I would expect there to be a large overlap between fans of interactive fiction and fans of chess, but I’m surprised (as is the author, judging from the game’s notes) that there isn’t much overlap between interactive fiction puzzles and chess puzzles. There’s a desultory puzzle set on a chessboard in Zork Zero, and there’s an breezy puzzle in Zork: Grand Inquisitor that’s ostensibly related to chess, but that’s about it. If anything, Fivebyfivia is more reminiscent of The 7th Guest, with a very different interface and tone but the same sort of puzzles.
Gameplay: In the first three puzzles of the game, the protagonist moves around the 5×5 gameboard like a knight and can deploy a piece at his current position. The goal is to set up a mate using a certain set of pieces. These are all simple puzzles (mate with two rooks, a queen and a king, and a rook and a king), and they should be straightforward for anyone familiar with chess; the only complication is the restriction on the player’s movement. In the final puzzle, the player simply moves around rather than deploying pieces, and the goal is to complete an open knight’s tour of the 5×5 grid. This puzzle is also a standard one, although it requires a bit more work than the previous ones to solve. The puzzles are fine for a short game, but they don’t have much depth. 6/10.Mechanics: The puzzles are presented cleanly, and it’s clear how they work and what the criteria for solving the area. The main mechanic of the game, combining movement around a chessboard and standard chess puzzles, is original. It’s not deep, but it’s fine for such a short game. The last puzzle, the knight’s tour, is more tedious. It’s reminiscent of the unmotivated chess puzzles in the 7th Guest and its sequel, and solving it feels like a chore. It is a way of extending the central mechanic of the game, and it’s not particularly difficult or long, but it was unsatisfying to complete. 6/10.
Presentation: The game is little more than a thin wrapper around its puzzles, but that’s by design, and it’s perfectly fine for a game as short as this one. Despite that, it’s full of polish like quality-of-life improvements (abbreviations for the L-shaped knight’s moves), hint system, a few jokes, and a genuinely amusing frame to the story. It’s an odd thing to mention for a game in ParserComp, but it could work equally well with a point-and-click interface, given its mechanics. 7/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You like chess.