Based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Brookmyre, Bedlam takes players deep into the world of video games with a very nineties nostalgic feel. In Bedlam, players take on the role of Heather Quinn or 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 nineties first person shooter. What she discovers throughout her bizarre and amazing journey is a bunch of interconnected worlds with other games of the same genre in a somewhat visual documentation of shooters and video games.
Bedlam has been around since for a year in Early Access through 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. Developed by RedBedlam and published by Standfast Interactive, Bedlam wants to take players on a throwback journey through the nineties, but does the game live up to the many classics it hopes to emulate?
Bedlam: Xbox One [Reviewed], Playstation 4, PC
Publisher: Standfast Interactive
Release Date: 13 October 2015 [PC] 16 October 2015 [Consoles]
Price £15.99 [Disclosure: Game copy supplied by Publisher]
Bedlam’s story begins with Heather who has found herself teleported from her day job as a programmer into the world of Starfire, a nineties FPS game. The wacky journey begins with Heather or Athena, which is her chosen in game name, standing motionless inside a white room, a mysterious person is talking to her through her ears but she cannot see him, 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 a Sergeant Gortoss.
As the white room quickly moves away, it is replaced with a nineties video game style aesthetic, which fans of classic games such as Quake or Duke Nukem 3D will surely admire. As Athena quickly sprints throughout the land she is taught the basic control movement, the tutorial is played as players move, while running up through the first level I came across the first of the games many “Glitches”, A distorted visual which when walked into, warps players to a different dimension all together, like something from TRON, Glitches can be used to make way between worlds but they also serve to tell the story of the world through documents found on the floor.
As she progresses through the different worlds Athena’s objectives vary in weirdness and difficulty, more often then not she is aiding other gamers who like her, are stuck inside Starfire, some even appear happy to be there and see no problem. As she completes the various tasks she encounters a whole range of differing enemies with Nazi soldiers and crazed Zombies to gun down not to mention a flying saucer boss to defeat. Although most of the game is played out like a nineties first person shooter, there is an abundance of retro arcade games thrown into the mix and slight RPG elements, which can be very entertaining, while also humorous.
Bedlam is poetic in it’s appearance, the game is awash with a classic game nostalgia feel and presents itself as a great concept, though it does have certain flaws, there is no denying that any gamer from the nineties would love to play a game like Bedlam. The game is brim full of variance, the different game worlds that Athena enters into are each completely different from the one she just vacated. Throughout my years of gaming and video game journalism, I have never gone from shooting down space invaders to running through a Pac-Man style maze while being chased by what I can only describe as Mexican Ghosts, collecting pips before fending off Nazi’s and then Zombies, Bedlam leads players through the history of nineties video games and that alone makes it very appealing.
The idea of having a person unwillingly thrown into Cyberspace, left to fight her way out through a mixture of insane video game worlds is a unique one, but it needs to have the right sounds and visuals to pull it off and make it a success, Bedlam has all of that and more. Present day gamers may not fully appreciate the look the developers have gone for because of the lack of 1080p graphics and a high frame-rate but even modern day games like Wolfenstein had to start life somewhere…right?, I mean..heck, even Bethesda took players back into the classic style Wolfenstein during Old Blood, allowing players to experience the original first hand and it was a huge success, it’s nostalgia in it’s purest form and it’s a beautiful sight.
It’s what being a kid back in the nineties meant, the developers are simply swapping out the age old Atari’s and Sega Saturns and replacing it with a modern day console and it works exceedingly well. The graphics though slightly pixelated at times are great, as is the story and gameplay. Though the controls can be slightly twitchy, it’s simple and easy to get the hang of and with a wide array of wonderful weapons to work through including old age pistols and space age ones, not to mention swords, there are hours of fun and carnage to be had. The boss fights are not overly daunting but typical and fitting of the particular era. RedBedlam used Brookmyre’s novel well, at the end of the day, the writer is obviously a gamer.
Overall the concept of the game is very appealing and for the most part Bedlam proves to be every bit as entertaining as it looks, I did experience slight drops in frame-rates towards the end of the game which let the game down ever so slightly and made progression harder then it needed to be and at times the controls felt a little clunky but other then that I experienced no further issues.
While Bedlam may not appeal to every gamer, it certainly presents itself very well and has a lot to offer. Players looking for a piece of old school classic shooter action on a next gen console need look no further then Bedlam.