Bedlam is the Love Letter to Games Under Your Radar

Controlled chaos

Bedlam Calastria_01

Bedlam isn’t your standard game. It’s a game based on a book, that’s based on games and game culture. It’s so meta it hurts, but it’s also so ambitious and confusing that it could really only come about with the cooperation of the original author Chris Brookmyre. But with Bedlam, indie studio Red Bedlam hasn’t just tried to adapt a novel, instead it’s created a game that plays out as a pseudo-sequel that has you playing as a programmer at medical scanning company Heather Quinn – or Athena, as she goes by online.

Having talked to Chris Brookmyre and Red Bedlam co-founder Nick Witcher at Gamescom this year, the entire idea behind Bedlam is to challenge expectations. It’s pinned as ‘a genre jumping shooter’, so it’s no surprise that it revels in trying to buck conventions. While a strong female lead shouldn’t need to be classed as bucking the trend, Heather also brings with her a back story of exclusion and fight to prove to others she’s as passionate about her hobby as her male peers. But as subversions go, just having a female character and making a nod towards the fact that it’s unfortunately not commonplace isn’t really enough. That’s why Bedlam’s real meat comes in the crazy ideas wrapped within Chris’ mind.

Spawned out of the idea of collaborating on a new game venture, Chris came up with the notion of connected game worlds merging together and that’s how Bedlam was born. Influenced by Chris’ favourite games like Quake, Doom, and other early first-person shooters out there, Bedlam is really a game that started out as some slight self-indulgence, and has blossomed into into a map of the evolution of games. It may poke fun at what games are, but it also celebrates them, and gives a rather unique glimpse into what some game worlds could be like when viewed through the first person perspective.

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It isn’t just a linear progression though, everything is mixed up and game worlds are falling into one another through glitches in code. While chasing down Bedlam, you’ll pass through these glitches, discovering weapons from other games that you can carry through to any world. It’s an interesting mechanic for multiple reasons, but nothing quite beats the idea of taking through a Doom-era gun into a Call of Duty-style shooter to really mess with your mind.

You won’t only be playing through shooters, both Chris and Nick assure us that as you progress you’ll get dropped into the likes of turn-based RPGs, albeit packing a wide array of guns. Of course, the guys at Red Bedlam have had to work around some legal fences, so while you’ll see games you recognise, they definitely won’t be called what you expect. But that’s fine, it only adds to the tongue and cheek charm that underpins Bedlam.

It’s certainly not a short-lived idea either, as there are plans to expand the game into a trilogy that offers up something different each time, with even the possibility of a multiplayer title if things go well. Bedlam is already up on Early Access on Steam for PC and Mac, and has ambition to land itself on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as a simultaneous launch in January 2015.

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