Posted by Justin Tomann
A video game based on a book based on video games
Bedlam is a video game based on a book based on video games. Retaining the original author for the game's writing, Christopher Brookmyre, the game has you following Heather Quinn, a human who finds themselves trapped within a digital world of videogames known as the 'gameverse'. A world of games that can be travelled through via 'glitches', which teleport you from game to game. Despite the interesting idea, the game ultimately falls flat on being interesting, and is riddled with a surplus of technical issues.
Heather, who goes by her username Athena in the gameverse, starts out in a fictional 90's sci-fi shooter known as 'Starfire'. She doesn't know why she's there, or if she's even in reality. All she knows is that she just got a new job and if this is indeed more than a dream, which it is, she needs to get out. The first thing you'll notice is how faithfully the game replicates a 90's shooter, for better and for worse. Low-poly characters, being able to carry more than two weapons at once, little to no accompanying music, and an occasional framerate drop whenever the action on screen gets hectic. While the nostalgic aesthetics were pleasing, especially for gamers who remember that era, the framerate issues are something that plagues the game throughout its entirety. If too much is happening on screen, the framerate will chop. This progressively gets worse within the game as more and more enemies become present at once.
The rest of your journey takes you through various fictional games that have an obvious inspiration from actual video games. Given that the game could take you through any kind of game genre, it's disappointing that for the most part, the game sticks to first person shooters. You do a lot of shooting at enemies and going from point A to point B. Some missions have objectives for you to perform, but for most of the game your task is simply to go to the indicated place and shoot a lot of enemies.
As for the game's writing, it can be quite humorous at times. At one point, the game mimics teenagers being rude and crass to Athena while playing a game of pseudo-online deathmatch. There are even references to other actual video games like Quake 2, Lego Batman, and even Rayman Raving Rabbids - all often being used as punchline to a joke by Athena. Unlike the humor though, the storyline is largely vague and we found it difficult to become interested in it. The characters you meet don't really get a chance to develop. Details about why Heather is in the gameverse are hazy, even when finally explained. We were hoping we would find out in the ending, but unfortunately it never seems to be resolved.
Bedlam leaves a lot to be desired. We were really intrigued by the game at first, but the more time we spent with it, the less appealing it became to us. That, along with technical issues that shouldn't be present ultimately left a bit of a sour taste.