I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to play The Bradwell Conspiracy, given its publisher Bossa Studios is best known for goofy physics games like Surgeon Simulator and I Am Bread. But don’t let that history fool you – its next project is a clever and charming first-person puzzler that immediately had me comparing it to, yes, Portal.
Watch the video above for a look at new gameplay from The Bradwell Conspiracy.
The Bradwell Conspiracy (out later this year on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and even Apple Arcade) drops you into the middle of a disaster of unknown origin at a not-at-all-suspicious museum/research facility built right next to Stonehenge. You get a pair of AI-powered smart glasses, a new friend helping you from the other end of an intercom, and a device that lets you absorb matter and reuse it to make other objects. From there the goal is to find a way out, though doing so is easier said than done.
10 Screenshots From The Bradwell Conspiracy
That matter device, the Substance Mobile Printer (or SMP), is basically The Bradwell Conspiracy’s version of Portal’s titular Portal Gun. As I played through the game’s first two chapters I used it to build planks to get across gaps, replicate a key to open a door, and even make a bunch of cat statues in a funny employee training section that acts as a tutorial for the tool (narrated by English TV presenter Jonathon Ross, you can watch it in the video at the top of the page). It’s limited to the material and item blueprints you have, but the potential for how this could be used in logic and platforming puzzles alike had my head spinning, even if making and removing objects didn’t quite have the same snappy satisfaction as shooting a Portal on a wall.
But it’s not all just absorbing and reusing matter – in fact, the Bradwell Conspiracy’s most interesting puzzle mechanic is actually its glasses and the absentee ally, Amber, you’re communicating with through them. While an injury conveniently keeps you from being able to speak to Amber, she can still speak to you as you work together to escape. The relationship between you and Amber is one I am genuinely excited to see more of, and making that relationship feel real is something Game Director Georg Backer told me was a big focus.
A big reason they’ve succeeded in that endeavor (at least from what I’ve seen so far) is thanks to the witty writing and some truly excellent voice acting. Amber, voiced by Rebecca LaChance, is natural and endearing, bringing levity to otherwise serious situations, and her instant likeability is important given she’ll be a constant companion through the story. Abubakar Salim, potentially best known as Bayek in Assassin’s Creed Origins, also does a great job as the robotic but endlessly enthusiastic AI guide in your glasses. No matter who is talking, developer A Brave Plan clearly recognized how important dialogue would be to The Bradwell Conspiracy and spent time making sure the voices and writing weren’t just good but genuinely engaging too.
Without the ability to speak yourself, you instead use your glasses to take photos of the world around you, sending them to Amber so she can offer advice or help in return. You could send pictures of paintings to potentially get a bit of lore about the facility, pictures of puzzles to get clues, or even pictures of locked doors to see if Amber can open them up on her end. I’d occasionally send a picture that ended up a dud, resulting in a more generic “I’m not sure what you want” sort of response that did expose the game-y systems underneath it all, but there were so many things that Amber could naturally respond to (and so much variety, even with the misses) that it’s still an impressive amount of talking.
You can see The Bradwell Conspiracy’s reveal trailer here:
What’s particularly cool about this mechanic is that it forces you to actually look at and think about the world around you instead of just searching for highlighted objects or button prompts to interact with. That does mean it’s also one that took me a while to properly wrap my head around, as that freedom and lack of hard direction is both a blessing and a curse – for example, there was no indication Amber could open a locked do for me until I reached a dead end and aimlessly took a picture of one once I had run out of ideas. But I imagine that’s an early game issue, one that could smooth out as you become more familiar with the potential of the mechanic.
And with such an emphasis placed on the environment, it’s good that the look and tone of the world you are documenting is wonderful. The Brutalist design and architecture of the fictional Bradwell Electronics facility you are in is similar to that of the recent Control, but its vibrant colors and softer look make it more like if Control were designed by Pixar. (The timing of two Brutalist-architecture inspired games popping up at the same moment is something Backer joked with me as being a funny coincidence they weren’t expecting.) Backer also said a whole design plan was even made for how the branding of Bradwell Electronics would look if it were a real company, adding a subtle layer of cohesive direction to everything around you.
What stuck with me most is how these different parts of The Bradwell Conspiracy work in tandem. The world design feeds into the photo system, which feeds into its excellent dialogue, which feeds into its spacial puzzles, which feeds into its matter manipulation. These systems are interconnected in a cool way, and the result makes it stand out from other first-person puzzle games while still feeling familiar to some of my favorites like Portal, The Talos Principle, or Antichamber.
As with any early preview, I’m still left with plenty of lingering questions: will that clever writing continue, will the puzzles stay as interesting, will receiving dud responses to photos start getting tedious after too many misses? But The Bradwell Conspiracy has left me wanting more, and it’s one any fan of similar games should keep a close eye on.
Tom Marks is IGN’s Deputy Reviews Editor and resident pie maker. You can follow him on Twitter.