If you were to mix the intuitive puzzles of Portal with the character interactions of Firewatch, you’d end up with something like The Bradwell Conspiracy.
In a near-future society, environmental activism and retro modern décor has taken the forefront of British culture. You are an unnamed individual caught in the middle of a huge explosion at the Stonehenge Museum, leaving you entombed beneath the surface in a hidden underground complex. You end up meeting Amber, another person trapped in the facility. Together, the two of you explore this Brutalist high-tech environment as you communicate via a pair of smart glasses capable of taking and sharing photos.
There’s a persistent mystery present throughout the story, as you and Amber work together and uncover details about the facility and the people within it. The employee smart glasses let you send and receive photos, which allows you to show her things only visible to you, as well as being a clever way to ask for help if you get stuck.
Each pair also have different levels of access attached to them, so if there’s a locked door you’d need to find an employee’s glasses that could get you through. Not only does this reasonably explain why you can’t just go anywhere, but it also provides additional backstory about these characters. For example, I found one in an office supposedly in a high security area, but if they were so important, why were they left behind?
Furthermore, to build up the sense of place the underground complex has, a UI element is always present at the top corners of the screen to display the locations of both characters. With there being no real map system in the game, this instead keeps track of where you and Amber are in relation to each other, and overall helps to familiarise yourself with the layout of the facility.
But the thing I admire the most about The Bradwell Conspiracy are the ambiguities of how information is fed to you. There’s no map system, no puzzle handholding, and most importantly, no boring lore dump. Instead, you must rely on knowing what’s what through building up your relationship with Amber, while also reading the emails and notes that are left around that can either provide additional context or tell more self-contained stories. Overall, it helps to build this world up as a believable, authentic place.
To emphasise this, the game also hosts a myriad of talented voice acting. While the marketing suggests TV’s Jonathan Ross plays a big part, he is little more than a cameo to introduce the main puzzle mechanics. Assassin’s Creed fans may recognise Abubakar Salim as The Guide, a disembodied AI that accompanies the smart glasses, who provides information and hints on different areas of the facility. The biggest highlight for me was Rebecca LaChance’s wonderful performance as Amber, combining both playful humour and candid sincerity into a memorable role. You’re never sure if there’s more to this character than meets the eye, and LaChance’s delivery of the lines cements it perfectly.
But while story comes first, the puzzle elements are also noteworthy. In the opening chapters, you receive a 3D printing device that can collect designs and reprint them in other locations. For the game’s 4–5 hour length, it is constantly using these simple ‘collect-and-place’ mechanics in new ways that freshen the experience. Although there were times when I felt like I was thrown into the deep end too early on—providing a difficulty curve that is perhaps a little uneven—it never got too repetitive, nor did I feel like it was overstaying its welcome.
As far as storytelling, design and overall presentation goes, The Bradwell Conspiracy is an ambitious but fantastic debut from A Brave Plan, a team that consists of talent from both AAA and indie backgrounds. Its smaller budget can often lead to it sometimes revealing the curtains on some of the shortcomings of indie game production: the animations look rigid, the controls are a bit awkward, and certain things occasionally pop in and out. Despite the issues, the way it slowly unravels its mystery and keeps you hooked from start to finish is comparable to how titles like Portal or Gone Home achieved their narratives. With enough time, I have a feeling it will garnish a similar reputation.
Tested on PC
Also available on Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Mobile
Developer A Brave Plan
Publisher Bossa Studios
Disclosure a copy of The Bradwell Conspiracy was supplied by Bossa Studios