab presentation, coupled with no means to play a regular game of chess holds it back. How can you “Become a Chessmaster!” when you can’t play a full game? Thus, what should be a pretty broad recommendation becomes narrower, making Zen Chess Collection just an okay release.