Bedlam isn't a great or brilliant game: it won't blind you with its originality or searing gameplay. But it's a decent enough game with a fair number of fun hours in it, and that in itself can be rare enough these days.
Bedlam is a faster, more mindless version of the Crusader/Syndicate school of gaming: top-down, hard-core hellraisin'. Its premise suits it well. In the future, we have come to rely on biomechanical creatures for our menial labor. Now these creatures have run amok and are raging across the city, lowering property values wherever they go.
As leader of a squad of Remote Assault Tanks (RATs), your job is to destroy the biomex where ever they are, and strike at the heart of their operations by wrecking key installations. Three RATs are at your disposal, each controlled from an "satellite uplink": the standard metaphor for skewed, top-down perspective real-time action game.
The RATs themselves are kinda cool. They move and turn fast, and carry a nice assortment of weapons on their pylons. You start the game with a certain amount of money, and must buy weapons to arm each RAT. Bombs, bouncy grenades, sticky grenades, photon guns, conventional guns, delayed fuse bombs, and more provide a pretty good assortment of offensive weapons, with more available as you get deeper into the game. Defensive equipment like shields and sensors can also be fitted, though only two are allowed per RAT.
Each mission has a primary goal and a number of subgoals, and begins with your RAT or RATs being dropped into the combat zone. The graphics here are, for the most part, pretty sharp, high-res visuals, with multi-level buildings, well-animated monsters, and plenty of fiery explosions. I found, however, that perspective was often a problem: I ran into a great deal of trouble telling one level from another in many instances. A little fiddling with the controls clarifies this problem, but more careful rendering would have been a better solution.
Each mission features a number of different elements that you need to understand to get through, tempering the action with a fair amount of problem solving. Most of this is based around switches, power fields, gates, and moving platforms which enable you to get from one level or area to another. In addition, money, power-ups, armor, weapon loads, and other prizes are scattered throughout the terrain.
Almost everything in Bedlam can be shot or blown up: always a nice feature. And levels tend to move fast and furious, with lots of action and lots of carnage. Control of all this takes some getting used to, since movement and firing are completely based around the mouse: left button to move, right to fire. It's a tricky interface, but one that can be learned. It's much harder to get the hang of switching from one RAT to another in a single mission, which was at times more than I could juggle.
Bedlam is a fine example of a top-down action game with some solid elements. If it only seems good, not great, that's because we've seen this type of game done before and done better. Its frenetic pace and somewhat repetitive visuals can become tiring after a few missions, and play can wear thin. But if you like Crusader and want something with action that's a little faster, take the demo for a spin: it might just be what the doctor ordered.