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Reviews

This Bed We Made: Review

It’s always refreshing to see a narrative game that places its emphasis on the minutiae of everyday life while simultaneously weaving an enigmatic tale that keeps players at the edge of their seats. This is where This Bed We Made, an offering from the promising Lowbirth Games, enters the fray.

Set in the 50s, in a bustling Montréal hotel, the game casts players in the role of Sophie, a maid whose penchant for prying spirals into a complex mystery that’s as intriguing as it is morally grey. Over the game’s span, which lasted around five hours for me, the absorbing storyline and thought-provoking puzzles made the experience worthwhile, despite some shortcomings that will be discussed in this in-depth review.

Story and Characters

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The game sets its stage within the confines of the Clarington Hotel, where Sophie’s routine cleaning duties serve as a façade for a snooping that goes beyond the pale. The storytelling is impactful from the first moments, with the discovery of photos in a makeshift darkroom-cum-bathroom in Room 505, revealing Sophie has unknowingly become the center of someone’s unsettling interest. It’s an immediate hook, compelling and discomforting.

Sophie’s likeability is key to the game’s engaging nature. Despite her less-than-ethical snooping habit, players find themselves rooting for her, eager to unravel the pictorial web that’s been spun with her in the middle. It’s a testament to the game’s writing—superbly penned dialogue and inner monologues skillfully voiced convey a character whose moral complexity adds rather than detracts from her charm.

The narrative excellently captures the time period’s mood, replete with the societal challenges faced by women and LGBTQ+ individuals. These elements are seamlessly integrated into the story, enhancing the sense of authenticity and immersiveness within the game’s vintage setting.

Gameplay Mechanics

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This Bed We Made strikes a balance between exploration and puzzle-solving. On one hand, you’re tidying up after guests—making beds and cleaning bathrooms—which, while perhaps mundane for some, adds to the realism and routine that frames the game’s more thrilling aspects. On the other hand, the game morphs into a detective thriller, with Sophie having to decrypt messages, crack safe codes, and solve a myriad of other puzzles that cleverly tie into the overarching narrative.

The puzzles themselves are thoughtfully crafted, never overly challenging but requiring enough attention to keep players engaged. Sophie’s insights, which players can access at the press of a button, provide gentle nudges in the right direction without being overly spoon-fed solutions.

Graphics and Sound

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Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. The character animations, particularly facial expressions, are more dynamic and lifelike than what one might expect from an indie developer. Yet, physical gestures during conversations occasionally feel stiff, breaking the illusion the voice acting and rich dialogue work so hard to maintain.

The hotel itself, the primary setting for the game, is detailed and vibrant, suffused with a 50s aesthetic that’s both charming and convincing. The attention to detail in each room—whether it be a poster on the wall or a cigarette left burning—adds layers to the world that go beyond mere visual fluff.

Sound-wise, the developers have done an admirable job. Voice acting is a standout feature, breathing life into the characters with a level of talent that’s rare in smaller-scale games. The soundtrack, subtle yet evocative, complements the era and the game’s introspective moments beautifully.

Decision Making and Consequences

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This is where This Bed We Made really shines. The game claims early on that actions and choices will have effects, and it’s not mere lip service. Admittedly, it’s tempting to snoop through everything within grasp, but discretion is advised. The decisions you make, the items you interact with, and the information you either disclose or keep to yourself can have tangible impacts on the characters around you, including the result of their employment status.

What’s more, the game’s multiple endings are contingent upon how one navigates through the multitude of moral quagmires presented. It’s a game where attentive players are rewarded, and those who rush through may find they’ve missed essential threads of the story.

Repeatability and Length

Contrary to some critics, This Bed We Made doesn’t fall short in the repeatability department. The narrative is crafted in such a way that encourages multiple playthroughs to explore different outcomes based on varying decision paths. My initial run took closer to six hours given my propensity for thorough exploration, but I found myself diving back in to uncover alternative endings and minor story beats I had originally overlooked.

However, not all is perfect in this regard. The game’s lack of a ‘skip’ function for dialogues and cutscenes one has already witnessed can make subsequent playthroughs feel burdensome. Puzzles, too, lose their lustre the second time around. A more nuanced system that recognizes player familiarity with the story could alleviate these issues.

Representation and Character Interaction

While only five characters are fully animated and interacted with, the game cleverly overcomes its budget constraints through eavesdropping mechanics. Listening through doors introduces players to a broader cast, expanding the narrative universe without the need for full character animations. It’s an inspired decision that befits Sophie’s character and resourcefully narrates the myriad stories within the Clarington Hotel.

Technical Performance and Optimization

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On the technical front, the game is stable and optimized. Loading times are minimal, and I encountered no bugs that detracted from the overall experience. It’s apparent that the developers have put significant effort into ensuring a smooth performance across various systems.

Verdict

Well, This Bed We Made is definitely a gem in the landscape of narrative-driven games. It manages to be relatable and thrilling, with a protagonist whose depth is matched only by the game’s clever plotting and meaningful player choices. Where it stumbles—in its repetitiveness and occasional lack of polish—it more than makes up for with heart, narrative intrigue, and gameplay that respects and challenges its audience. It’s a testament to Lowbirth Games’ talent and an experience that both embraces and subverts the voyeur within us all.

The game speaks volumes of Lowbirth Games’ potential, and with more resources, there’s little doubt they could produce something truly outstanding. Animation quirks and the abrupt nature of the endings aside, This Bed We Made is an entrancing journey through a time capsule with a compelling mystery at its heart. It’s an easy recommendation for fans of the genre and anyone looking for a game that places as much importance on its story as it does on its gameplay.

This Bed We Made is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. This review was based on the PC version, provided by the game’s publisher.