The Trader of Stories:
Gather 'round me, children, and a story I will tell. Actually, it's a story about stories. Well, it's not so much a story as a review of a game about stories and storytellers. In this case, it's the latest from Pastel Games, a bit of short point-and-click fiction called The Trader of Stories: Bell's Heart. In Trader of Stories you take control of Myosotis, a barterer of tales, if you will, who's on her way to a place called The Cradle. Unfortunately, her wagon wheel breaks and she has to go into a small town to get it fixed. Of course, it won't be that easy. It turns out you don't have enough acorns, which are the local currency, to get your your wheel re-wrought. Looks like you're going to have to do some pointing and clicking.
Bell's Heart has all the usual makings of a point-and-click adventure. You'll use your mouse to interact with objects and people and also to help you navigate your way through the game. The most noticeable difference is your book of stories. As you make your way through the game you'll learn bits and pieces of the tragic tale of a local man named Derrida. Every time you hear more of the story, you'll get a note on one page of your book and a part of the picture on the opposite page. Along with fixing your wagon wheel, writing down the story of Derrida is your goal.
Analysis: If you're familiar with Pastel Games this won't come as any surprise to you because, as we've come to expect from them, this game looks and plays beautifully. Every area is lovingly drawn and detailed, the characters are just as well crafted with their unique looks and designs that ooze personality. This might be Pastel's best looking game to date, but since the style tends to change with each game that's an unfair call to make. On the audio front, the music wasn't really my thing, but I can't deny that it was very well done. Just a note, to fiddle with audio and quality options, you can right click on the game at any time to bring up those options.
"The narrative unfolds beautifully no matter what order you work out the clues. Add [this] to the tiny list of games that successfully play with narrative." -Shudog
The gameplay is pretty much standard point-and-click fare. The book of stories is a nice touch and while it doesn't add a whole lot of variety to the genre it is a lot of fun to watch the story come together. One element that might go unappreciated is the signpost tree. Sometimes in point-and-clicks navigation can be really big pain. It can be confusing as to which way you're going or, if the world is big enough, you can get lost. Trader of Stories simplifies all this while still having a nice amount of areas. To get to an area just click on the appropriate sign on the signpost. You'll still get to explore the areas, which aren't that big, but usually have some off-shoots to check out, and it cuts way down on back tracking.
Play all the Big Old Tree that Dreams games:
Trader of Stories: Bell Heart is the first game in the Rudowski brothers' Big Old Tree that Dreams series of games, and it's a great example of a strange, new and wonderful looking world that really draws you in. You want to know more about characters and spend long amounts of time in their world. Unfortunately, the game also tends to feel a bit too short, like getting woken up during the best part of a dream. Bell's Heart is also pretty easy, which doesn't help the length but does help the atmosphere. You'll breeze through it and get to soak in the sights without suffering from frustration induced myopia. In the end you'll want more. More stories to collect, more people to meet, more strange creatures and locations. We'll just have to hope for more.