There have been quite a number of games which have opted to present gamers being stuck in a virtual space with varying degrees of success. Matt Hazard springs to mind and even games like Sword Art Online manage to present themselves in such a way to encapsulate the player. Bedlam on the other hand attempts a similar approach in first person glory mimicking times past and injecting a fair amount of humour into the process. Yet with a wealth of gaming stereotypes to fall back on the end result is perhaps too contrived to be of any merit.
In a nutshell, players assume the role of a Scottish female cyborg character who due to rifts in the gaming space gets transported into different games not too dissimilar to the CGI movie Wreck It Ralph. What this essentially means is a shift through various zones where each is based on a specific game type. You’ll begin with Doom style gaming at the start with basic opponents before heading into a WWII Call of Duty clone and then a Left 4 Dead zombie encounter in the obligatory sewer section, you get the point. There’s plenty of variety here although sadly the core first person mechanics of moving with great speed remain consistent throughout.
The biggest problem with Bedlam isn’t its reliance on needlessly trying to reference every popular game for the sake of it through its unrelenting dialogue, but the actual gameplay itself. At the start of the game its shortcomings are forgiveable and can be viewed as an accurate representation of the period its presenting, but when the same mechanics carry through the rest of the game it unhinges itself from its overt parody of popular games. The controls are terrible with aiming being awkward and unresponsive. The X axis turning is tank-like and the general speed of movement too fast for the most part making precise aiming a chore. The level design is also archaic and uneventful placing you into dull environments with vague objectives such as find the key or fire sword by aimlessly wandering around the level until you find a mark above a random door. It’s painful to play through and when the game throws in things like Space Invaders or Pac-Man for example, instead of using a traditional view you’re left playing it first person style and have to look up at a reflection to see what cookies you’ve left. It’s awkward and not as much fun to play as it could have been simply because you’re tied to a fixed perspective the entire time.
In terms of visuals Bedlam presents some neat 60 frames per second gaming although this isn’t fixed and begins to chug when the screen becomes filled with assets. The visual style is basic although improves as you move across game types but is generally dull and repetitive despite being quite colourful on occasion.
Audio comes in with a wealth of dialogue to listen to of which most of it seemingly takes itself too seriously when it’s not, aside from the quips the player character utters from time to time. She actually does a reasonable job of keeping things together. That said, some conversations seem to drag on for an eternity for little reason other than to infuriate the player. There’s actually some decent music on offer here which helps provide some much needed atmosphere and the period sound effects are well done.
Bedlam attempts to offer a variety of settings to entice the player which is an ambitious and admirable goal. However, the poor execution and dire design choices means the game suffers greatly as a result. It’s simply too mundane to play even for the sake of experiencing the nods to gaming’s past – of which you’d be better off playing those instead if you’re after some nostalgia jerking. If you’re a glutton for old school style punishment then you might get some kicks from the experience but anyone else will likely be utterly drained.
Review code supplied by Microsoft Xbox.