Bedlam is a First Person Shooter centered on Heather Quinn as she finds herself trapped inside of a video game and yearns to escape. The first game she finds herself in is a Quake-like arena shooter where she has the form of an alien race that look very similar to the Strogg. Bedlam focuses mainly on older titles that are not always of the FPS genre and it may go over the head of a lot of younger players, but for people that have experienced that era, it is very entertaining to catch the jokes.
All of the voice actors have a Scottish accent which is not a negative or a positive, just something I found unique. Our character Quinn is not a silent protagonist and has a personality of her own, occasionally quipping about the situation or being her usual sarcastic self. Everything looks promising so far, but unfortunately, the actual game part of this title is sub-par. Movement speed is very high which I usually find to be a good thing however that is not the case here. Multiple areas have a ton of objects scattered about that hinders your movement, and if the ground is not perfectly horizontal one will occasionally find themselves stuck in the ground for a few seconds.
We start off with an energy pistol, that is one of the best weapons in the game due to its high accuracy and damage. The first enemies we will encounter have projectiles we can strafe out of the way from but pretty soon you’ll be thrust into a WW2 game where the enemies have hit-scan weapons and a super precise AI that can shot you with a machine gun from across the map if you so much as peek out the window. That immediately causes the high movement speed gameplay to feel unsuited for this new type of close quartered, cover shooting.
The hit-scan enemies pertain for the rest of the game and due to the extremely accurate yet brain dead AI makes fighting not much fun. Your enemies’ corpse will also hinder your moment speed so setting them to disappear as soon as possible in the settings is advantageous. What further kills the experience, especially in the aforementioned WW2 section is the amount of copy and pasted situations. You will be breaching the same exact apartment building an absurd amount of times throughout the mission. They are in separate locations, but their layout is always the same and it just feels like pointless, tedious padding after a while.
Level design is typically terrible as well. They frequently toss you inside a large environment with little in the way of indications as to where to go. Most games have some form of lightning or other cues to subtly guide you along, but in Bedlam, it feels like they made the map first and then stuck the objectives in it. Some levels feature keys that you need to get in order to unlock the next area, and it is obviously a nod to the older style of shooters, but like the movement speed, they simply don’t know what made FPS games great back then. The level design made them work back in the day as the maps were catered around the gameplay, not the gameplay to the maps.
Bedlam features an autosave system that is really unreliable. It will save very frequently at times and will go without doing so in large stretches randomly. This is negated by the ability to save the game whenever you please, just be sure to remember to do so. You’ll get your hands on a vast array of weapons that you can carry all at once. Sadly, the gunplay is not all that enjoyable, and a lot of the guns feel very similar. The shotgun is pretty random with its damage output and has to be really close to the often hit scanning enemies, while the chaingun has a tiny clip before you have to reload and an equally short range that barely does any damage if you are more than a few feet away.
You can get a crossbow early on which is a solid weapon, but you do not get ammo for it until far later levels. There is little point using anything but the starting pistol early on up until you get a sniper rifle to even the odds against the AI’s insane accuracy. This too has a serious flaw to it. For some reason when you are aiming through the scope, your enemies will not take damage until you go back to your normal view and then pull up the scope again. That happens randomly, and I could not pin point what causes it, if anything.
Some of the later weapons like the fireball throwing sword are more useful, but it will remain about long ranged weapons and shooting your enemies first. Most of the enemies function identically, they will either try to rush you via shooting or rush you by melee. Bedlam does feature a few bosses that pose a far greater threat. They are reasonably fun to fight though the first one seems to have the most effort put in while the rest get progressively worse. It does feature gimmick levels like Pacman, Space Invaders, and an RTS game but they do not work well from the first person view.
Pacman, for instance, tasks you with collecting all the pellets in the maze while under attack by Bedlams version of the ghosts. It can be all too easy to spend quite a bit of time navigating the maze in search of the last few pellets that you missed. Space Invaders has you shooting down the enemy ships with a chaingun which is a lot less fun than it sounds and the RTS game has potential to work okay, but they throw in a death fog that forces you to run to the end of the level. Running through the confusing level design while under attack from enemies that you can’t spend the time to kill is not fun.
Not fun is the perfect description of this game. It is technically functional, has plenty of weapons and fast movement yet it does not manage to be fun. Catching references is the most joy you’d get from this game. The humor itself can be pretty solid such as when they emulate a multiplayer and at times just ironically unaware of how not funny it is. A few examples of that is when they make fun of sewer levels and proceed to make you play one… with zombies. Another is when they mention the Xen boss fight in Half Life 1 then they immediately replicate it. Calling a bad level bad does not make it any less bad.
When you are not fighting, you’ll be platforming in a shattered digital world where you can find extra weapons or emails. They are accessed by entering a ‘glitch’ in a game whose appearance resembles cracked glass. You’ll be entering them quite a bit throughout the story though there are some hidden ones out there. Inside that glitched world there are a ton of jump pads and many death pits to cross over. These sections are alright, the game does not autosave from within them so it’d be wise to do so manually as dying does not send you back to the level but to the last save which can be quite some ways back.
As many flaws as this game had, its premise and uniqueness was still enough that I wouldn’t just outright dismiss it. That is until the end level occurred. Oh my, that end level. It has to be one of the most stretched out levels I’ve ever played. You’ll be spending an absurd amount of time climbing up that shattered digital world, facing wave after wave of enemies. It went on so long that even the devs seemingly gave up on keeping the weapon placements in such a way that you can continue fighting, and it gives you infinite ammo. That is still nowhere near the end of that level, and you will continue on and on to an underwhelming finale. Bedlam is just one of those games where you are drawn in by its premise but quickly realize that is not enough to carry a game.