Publisher: KISS ltd.
Release Date: October 13th, 2015
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: First Person Shooter
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PlayStation 4. There may be differences between versions.
It’s rare to see an independent game based off of a known IP, and even rarer for that IP to be a book. Bedlam: The Game tries to be a game-hopping history of video games, with a lot of love given to the early shooters. Yet can this ambitious indie project be worth much?
Heather Quinn wakes up one day to find herself trapped inside of an early 90’s FPS called Starfire. Unsure of how she got there, Heather begins jumping through various game worlds and trying to find her way back. Along the way she meets up with a group of trapped people like her, named The Desperados, and an organization called The Integrity trying to stop them. A few interesting plot points don’t really make for a good plot though. One twist kind of had me interested, but overall there’s little to Bedlam’s story. That is, unless you want to hear either “Modern games suck, remember the good old days?” or “Girl gamers are better” constantly repeated over and over again. The game tries to shoot for humor, but it often complains or makes fun of the stuff that it’s still doing. I also can’t stand the game’s voice acting as either everyone has such a thick accent that they’re barely understandable or their voices are heavily and obviously auto-tuned to (poorly) hide that it’s the same few voice actors
You start the game trapped in the Quake-like shooter Starfire, and for the most part it does a pretty good job of replicating a shooter from that time period. You move fast, jump high, have weapons that sorta float in front of you rather than be held by anything, and enemies are stupid and only seem to know how to run forward towards you (and they always know where you are at all times) and shoot. I got a few Quake-styled weapons, including a rocket launcher, a laser pistol, and a doubled barreled shotgun. The game is rather linear and sort of fun.
The real issues pop up once I left Starfire for a World War 2 shooter called Death or Glory that is an obvious parody of games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. While the game does manage to aesthetically look like a World War 2 game, it still plays like Quake. I got some World War 2 themed weapons, but everything still moved and felt like Quake. As I continued the game I played through levels that were modeled after Halo, Half-Life, Age of Empires 2, The Elder Scrolls, and more. Yet all of these still played like Quake with a slightly different skin. After the first level it doesn’t feel like “the history of games”, but rather like “Quake with different skins.” Worse, the levels open up, but give no clear direction on where to go. I spent a long time wandering around levels hoping to accidentally trigger the next part. Buildings and props feel like they’re thrown around randomly because “whatever”, so there’s never any clear indication on where I need to be.
A few clever levels don’t make this any better either. A first person Pac-Man level is cute, but not worth writing home about. Similar can be said about a first person Space Invaders level. There’s a few boss fights, but they’re all basically “larger enemy with a health bar.” The one break in the game comes from the next to last level, which changes the game into a Defender-styled SHMUP. It’s too little too late though, and I doubt most players would even have the endurance to get to that point. It also requires getting through the absurd amount of glitches Bedlam drags with it. The most common is framerate problems, I found the game slowing to a crawl often for seemingly no reason. Other glitches would range from dialogue not playing, to all my weapons vanishing, to the game refusing to let me change weapons, and even one moment where I suddenly got ejected from the map and shot up into the air at an extremely high velocity. Every level I found some new way Bedlam would break, and I doubt it has anything to do with the plot.
Bedlam: The Game is a total wreck, and an early contender for the worst game I’ve played in 2016. The more I played the more it felt like the Starfire section of the game only felt like Quake because the developers knew nothing about modern FPSes and how they’ve improved. I can’t recommend this flawed history lesson to anyone.