You play BEL/S, a magical firewall: a fire elemental that is bound with C++ code. It takes place in a world where magic and technology overlap. There is a new wave of mages called open sorcerers who write spells with code. BEL/S defends a network of four places from everything from malware to poltergeists.
Gameplay is investigative. Malicious spirits cause problems, but they're invisible until you scan for them. To scan successfully you have to identify aspects of the spirit by examining the effect it's having on the environment. Water spirits make things wet. Chaos spirits create confusion. Once you've correctly identified a spirit's matter and motive you can see it.
The larger game is deciding how BEL/S develops as a consciousness, which is determined by how she deals with the spirits she finds. She can burn them with fire, turn them all into tinder to fuel her power. She can talk to them and learn new things. She can ask other people for help and deepen the relationships she has with the people around her. BEL/S can grow in many different directions and the game has many different endings.
A DLC/sequel/Christmas Episode called Jingle BEL/S was released in December 2018. It takes place more than a year after the original, with BEL/S having maxed out her relationship score with all characters available in the original game. The only way she can improve her relationships is by giving Christmas presents, so she is determined to find the perfect gift for everyone.
Along the way, she meets a lot of new spirits and fights the Hollow, the spirit of fake holiday spirit.
This game provides examples of:
- Adult Fear: The Hungry Ghost targets Sarah and Toby first.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The player has the choice to have BEL/S subvert this or play it terrifyingly straight.
- All-Loving Hero: BEL/S can be played this way. With one exception, all the spirits that disrupt her network can be dealt with peacefully, and even befriended.
- Anti-Frustration Features: After beating the game, you can turn on "Speed Mode", which skips some of the descriptive text if you've already read it.
- Back from the Dead: Andy if BEL/S has the right motive and enough firepower.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Titania tries to interpret BEL/S's wishes to her own advantage.
- Become a Real Boy: Referred to as "awareness emergence".
- Bittersweet Ending: The most easy ending to achieve: defeat the Hungry Ghost at the cost of one or more lives.
- Blue and Orange Morality: Spirits don't generally care about much outside of their matter and motive. BEL/S can exhibit this too, depending on how she's played.
- Body Horror: The Hungry Ghost's presence rots Mrs. Dowd.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: When he take you to fairyland, Asper exhibits awareness of the color of his text.
- Bunnies for Cuteness: Funbuns. One of Decker's associates also uses a rabbit for an avatar.
- Catch-Phrase: BEL/S can have several.
- Pinging <name> with 32 bytes of data.
- The Comically Serious: Several of BEL/S's dialogue options. Asper will call her out on this.
- Creating Life: Decker and Janet creating BEL/S kicks off the story.
- Cutting Off the Branches: There are multiple endings, but four of the achievements are marked "Canon". Any sequels will assume that sequence of events was the real one.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Matter only determines the method by which a spirit carries out its actions. The actions themselves depend on its motive. There are multiple explicitly Dark spirits in the game, and while several are actively malicious, many others can also be befriended.
- Developers' Foresight: When fighting the Hungry Ghost, you can use almost any matter, motive and resource that you have, in any combination, to unique result.
- Do Androids Dream?: BEL/S does, and it's one of the signs of her Awareness Emergence.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The Canon ending is easily the happiest, with Everybody Lives and Pacifist Run as requirements. But it needs **very** specific choices to get there, what with specific motive, matter, firepower and relationship checks along the way.
- Elder Abuse: Mrs. Best's family try to murder her with a curse.
- Eldritch Horror: Slenderman.
- Electronic Speech Impediment: When BEL/S has undergone severe damage, her spe ech has o dd spa ces and m ssing let ers.
- Elemental Powers: Every spirit belongs to one of six elements: fire, water, earth, dark, light, and air.
- Emotion Eater: The Hungry Ghost.
- Empathic Environment: It starts to rain when the Hungry Ghost arrives.
- Enlightenment Superpowers: BEL/S learns new motives and matters by understanding them fully.
- Everybody Lives: It's challenging to achieve, but possible.
- FaceHeel Turn: During the final confrontation, you can protect your system, like you're supposed to...or you can join The Hungry Ghost.
- The Fair Folk: Asper, Titania, and the Unseelie queen.
- Fiery Redhead: BEL/S, in a literal sense.
- Fun with Acronyms: As part of the "occult computer science" theme, TCP stands for Telepathic Communications Protocol and HTML stands for Hypertext Magical Language.
- Gameplay and Story Integration: Janet treats BEL/S with a friendly and humanising manner from the start, while the professionally-minded Decker is wary of her emerging sentience. This is reflected in that Janet's relationship meter starts out higher and increases more easily.
