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Author: Mark Whitmore
Reviewed by David Whyld
In brief: your son is playing music incredibly loud and you’ve got a hangover. Trying to stop it would be a good idea.
Ever feel you're playing a game that the author just couldn’t be bothered to finish? Welcome to Bedlam.
Now as this is a review and not just a list of all the game’s faults, I’ll mention them briefly. Part of the reason for this is, alas, that if I went into any great detail regarding its faults, this review would be ten times the size it is.
In brief then, the worse faults:
* You can’t leave the bedroom at the start of the game unless you type “stand”. Turns out the player begins lying on a bed but as the author didn’t think to mention this, it’s not likely you're going to figure it out without some serious persistence.
* Undescribed items. Too many to list even briefly. Bedlam is riddled with them. The bathroom is particularly annoying as it includes four items but only one that produces any meaningful response.
* Guess the verb. The curse of poorly written text adventures rears its ugly head once more. In some locations, “take” will work but “get” won’t. In others, items are clearly visible but can’t be picked up with either. Items generally need to be referred to by their full name – i.e. “bottle of pills” instead of just “bottle” or “pills” – otherwise the game doesn’t understand what you're trying to do.
* Unchanging descriptions. Three terrible offenders here. There's an axe lodged in a tree which is still there even if you remove it and drop it in another location. Your son, Tony (who can’t be examined or spoken to or, indeed, interacted with in any way), is burning an anthill (can’t be examined either) with a magnifying glass. Yet even though you can take the magnifying glass, the room description still lists Tony as burning the anthill with it! Then there's Tony’s bedroom which is described as an unholy mess even after you’ve cleaned it (with a couple of items, incidentally, that you’re not even carrying). The sheer level of testing that this game must have undergone is pitiful.
* Items that can’t be taken no matter what. There are some clothes in a washing machine but you can’t take them. This happens in a few other places as well.
* Shoddy item descriptions. Not just shoddy as in the sense of “poorly written” but shoddy as in “You can't see inside [the fridge], since it is closed. The fridge is open.” This same lack of quality game writing is apparent several other times as well and really makes you wonder how even the author could have believed this game was ready for release.
Yet it’s got a kind of charm to it. The writing is a darn sight better than you might expect given the other, and numerous, problems with the game. It’s comical and amusing in parts and the introduction (which bears little relevance to the rest of Bedlam) was nice, although the constantly ringing alarm clock does get a bit tiresome after a while.
Does that make the game’s other shortcomings forgivable? Hardly. In a way it makes them even more frustrating. If the author was some talentless fellow who couldn’t string two words together without one of them being wrong, the sheer amount of mistakes would have been pretty much what I’d expect from him. But the standard of writing shows that here is someone who actually has some skill at writing. Unfortunately what he has in writing skill, he clearly lacks in programming skill as Bedlam has got to be one of the buggiest games I've ever played.
A major rewrite might go a long way towards making this into the game it should have been in the first place but as it was first released way back in 2001, it’s a fair bet that the author has since moved on to other things.
Even though I smiled a couple of times while playing Bedlam, it’s really not a game I could recommend to anyone. The huge amount of mistakes the author has made make playing it an almost painful experience at times and there are certainly better games out there.
2 out of 10 (original was 1 but decided to bump it up a point due to the better than average writing)
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