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17th Place - 10th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2004)
Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2004 XYZZY Awards
I loved the interface! The premise took only seconds to understand, and it was designed with a wonderful sense of quirky humor. In sum, you are a deity -- not an omnipotent one, but one who works through communication and inspiration. The main character is the hapless Bellclap, a pathetic shepherd who worships you and has taken shelter from a rainstorm in your temple. The parser is your obedient servant who relays your entries on the command lines to Bellclap and passes back information on Bellclap's actions. I don't think I've seen it done before, and, if it has been done before, I doubt it's been done as well as it was done here.
-- Carolyn Magruder
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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
Bellclap gave me the strange sensation of solving puzzles even though I had no idea why the solution would work, which I suppose is as close as I'll ever get to omniscience. I was sorry when the game ended so soon, and I'm certainly looking forward to future works by this author.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
(a) Bellclap is an experiment with the different roles that can be distinguished in a piece of interactive fiction: the commander (the fictional character who decides what actions to try out), the narrator (the fictional character who tells what happens), and the actor (the fictional character who carries out the commands given by the commander). Interactive fiction in general has merged the first and the third role into what we call the "player character", a character who decides what to do and then carries it out. The narrator has usually been a different, and often extra-diegetic character. (This means that the narrator has generally not been a character within the primary fictional world.)
There have, of course, been many experiments with these roles, the most common of which have been either to put the narrator into the world; or to change the expected relationship between the player and the commander/actor-hybrid that we call the player character. Bellclap, however, does something else: it pries apart the commander and the actor. The commander is a god, and the actor is Bellclap, one of the faithful, who has come to the god for assistance. Whatever the player types is interpreted and presented as a command from the God, and Bellclap than tries to carry it out. The narrators is cast as a third person, namely as the angelic messenger who gives the commands of the god to Bellclap, and who informs the god of the results.
This set-up is executed with wit and humour, and gives the piece a very particular feel. You ought to experience it, and therefore you ought to play this game.
(There is at least a fourth important role, namely, the "experiential focus", the character through whose senses we experience the fictional world. This role can be combined with any or none of the three roles defined above. In Bellclap it is more or less spread out over them all.)
(b) Bellclap is also one big read-the-author's mind puzzle. The "short route" walkthrough included with the game is particularly baffling. Imagine that you are stuck in Savoir Faire's kitchen, consult the walkthrough, and see that the first command is "make a mr. potato head" -- that is more or less the experience I had when I consulted this walkthrough. The walkthrough linked to above makes the whole experience far more coherent; but I still cannot see how a player could possibly be expected to hit on the solution. Apparently your godly powers are tightly limited, and need to be triggered in exactly the right way. But there is no way the player can know this, since there is no way you can experiment with them.
As a game, this makes Bellclap pretty much a failure, because you cannot really play it.
Still, you can walk through it, and that is exactly what you should do.
The game is fairly short with some unintuitive puzzles. Essentially, you have to help your worshipper make it to safety. He has a variety of tools, but what you have to do with them is pretty odd.
To me, this game is primarily enjoyable as an experiment in parser implementation, with the 3 main characters all working together. Also, the setting is well-described and fun.
Overall, I recommend that people try the first scene.
While helping the man is fun, the real star of this game is the parser. It is your loyal servant, telling the man what to do and telling you his actions. Very creative. I've never seen a game where the parser is its own character.
The puzzles weren't bad, though I did peek at the walkthrough. I do wish he had obeyed my command to dance. Ah well.
The game could've been longer, but I enjoyed this. It fit.
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