Bedlam – The Game is based on the novel of the same name written by Christopher Brookmyre, one in which the player is taken deep into the world of video games from the 90’s. In Bedlam, you take control of Heather Quinn, aka Athena, who is teleported from her day job as a programmer into the wild and wonderful world of Starfire, which just so happens to be a 90’s FPS. What she discovers throughout her bizarre and amazing journey is a bunch of interconnected worlds in a somewhat visual documentation of shooters and video games.
Bedlam has already been around for a year or so in Early Access on Steam and as well as being now fully released on the PC has made it’s long awaited switch to the next-gen consoles with the Xbox One and Playstation 4.
As I’ve already mentioned, Bedlam’s story relies on the adventure of Heather, who has found herself teleported from her day job as a programmer into the world of Starfire. The wacky journey begins with Heather, or Athena, which is her chosen in-game name, standing motionless inside a white room, listening in to a mysterious person talking to her, while random images flash up onto the screen in front of her. She has no idea where she is or how she came to be there and as the white room begins to disappear, Athena is faced with her first in-game assignment – to locate Sergeant Gortoss.
After the mysterious voice finishes talking and the white room quickly moves away, it is replaced with a 90’s video game style aesthetic; for those who have played games like Quake or Duke Nukem 3D you will see some resemblance in it. This first part of the level also works out as a tutorial to learn the basic control movement. One thing that you will also encounter on this level is the first of the many “Glitches”; they look like a cracked glass and the image becomes a bit fuzzy when near them. These “Glitches” warp you to a different dimension, one which resembles the TRON universe, and can be used to travel between worlds or open up secret areas. In both cases you may find documents that serve to tell the story of the world.
Progressing through the different worlds will see your objectives vary both in weirdness and difficulty. As you help Athena completing the various tasks, you will encounter a whole range of different enemies like Nazi soldiers, crazy Zombies, Skeletons, miniature Tanks, the cutest enemy horde ever presented in a video game consisting of stuffed animals. And that’s not even mentioning the flying saucer boss to defeat and a unique adaptation of the famous Ghosts from Pac-Man.
Although most of the game is played out like a 90’s FPS, there is an abundance of retro arcade games, like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, thrown into the mix, some with slight RPG elements, which can be very entertaining while also humorous.
Graphically, Bedlam – The Game transmits that good and old classic game nostalgia feel and presents itself as a great concept; although it does have certain flaws, there is no denying that any gamer from the 90’s would love to play a game like Bedlam. The game is full of variety and the different game worlds you enter into are each completely different from the one you just came from. In all of my years of gaming, something that started in the mid 90’s, I’ve never gone from a regular WW2 themed FPS to an FPS version of the classic Pac-Man or even the classic Space Invaders in such a short space of time. Without any shadow of doubt all of this, and not forgetting the variety of enemies that I’ve mentioned before, makes Bedlam a very appealing title, especially for those who played some of the most iconic video games titles from the 90’s.
Picking up someone, Athena in Bedlam’s case, and throwing her into the most insane mix of video games, forcing her to fight her way out of this chaotic cyberspace is definitely a unique idea, but of course a game can’t only rely on the story behind it; it also needs to have the right sound effects and visuals to really stand out in this vicious videogame world. Bedlam manages to get the job done in that department. The game may not come with the latest 1080p resolution nor 60fps, which may disappoint the “new gamers” that have been blessed with all this new and realistic graphic quality but even today’s big names in the video game industry have been inspired by some of the classic 1990’s games.
Those who grew up a couple of decades ago, having their first video game experience during the 90’s will no doubt agree with me when I say that without the old Atari, NES, and Sega Saturn the 90’s would just be way more boring. It’s these same people who will grab that nostalgic feeling while playing a game like Bedlam. The graphics may be a bit to pixelated at times but, in general, they seem great, and adding the unique gameplay and story to them is most definitely a plus.
The controls can be a bit twitchy sometimes, but they are reasonably easy to get used to…after all, back in the 90’s some of the controllers had fewer buttons than those today. But still with a wide array of weapons scattered throughout the game, anything from WW2 pistols to a Magic Sword that has the ability to shoot fireballs, the controls are pretty intuitive.
In summary, the concept of the game, its unique story and gameplay make it an interesting title to spend time with, however, the game fails in some aspects. The controls sometimes feel a bit twitchy and I’ve encountered some frame rate drops by the end of the game, as well as a bug that would suddenly flip the camera and leave you disorientated and lose the character control. Above all else though, the one that would simply crash the game and make you restart the level where you were, even if you were at the end of it nearly pushed me over the edge. The checkpoint/auto-save system also has its flaws, with them either being too far apart or too close together, and sometimes the game would save while enemies were close which would see you struggling immensely once you restarted the last save position.
Bedlam may not appeal to every gamer, especially the new breed, but those looking for a sense of the old school classic shooter action in the new generation of consoles should give it a try.