Nostalgia is a powerful, often enchanting force that gamers experience whenever talking about the good ol’ days. It’s the amber that preserves impactful classics such as Goldeneye: 007 and Quake 2. Sure, by today’s standards those games may not be gold, but nostalgia is what keeps them glittering in our long-term memories for decades on end. Bedlam: The Game by Christopher Brookmyre is an adaptation of Brookmyre’s novel of the same name. Nostalgia is mostly what Bedlam is all about. It’s also one of the game’s few positive aspects, unfortunately.
It all begins in the fictional FPS Starfire, which is essentially Quake or any spacely arena shooter from that era of gaming. You play as a confused Australian woman who has no clue how she got to be in the skin of a hideous Gralak. Right off the bat, some interesting narrative soup is brewing here. Playing as a non-American female is especially refreshing given the typical FPS protagonist. Bedlam grants some light commentary on what it was like for your character to grow up as a girl gamer, a discussion I was glad to see present within a game. There’s one point, a low gravity rocket death match in Starfire, where one of the AI controlled combatants yells, “Why don’t you go back to playing The Sims!?” It was especially rewarding to blow that ‘player’ to bits.
After Starfire, you’ll find yourself in a World War Two shooter called Death or Glory. Again, it was pretty neat going through my old haunts. I poured a ton of time into Unreal Tournament and Day of Defeat: Source back in the day, so walking around carbon copies of those games was delightfully reminiscent. However, this portion of Bedlam was about the time where all of that beloved satirical nostalgia began to wear thin. One mission in particular had me wandering around the town, scouting the same buildings over and over. I had killed all but a couple of enemies and the mission objective wasn’t pointing me in any direction, really, so I spent more time than I wanted to meandering around streets. It was about this time where I realized how many objects I was getting stuck to. I must have missed this or else forgiven it during the Starfire section due to that game’s low-res textures, but the issue is only aggravated in later levels.
I had noticed some framerate hiccuping during the beginning of the game, especially when it auto-saved, but the last few sections are nearly unplayable when the game starts to chug. This isn’t an effect that Bedlam is going for, mimicking 56k connection drops. By the final boss fight, it became clear that this is the choppiest game I’ve played in PS4 (besides for those few times when Nom Nom Galaxy overheats during online play). I even wondered how it got through testing with some of these framerate issues. Besides for that, there are frustrating difficulty spikes that punctuate the sometimes lengthy wandering sections of the game. Playing on Medium difficulty, I died dozens and dozens of times due to a massive spawning of enemies that were damn near impossible to dispatch given my ammo and health. I wound up running past the substantial hordes towards the nearest checkpoint as opposed to fighting them head-on. It felt like I was abusing the save-state features of a ROM, funny enough. This was probably due in part to the fact that when loading my save, I was sometimes stripped of my entire arsenal and given a pistol and a remote mine launcher. The variety of weapons I had accrued across generations of games was one of the remaining bright points of Bedlam. Once that was gone, my tolerance for the rest of the experience plummeted.
There was potential in Bedlam. Being held prisoner in an array of old games is a thought that has cropped up in many gamers’ heads, I’m sure. The narrative of how and why you’re there takes a swing for the philosophical about halfway through but isn’t totally capitalized on. Where the PS4 version of Bedlam could have been a trip down memory lane, it is instead a test of endurance. With so many other novel PSN games, I’m not sure this history lesson is worth the time investment.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Playing non-FPS games from a first-person perspective.
- Australian female protagonist.
What I Dislike:
- Framerate chugging.
- Difficulty spikes.
- Loading/saving issues.
- Sticking to environmental objects.