By: Jeff Cater
If you grew up gaming on a PC, you’ve probably played game like Doom, Quake or Medal of Honor. Harkening back to those glory days is Bedlam, developed by RedBedlam. In Bedlam, you play as hilarious Scotswoman Heather Quinn, who has been sucked into the world of ‘90s first-person shooters and must escape by blasting her way out and dispensing quips that would make Duke Nukem laugh.
Unfortunately, the level on response tied to any directional or button command is pretty sluggish, unlike the blistering gameplay featured in the games that inspired Bedlam. Sometimes trying to turn quickly is completely out of the question, as the game will often think you’re merely nudging in that direction.
While the game looks like somewhere bad textures are sent to die, many of the enemy and weapon designs are deliberately reminiscent of yesteryear. Weapon effects offer minimal variation and usually just serve to push the framerate down. That leads me to the positively most confusing aspect of this game: it doesn’t look good at all, but it still drops to what feels like sub-20 frames per second.
There are a few visually interesting levels, like the Pac-Man portion of the game, but everything else has super-low texture resolution and few frames of animation. In the true spirit of old shooting games, your characters selected weapon floats in front of your screen detached from any visible hand.
Thank goodness then that Heather is cynical and hilarious, as she will constantly comment on the sad state of things, be it her current situation, the graphics of the game she is trapped in, or the stupidity of the AI. The rest of the audio goes largely unnoticed because of her hilarity and the plain Jane weapon sound effects.
As you guide Heather through the various stages you’ll have to blast apart alien cyborgs, ruthless knights and just about any other stereotypical villain we’ve seen thousands of times before. Plus, in true retro fashion, you’ll often stumble across a room filled to the brim with enemies. This would be just fine if they were any fun to shoot at after the first 10 minutes of the game, but the action wears thin pretty quickly.
Now, it’s not that the core gameplay is bad — shooting bad guys is never boring — but in the case of Bedlam, none of the weapons feel very effective or memorable (aside from the crossbow that produces ragdoll effects, a touch not seen in older first-person shooters). And, circling back to the controls, aiming and dodging is just unnecessarily difficult and sluggish.
You’ll die multiple times simply because you couldn’t turn around fast enough while enemies were bearing down on you, and that isn’t fun nor is it in keeping with the spirit of the games that Bedlam drew it’s inspiration from. The sluggish controls are really evident during the (early) Arena portion of the game, which will have you getting absolutely nuked by foul-mouthed children as you bounce from platform to platform.
Bedlam is an unfortunately rough title that we so wanted to be stupendous! The thing is, with a few small patches addressing sluggish controls this game will be insanely playable and probably insanely fun! Here’s hoping RedBedlam will consider this in their future.