The internet is a fascinating thing. It’s really easy to somehow stumble upon something you didn’t know existed, and then get enamored into giving it a try. That’s probably the best way for me to describe my experience with playing this game, which was the fourth game featured on Budget Shooter Theater. It’s probably the most obscure, as well.
Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam: The Game is a game based on a novel by Christopher Brookmyre (natch), a noted British author, whom sadly I was not aware of since I live in the United States.
I hadn’t really heard of this until I was watching Achievement Hunter-turned-Twitch streamer Ray “BrownMan” Narvaez, Jr. play this game, doing a blind run of this on Xbox One probably just to get achievements for it, something from his Achievement Hunter days that he still does. It seemed like an interesting little game, so I ended up looking for it on Steam and sure enough, there it was.
This was the third (and final) game I requested myself that I put on the “Decision Wheel,” just so I had a queue of games to play for this Budget Shooter Theater idea. The other two games were ones I had already played: The Ultimate Doom and the then-recent remaster of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Ultimate Doom needs no introduction. Turok was something I wanted to try to see if it held up or was strictly a nostalgia grab.
Bedlam, on the other hand, was strictly unknown to me until I watched that stream. I was going in mostly blind, and I wanted to see if it was as good as it looked when Ray played it. Turns out, it’s surprisingly better than I expected.
The story involves Heather Quinn, who signed up for a new virtual reality machine that simulates video games. Little did she know, she was sucked into the world of video games instead. With the help of various people she meets in the various game worlds, she must fight her way out of Bedlam.
The moment I started playing, I was thrown into a game world not unlike Quake II. Though it goes by a generic name – Starfire – it clearly has the style and look of that mid-’90s era of PC gaming, which I thought was neat. Through my travels, I went through a WWII FPS not unlike Medal of Honor, a futuristic open arena similar to Halo or PlanetSide, a medieval world similar to games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, even an area that resembled Pac-Man. This is Bedlam‘s world in a nutshell.
Yet, oddly, the game also name drops notable locations like Black Mesa from Half-Life, and even mentions Call of Duty, despite all the games depicted in-game being fictional. Presumably it’s okay to reference those games without having to pay legal fees, but this might all be references that are still in the book, which I haven’t read.
While I was hopping around in the worlds, there were portals that showed up taking me to outside the game space, where I jumped and roamed around while trying not to get lost. These are the connecting levels that are put inbetween each stage, and they’re somewhat frustrating for having a fair share of platforming, which I honestly thought we abandoned years ago. Worst off, these interstitial levels sometimes go on for way too long, which were slowly killing my interest in the game as I was plodding through them to get to the next interesting level location. These should’ve been short and to-the-point.
Bedlam takes a fair share of inspiration from an unlikely franchise: TimeSplitters. The game feels very TimeSplitters-esque, from Quinn holding weapons single-handedly much like the player characters do in those games, to the parts where jumping from game to game feels like traveling through time in those games. While Quinn is nothing like Sergeant Cortez in terms of humor, she does get a few decent quips here and there.
There are some issues I had with the game, though. In addition to the dull platforming, Bedlam loved throwing loads of enemies at a distance or in hard-to-see spots that made it difficult to attack in spots, causing them to hit hard and not a lot of health was around to make it easier. This was very prevalent in later parts of the game, where enemies were potshotting me in the distance. There were a few times on stream I had to actually rely on quicksave scumming to get past them, which was kind of annoying to do, even on Normal difficulty.
I will say this: For a game that’s doing homages to other games, it’s not nearly as hamfisted about it compared to previous attempts at this, like Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, where Will Arnett’s bored sounding voice bemoaning the fact that it’s giving you tutorials. At times, it feels like it’s celebrating video games as a medium, even in a silly piece of fiction.
Bedlam: The Game is not a classic. The game likes to reference older games as if it can hang with them, but it just reminds you of those older, better games. However, it’s the closest we’re ever getting to a new TimeSplitters game in this century, so it’s worth a bash. You can get it on Steam, and also on PS4 and Xbox One if you’re more of a console person. Or you’re an achievement/trophy hunter like Ray.
The first stream was done immediately after finishing Turok, and was a solo stream. I didn’t want to stream on my birthday, so the second part was pushed to the day before, which was also a solo affair.
PART ONE: (Streamed January 14, 2017)
PART TWO: (Streamed January 27, 2017)
Budget Shooter Theater
iswas a stream series where I tried to play and finish as many first person shooters, third person shooters, and light gun rail shooters as I could, with occasional guests. It lasted for about 7 games spread throughout various Twitch streams from 2016-2017. While I abandoned this idea in mid-2017, the articles are still up for posterity.