Insanely good fun
Bentham Asylum has been standing since the 1900’s. In 1950 Bentham was given the nickname BEDLAM because of the events that happened in those 50 years, In 1974 Cell p23 was mysteriously locked without an explanation as to why. Bedlam has secrets that need to be uncovered. You and your team are the top journalists in your field, you have been tasked with uncovering the secrets that are held behind Cell P23’s walls. Can you go undercover, get in the cell undetected and escape with all the documents that will uncover the secrets of BEDLAM?
There are some companies we’ve heard about time and time again when we see people asking for recommendations in certain areas (or for certain types of games). Compendium is one of those companies that we’d heard nothing but good things about. Which meant that we would be finding a way to work the company into the Epic Road Trip. Since Bury is only a 20 minute drive from Rawtenstall, we decided that the perfect time to fit them in would be on Day Five, following four games at Lucardo. We arrived in Bury at exactly the time we thought we should, and following a stop for cake and coffee at the lovely little cafe across the street from the venue, we made our way to Compendium to begin our next set of adventures, where we were warmly greeted by Alex and Jen, the owners of Compendium and our hosts for the day.
We started off our visit with Wrong Turn and Laboratory, and thoroughly enjoyed them. As we finished each with a bit of time to spare, we were a bit ahead of schedule and took the opportunity to have a quick break to rehydrate, and indulge in a chat with Alex and Jen in the bright and airy reception area. (I do love it when owners of escape rooms are just as enthusiastic about other games as I am.)
However, as our chatting wound down, it was time to get back to the serious business of escaping. Next up, was the game that Compendium consider to be their most difficult: Bedlam. Since we had already been fully briefed on health and safety in reception earlier, we were able to skip that as Alex led us to the entrance of the game. Armed only with a bit of background on Bentham Asylum, thanks to Alex, we stepped into Cell P23, and the game was underway.
Covid-19 Procedures: At the time of our visit (May 2021), Compendium required masks to be worn at all times by both customers and staff. Hand sanitiser was plentiful and available throughout reception and the games. Lockers were still in use, unlike at other venues, but gaps between games are longer to allow games and reception were thoroughly cleaned between teams, and game times were staggered to avoid cross-over between teams. All teams are required to check in using NHS Track and Trace, and we were the only team present in the building for the duration of our visit.
One of the first things many people want to know when booking a room is: Is it scary? My personal feelings on Bedlam are that the game is “creepy, but not scary.” But there is a caveat to that: Prior to the pandemic, Bedlam was occasionally offered as a live actor experience. (FYI, the puzzles are apparently very different if you opted to play this version.) Knowing more about how the optional live actor element worked in Wrong Turn, I imagine with a live actor in Bedlam it could get pretty intense, particularly with how tight the space is. Hopefully this is something that Compendium are able to bring back in the future, as we all know how much people love to be scared, but as it is, Bedlam is a fantastic game.
The space we entered was sparse and dark, and immediately felt a bit off putting. The padded walls and tightness of the space evoked a feeling of even stronger discomfort. In fact, the attention to detail to make the atmosphere within the game as unsettling as possible is astounding, even down to the random squeaks and creaks of a fan, and the lack of timer to ensure you lose all sense of time and space. But despite the starkness and the tight quarters of our surroundings, there was a surprising amount of exploring to be done in Bedlam, and with each new surprise we uncovered more mysteries and puzzles to be solved.
In hindsight, the flow of Bedlam was actually quite linear, but because the flow seemed designed to perplex and confuse, the game never actually felt particularly linear, as we often found information that would only make sense later after we discovered more. As the game progressed, this feeling of confusion and unease persisted, with more tight spaces, dark lighting, and just an all-round general creep factor. The feeling built throughout Bedlam, and finally resulted in a final, dramatic do-or die ending.
With puzzles involving a whole lot of exploration and sneaky hiding places, plus logic, observation, teamwork, communication, and more, there were plenty of things to keep us busy and engaged. Bedlam was full of puzzles that felt thematic, and often tricky, but fair, providing plenty of opportunities to revel in the satisfaction of arriving at a correct solution.
Although Compendium class Bedlam as their most difficult game, as we all know, difficulty is subjective. For me, while Bedlam wasn’t what I would class as “easy,” it definitely made sense, and the puzzles just clicked. But, the puzzles didn’t immediately make sense. Often, we were presented with baffling information that only clicked into place once we discovered the final piece to tie it all together later, which is what gave the game housed in a tight space a surprising feeling of openness.
Many games signpost, either subtly or blatantly, so that players know exactly which code goes to which lock. But while the signposting in Bedlam ensured that we knew how to solve each puzzle, we never quite knew where to use the solution. At one point I felt a bit like I was drowning in a sea of codes and padlocks. But perhaps that was the point; after all, we were in an asylum and I did feel like I was going slightly insane.
If you need a clue, first you must find the mechanism by which you can receive them. I shan’t say more than that for fear of spoilers, but don’t worry, it shouldn’t be too taxing. The chosen method for clue delivery is slightly more fun and immersive than the escape room standard of screens or walkie talkies, but still equally effective.
I can’t recall actually needing any clues in Bedlam, but given how warm and friendly both Alex and Jen were in reception, and how attentive each person running our games had been throughout those we played earlier in the day, I have no reason to think that clues wouldn’t have been as timely or helpful in Bedlam as they were when we needed them in the other games at Compendium.
With excellent set design, fantastic game flow, and satisfying puzzles, Bedlam stands out amongst its peers as my favourite game at Compendium. (Okay, maybe it’s tied with UI-55, but that game is an entirely different beast, and not quite your traditional escape room.)
Team: 2 players – escaped in 44 minutes
Address: 1a Crompton Street, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 0AD