Bartlow’s Dread Machine – Review
Follow Genre: Twin-Stick shooter, Adventure
Developer: Beep Games, Inc., Tribetoy
Publisher: Beep Games, Inc.
Platform: PC, Xbox One
Tested On: PC

Bartlow’s Dread Machine – Review

Site Score
Good: Astounding graphics merged with original gameplay
Bad: Aiming is not worked out well enough
User Score
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Step right up, step right up! Come see the brand new contraption of Mister Bartlow! One night only, here in the finest city of the state! Lines such as these are exactly what pops up in your mind seeing Bartlow’s Dread Machine. It has the mystery and allure of a carnival fair, taking you back to days long before computers and phones. Bartlow’s Dread Machine is not a gambling machine or a simple game though, no, it’s much more.. alive than that.


You play as an agent from President Roosevelt’s secret service. Guarding him on a visit, a fellow agent gets shot and “anarhno-satanists” kidnap the president. You then spend most of the story chasing after the kidnapper through a variety of environments. Thanks to the choice of graphics in the game, every bit of information is always delivered as if a real-life contraption would pop up. This means that the game also chooses to present cutscenes in an in-game format with a device dropping down to show some text and portraits of the person talking.


The late 19th century and early 20th century is an interesting time period when looking at graphic styles. It’s a combination of professionalism in i.e. marketing and the rich possibilities of the upcoming industry and urban railworks. The possibilities seemed endless, and with steel and copper, it speaks to the imagination of steampunk enthusiasts. While games such as the Bioshock series rely heavily on these aesthetics, Bartlow’s Dread Machine adds an extra layer. It’s a bit like playing at a marvelous carnival machine, full of cogwheels and mystery.

Weirdly enough, the same passion you could feel radiating from such a machine were it a real device, you can also feel digitally this way. The reproduction of cardboard and wood that turns and moves by cogs and levers just feels like it’s based upon something real and magical. It’s perhaps the strongest aspect of Bartlow’s Dread Machine that makes it a game like no other, and there are plenty of rooms you pass through that all look different. The graphics honestly are a feat of passion, up to the smallest details such as the character selection screen with different clothing items. Hats off everybody!


Adding to the graphics’ unique qualities is a terrific soundtrack. Straight from the get-go, you are welcomed in the main menu by an original jazzy saloon-like soundtrack that’s promising for the rest of the game. This welcoming feeling doesn’t change throughout the game, and each level has a fitting track to play the game. There are no voice actors present, but the sound effects that simulate the moving machine parts and the shoot-outs make up for that. It’s highly enjoyable to just listen to the sounds combined with the music when nothing else is going on, and it also emphasizes the passion that’s put in the game everywhere.


Bartlow’s Dread Machine is essentially a twin-stick shooter adventure game (on PC you play with mouse and keyboard). It borrows elements from games such as Pacman and combines it with shoot-outs and small bits of puzzling. The essentials are very simple. You get three lives to complete a level. Starting each level you have a couple of guns, multiple hitpoints, and ammunition. Reach a checkpoint and you can pick up the game there if you lose a life. Lose all lives and you have to start over the level you failed.

You and your enemies are connected to a rail that looks a bit like the rail pattern you follow while manual shifting a car into gear. You can only follow the rail to go one of four directions where available, and you can shoot from anywhere as you move around. At the same time, enemies can come rushing towards you to claw at you with melee attacks or try to shoot you from a distance (depending on the type of enemy). There are not that many types of enemies, but just enough to keep you interested. The game does vary its gameplay a bit every now and then though, by i.e. changing the camera position or presenting a problem that requires more finesse to solve. The difficulty gradually increases which is very nice to see, and overall the game is just loads of fun.

There are multiple checkpoints, health stations, and ammo crates to be found in a level, and you will not really run out of ammo. You will want to save the stronger weapons’ ammunition though, in case some difficult situation is coming up. Once an enemy is shot, he will drop some money that will be available for a pick up a short amount of time. This asks for some quick thinking as you try to traverse dangers and still get the best (money) score. After all, after you won or failed on a level, you can buy new outfits and weapons which can give you a new advantage or fun. Most of these aren’t cheap but make failing a level less bad as you can then try again with something more powerful. It’s a good progression system while going through the story.

The only real issue to be found in Bartlow’s Dread Machine is the crosshair and the aiming mechanics. While you move and turn around in 3D from a locked position, the aiming mechanics are in 2D, thus creating a weird uncertainty of what you are aiming at. The best you got as an indication is the barrel of your gun, but especially with smaller guns, it’s a bit of a guessing game at times.


Bartlow’s Dread Machine is a sensational game with great attention to detail. Especially the graphics and the sound should take a bow as they really bring the game to life. The story is rather fun to follow, but thanks to the graphics you get to see new and exciting environments on each and every level. It’s a great game that shows others how to make something unique while keeping the mechanics rather simple by adding railroad shooter elements to it all. There’s barely anything wrong with the game aside from some possible improvements in aiming your weapons, so it’s safe to say this is quite the gem.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Bartlow's Dread Machine - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

I'm a game designer, developer, and reviewer. I've been reviewing for since 2017.

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