Review: Bedlam (PS4)

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Title: Bedlam
Format: PlayStation Network Download (4.94 GB)
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Publisher: Vision Games Publishing
Developer: RedBedlam
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: M
Bedlam is also available on Xbox One, PC, and Mac.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Bedlam is an homage to the shooters of the 1990s and the early 2000s. Based on the novel by Christopher Brookmyre, the story follows a programmer who finds herself transported into the universe of video games. Now trapped in the gameverse she has to jump from game to game in hopes of finding her way back to reality. Think of Stay Tuned or Wreck it Ralph, but with first person shooters.

In Bedlam the protagonist first finds herself transported into Starfire a Doom/Wolfenstein like game. From there she goes into a Medal of Honor/Call of Duty game set in World War II and hops into various other type of games throughout. Every level of the game is another homage to a game of yesteryear chock full of references to current games or games of that era. You will see levels inspired by games of the 90s and 00s with some retro 80s thrown in for good measure.

I was pleasantly surprised with the story of Bedlam. It might not cover new territory with its setup but the writing is clever and funny. There’s a real love of video games and it’s not afraid to reference other video game locations or real franchises by name. References like Black Mesa, BioShock, and Liberty City pop up from time to time to nice effect. The overall story is solid, but the humor in the dialogue with the great voice acting brings it up a level.

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Gameplay, like the story, attempts to pay homage to the era the games it is referencing and that leads to some mixed results. The mechanics stay pretty true to to the source material of that time. The shooting sometimes feels like a relic from the past because that is what the game wants to accomplish.

What that means is the shooting is sort of stiff like you would find in games of the early 1990s. So after years of playing recent first person shooters it was tough to adjust to the old ways of Bedlam, at least at first. Luckily I grew up playing a lot of the games Bedlam bases its mechanics on so my adjustment time was not too bad. Now with that in mind, if you have no reverence for the games of the 1990s then playing this one might be a challenge.

Since the game jumps from different eras of first person shooters it has the ability to show the evolution of the genre as each level grows in complexity. For example, in Starfire you cannot aim down the sights of a gun because that ability is not available till you make it to the World War II level. Another would be the levels having more and more detail as you move through the game with more to do in each world.

… things towards the end of the levels just dragged …
Bedlam does have issues like levels in the back-end of the game being confusing with poor layouts. This is either something done on purpose to mimic older games or it’s just poor design. Either way, running in circles due to architecture of a level being too bland is not fun.

The last third of the game took a lot out of my enjoyment. While I still had a good time overall, things towards the end of the levels just dragged. The major issue was the game’s reliance on platforming towards the end because it’s not great and there is a lot of it in the last third of the game.

Another thing that I found bothersome was checkpoints. Often the checkpoints would be too few and far between, meaning a death would cause a lot of backtracking. When this happens a funny piece of dialogue would become less funny the more times I was forced to replay it. You can create a save anytime during the game which is helpful, but years of modern games made that tough to remember to do.

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Visuals:
3D first person shooters from the 90s have not aged well and there is a reason most retro games thus far have skipped that era. Bedlam on the other hand does a good enough job to make a 3D game look enough like that era while still making it visually usable to convey its story.

The game does not look great compared to other games on the PlayStation 4, but that is as intended. This presentation will not work for anyone that was not gaming in that era and that’s fine so I will not dwell on it. What I can say is that the framerate is solid, but it does hiccup from time to time. It’s a shame because it should not be taxing the hardware. It does not become a major issue though it is noticeable sometimes.

… an enjoyable game if you are in the target audience …
Audio:
The story is told without cutscenes and is done through the dialogue of the main character and her supporters. The voice acting is key to making the story work and I am happy to report that the voice acting is great. The main protagonist and her accent are wonderful and the humor is well acted and nailed consistently.

Outside of the great voice acting nothing really stands out positively or negatively. Guns sound like they should and the music does its job for the most part and stays in the background. I did enjoy the music in the main menu for what it is worth.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
Bedlam is an enjoyable game if you are in the target audience. It is meant for gamers from a certain era and will be difficult for others outside of that time period to get the most out of it. The game mechanics are solid for what they are. The story and dialogue with its references and love for gaming help elevate the experience.

Some design choices hold it back, especially in the later portions of the game. The last third drags a little and might have benefited from some tightening up, but the overall experience was fun and enjoyable. Bedlam aims to please those who shooters in the 90s and it does a good enough job to evoke humor and nostalgia.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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