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0 Stars IFReview Rating Bellclap

IFReviewed by Jacqueline A. Lott on 2006-07-21 07:29 

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Tommy Herbert


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5 Stars IFR Overall Rating
What we have here is a one room, one puzzle game. To be more precise, a frustrating one room, one puzzle game.

The method of interacting with the game is decidedly different in this piece, as Herbert experiments with the concept of the player character as some sort of god looking down upon one of his believers. The player character as god is, in this case, not omniscient/omnipotent and receives information and gives commands via a middle man, a third party. Who or what this third party is is unknown, as returns the sentence, "He can't see me, sir. I'm more a sort of guiding voice."

This sort of interaction is difficult at first, but that's not the frustrating part - the interaction becomes more intuitive as the game progresses. What is frustrating is that my believer doesn't do everything I want him to do because he is a complete coward and despite being so devote a follower, he chooses to obey his fears rather than his Lord and Master (not that I'm bitter or anything).

Herbert's got an interesting idea here, but I don't feel this version of the game did that idea justice. There were some very annoying aspects to this piece, and I feel the need to vent. Bear with me.

It started innocently with the Guiding Voice. Whether it's subservient to the player character or not, I got a little sick of it calling me 'sir' all the time; it became annoyingly redundant. I kept wanting to say >YOU, QUIT CALLING ME SIR! But of course, that doesn't work.

Questions are sometimes presented to me, questions from the mind of my believer. But these are not always non-rhetorical, and you can never tell for certain. For instance:

He wants to know if you're angry with him, sir.

He says he's very sorry and he's willing to atone for his crime, though I suspect he doesn't know what it is.

He's waving his arms, sir. He wants to know if you can see him.

That was a rhetorical question.

And if I tell my believer that no, I'm not at all angry with him, he looks visibly relieved... but then he keeps on asking me if I'm angry with him anyway. He's not really relieved at all, and I seem to be unable to do anything to calm him down. Just one of the shortcomings that makes me not a very decent supernatural entity. I also can't create fire to warm my believers or cause it to stop raining (I really should work on being more omnipotent, I think). This lack of power is not a coding problem but rather the intention of the author, as pointed out in the help documentation. So while I didn't like it, I do understand that it was Herbert's intention for me to feel like a lame, totally powerless, kinda useless and helpless sort of god.

The real frustration I felt was partially because I found a portion of the solution to be rather unintuitive (given my own ethics and/or religious beliefs) and part of the solution unreachable (partly because I'm evidently missing something and partly because the walkthrough was not accurate/complete). Some of the issues that the game brought up to me time and time again didn't really need to be addressed, I think, but if something's going to be thrown in your face time and time again (an injury, for instance) you should be able to address such issues. If you tried to address them in sensible ways, those ways weren't implemented.

I sound as if I'm being totally negative, and so far I guess I sort of have been. But I don't want to be! As ever, I find Herbert's writing to be competent and his ideas to be creative; I just get the sense that this wasn't tested quite enough prior to the comp. I look forward to seeing more work from him (perhaps a rerelease of Bellclap, or, even better a finished version of Auden's Eden... hint, hint).

Jacqueline A. Lott Profile

Name Jacqueline A. Lott
Gender Female