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About the Story
A small puzzly text adventure with a hyperactive horse.
9th place - ParserComp 2021
I would expect there to be a large overlap between fans of interactive fiction and fans of chess, but Iím surprised (as is the author, judging from the gameís notes) that there isnít much overlap between interactive fiction puzzles and chess puzzles. Thereís a desultory puzzle set on a chessboard in Zork Zero, and thereís an breezy puzzle in Zork: Grand Inquisitor thatís ostensibly related to chess, but thatís 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.
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I generally enjoy games by Andrew Schultz, and this was no exception.
It's a small game on a 5x5 chess square with a few short chess puzzles. Using knight moves, you must move around the board to achieve your goals.
+Polish: The game was very smooth. I kept trying to type SUMMON instead of CALL but that's entirely on me.
+Descriptive: I actually like the writing in this more than almost all other Schultz games. It goes in a different direction and I like it.
+Interactivity: The puzzles appealed to me.
+Emotional impact: Genuine enjoyment counts as an emotion, right?
+Would I play it again? Yes, I found it satisfying.
I don't everyone would like this all the time, but I think some people would like this some of the time. If you'd like a brief logic-based brainteaser that wraps itself up nicely, try it out.
If this wasnít ParserComp but rather BadassTitleComp, letís all take a minute up front to acknowledge that FDE would be the runaway champion (I see you over there, Black Knife Dungeon Ė youíre ballpark but youíre trying too hard). Take a genocidal threat from the ancient world, blend it with a made-up mathy word, and slap it on a chess-based puzzler, and you have a sure-fire recipe for coloring me intrigued. Happily, rather than just skating by with a neat title and cool concept, Fivebyfivia Delenda Est has as much substance as style.
For one thing, thereís an actual plot here, about a daring knight sent out to conquer a neighboring kingdom via dynastic assassinations and a terrain-occupying tour, thatís written with humor, fleetness, and an understanding of the actually quite problematic nature of whatís occurring here. As with most of Andrew Schultzíes games, though, FDE is a puzzler through and through, and this time itís chess thatís going through the wringer. Of course, chess puzzles are a genre unto themselves, but the spin here is quite clever and would be hard to implement outside IF Ė you need to arrange pieces to set up a checkmate, which you do by dropping off your allies then summoning the enemy king as your knight traverses the board in the expected L-shaped pattern, with a move limit adding an additional dimension of challenge to proceedings.
I should say at the outset that I would like to be the kind of person whoís good at chess puzzles, but am in fact the kind of person whoís awful at them. As is also usual for Schultzís games, though, there are a host of features that invite players of any skill level in so they can enjoy things at their own speed. Thereís a map that helps you visualize the state of play; many different ways to input your moves, so guiding the knight is easy; a full tutorial and a quick precis of the rules of chess; and gentle hints that ramp up if itís clear youíre not getting a particular puzzle. So while the initial challenge definitely presented a learning curve as my head desperately tried to wrap itself around this unique take on the chess puzzle, it was a smooth curve with lots of support (so a flying buttress, I guess?)
The puzzles do escalate as you go, with the two-rook training wheel scenario giving way to more complex arrangements that were delightful to work through. My only real complaint, besides wishing there were more challenges beyond the four here on offer, is that the second one wound up having additional constraints that I donít think were clearly signposted in the setup Ė my first solution was rejected because one piece didnít want to be too close to the enemy king, and the second one because the player character wanted to hold it in reserve. I came up with a third one soon enough (and then was able to re-use my second solution in the following puzzle), so no harm no foul, but I think clearly telegraphing these added rules from the jump would have been more satisfying.
At any rate, FDE left me wanting more and hoping that, like the Punic Wars, it would be one of a series Ė given the way the imperialism-kicking plot wraps up, though, Iím not sure thatís in the cards, and perhaps itís for the best since I donít think Iíd be up to the difficulty of solving puzzles in the untrammeled wilds of the knightís home country of Twelvebytwelvia.
I liked this game, both the puzzles and the narrative side were fresh and enjoyable. Directions were extra cleas which is always a plus in parser games.
The only think I would add is some kind of time counter so you can immediately get ó in the first three puzzles ó in how many moves max the puzzle should be solved.
Play this if you like chess!
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