Well, there are shoot-'em-ups and there are shoot-'em-ups, and there are so damn many of them around these days that a game has to be pretty special to stand out. And I'm afraid this isn't it.
Playing Bedlam is like going back in time two or three years: it would have seemed a pretty decent game then, and to be fair it still kept me quiet for a couple of hours, but to earn a C&VG hit, or anything like one these days you have to be a little bit original, a little bit different.
Bedlam on the Amstrad lacks even the pinball level that added spice to the C64 version and others, leaving us with the usual tosh about space academy pilots, and a decidedly average game.
Anyway, enough of this virtriol, let's get into some more detail, shall we? Your little space ship sits around the bottom of a vertically scrolling screen, and blasts away at wave after wave of alien ships and static space stations. I saw sits at the bottom, though in fact you can move up and down the screen as well: it is just that the sideways movement is so much faster than the back/forward action that you do better sitting down there in a suitable spot and taking them out like sitting ducks. In fact, a great deal rests in just which side of the screen you happen to be on, since a lot of the incomings are dead easy to dodge if you are in the right place, but just trash you completely if you picked the wrong one.
None of the alien ships, which come in waves of seven or eight, actually fire anything at you, but this is not the case with the space stations, many of which have laser cannon emplacements that throw all sorts of things at you, the trickiest being ones that kick you about the screen for a while. You can fly over once you've blasted it, but wipe out if you hit anything still going. Some space stations reveal hearts (extra lives) or shield shapes (force fields) which you can pick up if you fly over them.
Once you learn the attack patterns of the alien craft, you can place yourself in the correct corners of the screen to prepare for their coming and blast your way through the first few levels all the way to the big mother alien. She is suitably difficult to destroy (go for the mouth).
Hmm. Like I said, nothing here that smacks particularly of original thought, and the graphics and sound are far too run-of-the-mill to save the day. Other versions do have the considerable added advantage of a whizzo space pinball level, but I'm afraid it's the Amstrad we're talking about here. The weird thing is that the very ordinariness of the thing doesn't really affect its playability at all, which in actual fact isn't too bad. I must say I've quite surprised myself because despite all I've said I wouldn't really mind another shot. Ain't life strange?