Friday 30 October 2015

Bedlam (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1982

Bedlam is an arcade-style shooter that has some similarities to the game Tempest (1981, Arcades).

The premise sees alien invaders trying to take over your home galaxy and it's your job to stop them. Armed with three lives and an anti-molecular cannon you must shoot waves of aliens as they approach the centre of the screen. Your cannon is stationary (you can't thrust) but the analog stick allows you to rotate it 360°. Each wave takes place inside varying shapes that signify the play area and the aliens always attack from the outside-in. If they do manage to surround you there's a Fast Rotate button (speeds up your cannon's movement) or a Zap button (wipes out everything on screen but can only be used once per wave). Once you've defeated everything the shape changes and the speed and enemy frequency increases. One nice feature is that there's different alien types including Droids that circle your cannon and Astral Defenders that remind me of Boo from Super Mario Bros. as they only attack when you're facing away! This variety is an excellent idea as it lets you tackle the enemies in a methodical way. The main frustration I had is that there's times when your cannon refuses to line up with incoming aliens despite shots being scattered in their direction; as a result you'll suffer a few lost lives as things speed up. Three difficulty settings are available; the first isn't too tough but by the second the action becomes frantic and the Space Invaders 'heartbeat' SFX ramp up the intensity. The play areas also start to pulse outward which makes you feel incredibly paranoid! In the highest difficulty the levels start to rotate which looks awesome but it's disorientating and hard to shoot accurately. The gameplay is challenging, perhaps a little too much so, as unless you're very skilled it's not uncommon to lose all your lives in a couple of minutes.

Bedlam is a unique and innovative take on the genre and the tense atmosphere it creates is fantastic considering the primitive hardware it's running on. While each game might not last long it's still a fun shooter and the addictive arcade style gameplay encourages you to keep trying until you beat your current high score.

Random trivia: If you press 1+2+4 on the title screen until the music stops you can access the developer credits. A short snippet of the song Dixie will also play!

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