02 August 2012

Bell's Heart: The Trader of Stories

Gaming Genres: Graphical Adventure
Story Genres: Fantasy
Graphical Styles: 2D, Hand-Drawn, Cartoon
Series/World: The Big Old Tree that Dreams
Platforms: Browser (Flash)
Pricing Model: Free
Developer(s): Rudowscy
Publisher(s): Pastel Games
Initial Release Date: October 3, 2010
Website(s): Homepage (dev.), Development Blog, Publisher's Page (play)
The Big Old Tree that Dreams is the name of the fictional world, created in 2005, that Bell's Heart is set in. In 2010, Rudowski and Pastel Games and to create an adventure game based on the world of the Big Old Tree that Dreams.

The first game in Rudowscy's The Big Old Tree that Dreams series/world; Bell's Heart is a graphical adventure game, made in Flash, and set in his fantasy punk world. Bell's Heart was co-created/published by Pastel Games and released in 2010, and currently is available to play on many Flash portals. It is a moderately short, story heavy, game with a few unique elements and a lot of style, with a unique, almost sandbox, openness. Bell's Heart was given a sequel in 2012, A Grain of Truth, and has a additional upcoming entry made in the WinterMute Engine entitled The Trader of Stories, which has been in development since 2009, but continues to be far from finished, although a playable demo is available.

The world of The Big Old Tree that Dreams was first dreamt up by Marek Rudowski in 2005, but it took him five more years to produce this first finished project. The Big Old Tree that Dreams is a world in which the continent of ForestBed resides. ForestBed is a continent with a gigantic oak in the middle of it called The Great Oak; whose roots span from sea to sea, whose branches surpass the clouds, and whose giant trunk is big enough to to seen from the far corners of this magical land. The Great Oak is, understandably, prominent in this lands myths, legends, acting as a sort of god figure, and even features prominently in every day life. This world is filled with fantastic lands and creatures, including Sauropoda-like Cloud Eaters; The City of Bark, surrounding The Great Oak; And Husks, large and ever growing lizards-like creatures with shells that many people use as beasts of burden.

When the last Breath goes, in the silence we will hear the great bells sound. When the first light comes we will become one.

Bell's Heart takes place entirely in a small village close to The Mountains of the Ice Butterflies. This village has a history of being in contact with these fairly like creatures. You play Myosotis, a Trader of Stories who is looking for the story of her own mysterious past. She was on her way to the Cradle, the highest peak all of ForestBed and part of the Ice Butterfly mountain range, when her wagon breaks down in front of this village. To pay her way in this village, and get her wagon repaired, Myosotis is charged with discovering the story of one of the village's past citizens, Derrida, who mysteriously died a generation ago.

The game is fairly short, and made up mostly of plot, dialogue, and cutscenes; It is laid out in a rather open world, sandbox, fashion, with shops and currency. The puzzles are all inventory based, but all dialogue is required to progress the story and finish the game, as well as visiting certain locations, not that most of these are not required simply to acquire and use the inventory items in the first place. As you play the game, and uncover the story of Derrida, your Book of Stories fills up with the details you have found thus far, as well as an accompanying illustration, which fills out alongside this text.

The presentation, both audio and video, is fantastic, if obviously less polished than its sequel. It is very obviously hand drawn, but also just as obviously well drawn and detailed; Every single scene is a pleasure to behold, and the visuals are, in my opinion, one of the better done elements. The interface is rather normal, with a inventory bar on the bottom. And while the music is limited to only one or two tracks they are very nice and well suited to the rest of the game.

Bell's Heart is a terrific little gem, and while it is missing some of the polish of its sequel it is, if anything, a more personal game with graphics every bit as beautiful. It is a short story based adventure, with (proportionally) loads of dialogue, cutscenes, and story. Additionally, the shop system and very open world lends it an almost sandbox feel. One of its most interesting features, is its Book of Stories, which chronicles your collection of the story of Derrida.

Images (+):
Hints/Tips/Walkthrough (+):
Indieness: Indie
Play?: Should Play

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