The Bradwell Conspiracy combines Firewatch and Portal into one slick package with potential

Despite being around for well over a decade, the first-person puzzler genre is still finding new ways to let players navigate decrepit facilities. From color changing to balls of energy to magnetism, it seems that every possible scientific breakthrough can be used to get you from point A to point B. According to The Bradwell Conspiracy, 3D printers are no exception. The new game from developer A Brave Plan and publisher Bossa Studios (Surgeon Simulator) takes you through a familiar corporate setting but impresses with great writing and a modern sense of humor. All that and promising gameplay make the idea of  digging deep into the secret lab under Stonehenge one exciting prospect.

The Bradwell Conspiracy Preview | Hewn into the living rock

The game starts things off with a literal bang. You’re woozy, lying in the middle of a museum that was holding a charity event. As the friendly A.I. attached to your glasses tells you, smoke inhalation has cost you your voice. Thankfully, you soon find fellow survivor Amber. She’s an employee under Bradwell, the megacorporation that owns the entire facility. A few wrong turns and you discover the secret lab underneath the museum with no obvious way back to the surface. With the help of your new friend over the radio and a miraculous handheld matter transporter, you start traversing each floor looking for a way out.

Even before introducing its mechanics, The Bradwell Conspiracy makes a great first impression. The art style is simplistic, but not in a way that really registers your first time through. It’s a lot of solid colors that let your mind fill in the details. The palette not barren in a way that looks cheap or unfinished; it just has an incredibly specific aesthetic going for it. The entire game takes place in a crumbling facility and the sound design truly sells that you’re walking on thin ice. In the early sections, you’re never quite sure what’s going to collapse. The developer does a real good job of putting you on edge, and the fact that it follows through with it towards the end of the intro really made me sit up and take notice.

The Bradwell Conspiracy Preview | ‘Tis a magic place

If you pay attention, you’ll receive tastes of both of Bradwell‘s unique puzzle implements. The first is based around a camera built into your Google Glass-esque glasses. You can snap a photo of anything and send it to Amber to bypass your silent protagonist status. In this way, the game gets excruciatingly close to imitating real conversation. Amber has plenty to say about just about everything you photograph, even if she’s just commenting on how random your subject matter is. If you enjoyed listening to long monologues of characters going insane while playing Portal 2 and The Stanley Parable, listening to Amber trying to deal with unhelpful photos will be a real treat.

The other mechanic, a portable 3D printer that can replicate objects, is fun if not a little less novel. In my time with the game, the tool comes in handy for navigation and simplistic push-button solutions. It’s the same types of solutions you get from the block puzzles in Portal, just with a bit more work involved. You can’t place items everywhere, only in pre-approved locations that don’t risk your safety. The cutesy corporate talk behind this explanation is nice, but it does lead to situations where you will probably be looking for the pre-built solution rather than experimenting with the tools at your disposal.

The Bradwell Conspiracy Preview | Beneath the haunted moon

It’s not always clear whether your photo glasses or your 3D printer will come into play. An early part had me high above a room I’d already been through. I had access to a “motion block,” which is actually a wooden blank. My first thought was to build a bridge with a few planks, but the device just wouldn’t let me lay a path down. I snapped a picture of the location and Amber assumed I was pointing at the door below me and closed it. That produced the path forward entirely by accident. If Bradwell encouraged me to explore more, this wouldn’t be a problem, but here we are. Hopefully later levels let players dive in without so many restrictions.

Despite a few hurdles, the world and writing of The Bradwell Conspiracy sold me on the game. It doesn’t feel like a set of puzzles with a loose theme but more like an authentic world that players can lose themselves in. As you might guess from the name (and the fact that it’s about a megacorporation), Bradwell might have a few secrets to hide. With the high bar set by just a bit of back and forth banter, it is easy to imagine how much more the writers have in store for the finale.

Of course, even less than impressive games can have stellar intros. Once you find the secret corporate science office that’s basically a staple of this genre, you still have plenty of introduction to go. If anything, The Bradwell Conspiracy might take too long to get to its own status quo. Here’s hoping that there’s plenty of game to go after this introduction. It feels like these early parts only just let the player begin grasping what these mechanics can do and what they bring to the overall genre. A rushed plot and a lack of gameplay depth may just be the only things that could throw a wrench in Bradwell’s business plan going forward because, as of now, it looks like a solid game plan from here.

GameRevolution previewed The Bradwell Conspiracy on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.