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BARTLOW'S DREAD MACHINE is a weird ride into the machinations and gearworks of an infernal villainous plot involving the kidnap and abduction of Teddy Roosevelt and the 'secret' agents trying to rescue him.

 

As far as I can ascertain it is available for most consoles now, or in the near future, with this review based on a beta edition of the PC Steam version. At $14.99 it is one of the most value for money bargain price games I have seen in a long, long while. It's price doesn't reflect the excellence of the graphics and the animation and cannot even begin to suggest the depth of programming. When I searched online for the cost I was expecting at least $39.99 yet on an XBOX ONE Store page it is definitely highlighted at $25.00 less.

 

The Plot:
Teddy Roosevelt has been kidnapped! Your mission: Pursue his abductors from New York, across the Great Plains to San Francisco, the high seas and beyond using trains, ships and even a newfangled automobile. Master an arsenal of futuristic Edwardian weapons as you fight otherworldly creatures to free the Commander in Chief.

 

There is a Pac-Man influence on the play in as much as you move a 'puppet-character' on a stick through a maze of paths and alleyways whilst being attacked by animated corpses that are drawn to you the way Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde attempt to cut Pac-Man (Ms Pac-Man etc) up and prevent the 'hero' reaching their goal.

 

Other influences have been taken from a myriad games of so many genres, mainly where boxes of weapons, health or equipment are randomly (or deliberately) placed in positions where you almost have to die or run out of ammunition before you can reach them - very cleverly planted by the designer/s.

 

The speed of the 'zombie' attacks is so very fast and in quite some volume (as well as from all possible angles), and I'm only playing on easy level of difficulty. Playing two-player on a game console should help but I haven't the capability here on the PC to play with a sitting friend; I'm not even sure whether the Steam edition allows for dual play.

Zombies will only travel along the slots but they come at you from all sides thus whenever possible the best way to combat them is to back yourself into a dead-end and just keep firing down the track.

 

You aim your weapon by moving the mouse and firing with the mouse button. The cursor moves swiftly and smoothly as you move the mouse to aim; you can shoot at angles not just orthogonally, so if you have the opportunity to fire at them from a distance, take it.

 

At a certain point in play the game switches to an overhead view without warning. This through me off my game, not that I have much of a game, and the minimising of the action descaled the characters to tiny blobs instead of fully animated 3D characters - I didn't like the sudden change and I don't like the overhead view, it spoils the fun and the up-close action.

 

I have played up to the end of the opening scenario where the hooded/cloaked villain and his henchmen are finishing the process of escaping with Roosevelt. I died three times while getting there, each time returning to a spot just before combat again ensues. The first time I got overwhelmed by the Zombies I dreaded being returned to the start so was pleasantly surprised to be dropped not far from the action.

Like many fast-action shooter-style games BARTLOW'S DREAD MACHINE is better played in short bursts, especially when tension needs to be relieved (ie you feel the need to hit something). Definitely a game that should have high levels of appeal to Pac-Man and Shooter game style fans.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015