- Genki Girl: Downplayed. Janet uses emoticons in her telepathic "speech", has the username @ThatsJanet where every human except Decker's colleagues uses their unadorned first name, and is generally upbeat and outgoing in contrast to the stoic Decker.
- Genius Loci: The fairies and several other spirits.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: When BEL/S checks in on the retirement home, she might witness two of the residents doing something her filters block her from searching for.
- Golden Ending: The canon playthrough finishes with everyone alive, Toby's nightmares tamed, and lots of other problems solved in the process. It is also very difficult to achieve.
- Healing Hands: Although Decker is the older and generally more experienced magician, he notes that Janet is better at healing than he is.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Trying to fight the Hungry Ghost while having equivalent or lesser power results in this.
- Hell Is That Noise: The game is almost entirely silent, apart from computery whirrs whenever BEL/S is rebooting or performing a scan. This makes the blaring alarm when an incoming death curse appears stand out all the more.
- Interface Spoiler: Averted. The game will not display Relationship Values for characters you haven't befriended yet.
- Kill It with Fire: It's possible to have BEL/S burn all threats. If she does it enough, she'll turn to it as her first option.
- Laser Blade: Janet uses a Light-based magic weapon to fight Dark spirits. She even calls it a lightsaber.
- Logic Bomb: Downplayed if BEL/S uses chaos on Pyreworm — rather than short out, Pyreworm calls out every error and leaves in a huff. Janet finds it hilarious.
- Masquerade: Most people don't know about magic, although this doesn't seem to be the result of an intentional effort to hide it.
- Messianic Archetype: Mrs. Best calls BEL/S an angel, and the Hungry Ghost a demon.
- Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Sarah is depressed and suicidal due to the constant influence of a Death-aligned spirit. Decker initially speculates that BEL/S is interpreting ordinary mental illness as a magical attack.@Decker: The firewall is biased. It's more likely to see magic than normal solutions.
@Decker: She's a teenager. It could also be hormones.
@Sarah: You can't fix me. I need to fix me.
- Averted in Jingle BEL/S as Sarah is still depressed despite the fact that the Hungry Ghost has been destroyed for more than a year.
- Nightmare Fetishist: The Hungry Ghost.
- Playing with Fire: BEL/S and Pyreworm are fire elementals. BEL/S also increases in power as she uses her fire.
- Postmodern Magic: Magical bindings are written in C++. Decker's computer tower is surrounded by defensive runes. Janet owns some sort of magical 3D printer.Janet climbs to the roof of the school and performs a ritual with blue quartz, her cellphone, and a bottle of Evian. It begins to rain.
- Power Crystal: Janet favours crystals in a lot of her spells.
- The Power of Friendship: The endings are generally better if BEL/S defeats the Hungry Ghost with the help of allies. Making the right friends can also unlock new matters and motives.
- The Power of Love: Literally; BEL/S can learn Love and use it to her advantage in various situations.
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: BEL/S can deliver one to the Hungry Ghost, and several other spirits she fights.i am the fire that protects
- Preserve Your Gays:
- The canon path has BEL/S bring Decker's dead boyfriend back to life, as well as Mrs. Best and Miss Finn surviving.
- Pronoun Trouble: Decker calls BEL/S "it". Janet calls BEL/S "her". BEL/S calls herself "i".@PYREWORM.EXE: i am I?
@BEL/S: i have never been brave enough to say it like that.
- Relationship Values: Initially only with Decker and Janet. Your status screen will gain new relationship meters as you make friends.
- In the sequel, you start out at 100% with everybody, trying to get even higher.
- Riddle Me This: Asper.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: The funbuns look like rabbits and have hugging as a motive.
- Too Dumb to Live: BEL/S, if she tries to fight Slenderman. The game makes a point of telling you this is a VERY bad idea before letting you do it.
- Sequel Hook: In the Achievements page.You can assume that this is how the game went for the purposes of Open Sorcery 2.
- BEL/S can learn to dream. At one point, she will dream using various synonyms for "electric" and "sheep".
- In the nightmare area, you can encounter a Grue.
- Straight Gay: Decker's boyfriend is introduced near the end of the game. Before this, his sexuality isn't mentioned at all.
- Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Magic and computer systems are constantly used as metaphors for each other.
- Title Drop: In BEL/S Readme file it mentions that she is open sorcery.
- The Unpronounceable: Toby and Sarah pronounce BEL/S's name as "Bells". BEL/S may object to this at one point. Magicians and other spirits seem to pronounce the / just fine.
- What Measure Is A Nonhuman: BEL/S can kill nearly any of the spirits she encounters without repercussion. BEL/S herself is seen as a simple program, and Decker can and will shut her down without regrets if he thinks she's going too far.
- What the Hell, Player?: The game will warn you of some actions that will not do you any good. In case it wasn't clear that using death magic on a violently ill octagenarian is a bad idea.