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IF COMP 2004 - Bellclap

Game #19: Bellclap, by Tommy Herbert
Played On: 10/14/04 (7:00 PM to 7:40 PM)
Unofficial Score: 8.5 (8.0 base with +0.5 skew)

     "Bellclap" marks the halfway point in my attempt to play and review every competition entry (I already played the two that are no longer participating, mine doesn't count, so that's 18 on either side of the middle). This is one of the shortest yet (Ninja v1.30 still leads in brevity). From the start, it's clear that this game is something different. Primary play is in third-person. As the player, you're first-person, and the narrator can be referenced in second-person. It seemed awkward at first, but it doesn't take long to get used to the idea.

     Depending on how frustrated you get, this may or may not be an easy game. It's the third I solved without hints or a walkthrough, so maybe my adventure-muscle is getting a little stronger than it was before. Anyway, I received one good ending after thirty minutes, did an undo to follow the tip for the second ending (five minutes), then went through from the start using the walkthrough (another five minutes) just to see if I missed anything else. The walkthrough illustrates that this game has multiple paths to a solution (because what I did was a little different), even though it's all effectively the same result.

     With only a brief amount of play, I had high hopes that "Bellclap" was going to be that "wow" game I've been hoping for. When the clouds were parted and that one star was visible, I was really convinced that the game was about to take off for a surprise twist. I could just imagine what was coming next -- Bellclap the shepherd, with a clear invitation to Bethlehem. In fact, I was already thinking of ways to assert my clever conclusion into the forthcoming review, when moments later, I won.

     It's a short but solid game, with very few flaws (I'll list what I found momentarily). With a little more thought, the concept could have been something more than it is. It's a good game -- I don't mean to imply otherwise -- but the three-layered gameplay could have been extended into a longer story. Even a double- or triple-sized game would have fit within the two-hour guideline, and the premise could have been put to even better use. My notes are shorter for this game than for any other so far, and the map I started wasn't necessary after all. It's a three-room game.

     I found a few glitches, but nothing to dent the rating. When returning to the temple from above, the room description still indicates that Bellclap entered through the southern archway. Bellclap can hit himself with the hammer, to no ill effect. In regards to the task necessary for the ideal ending, the command that works "...to hatch" doesn't work "...to roof" -- I considered the hatch the splinters of broken wood, not the opening itself.

     The "about" command (darn me for not thinking to add an "about" verb to my entry) lists quite a few beta testers, and it shows. On my scale, it's an 8.0 base -- a good game, I just wish it had continued for a little longer. I'll skew it +0.5 for creative use of a three-tiered concept, and for giving meaning and reason for the game interface itself.

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