What if you suddenly found yourself trapped in the computer games of the 1990s? That’s the question Bedlam places front-and-center, in a nostalgic romp through video game history. Taking on the role of Heather, a luckless scientist who gets transported into Starfire – a shooter she loved in her teenage years – you have to survive, overcome the challenges of the game itself, and move from game to game within the milieu of the 1990s (and earlier) in order to escape the virtual prison and return to the real world.
While the game is presented entirely as a first-person shooter, not all of Bedlam’s levels involve actual shooting – indeed, some of them take place in entirely different genres of games, but still use the FPS interface, making for an interesting mashup of styles. All of Bedlam’s levels are pastiches of classic games from the 1980s and 1990s, including real-time strategy titles like Command & Conquer, shooters like Galaga, and (of course) FPS games like Unreal. All the FPS standbys are there, though: Whether you’re rocket-jumping through a real-time strategy game or headshotting ghosts in a Pac-Man analogue, Bedlam is heavy on action.
And, while this [email protected] game is set in a virtual world of the past, the graphics are retro, but up-to-date for the Xbox One’s powerful hardware. You won’t find yourself looking at two pixels and a black screen here. In fact, Bedlam’s art team has gone to great lengths to recreate authentic looks and feels of old-school titles. Those of us who grew up playing these games, like novelist and Bedlam designer Christopher Brookmyre, will immediately recognize their favorite titles. Much of the fun of Bedlam for old-school gamers lies in piecing together how to negotiate the older games’ “hooks” that link into Bedlam’s core shooter mechanic.
Of course, there’s a comprehensive storyline to Bedlam that goes well beyond just traveling through games. There’s an accompanying novel – indeed, a series of novels – which the game tracks alongside, and players will get a level of depth in Bedlam’s storyline and characters that they wouldn’t necessarily expect from an indie shooter title. As Heather, you live through the evolution of the FPS genre as you progress through the game itself, searching for a way back home… but you also go on a journey of self-discovery, learning what goes into being a gamer in the first place, too. And, as gamers, who wouldn’t enjoy a little look in the proverbial mirror during a stroll down memory lane? All while blowing everything to kingdom come, of course!