Gaming Review: Bartlow's Dread Machine

Review: Bartlow’s Dread Machine


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Bartlow’s Dread Machine is a great game. From starting the game, I didn’t expect to enjoy it. The game’s mechanics felt off. The mechanics are arcade shooter like, but you don’t have complete movement of your character (a secret agent). It felt unnatural and limited as an arcade shooter—however, the games set in an interesting era of history. The game’s setting pulled me in, and I quickly found myself loving it. Bartlow’s Dread Machine is set in 1930s America, a period of history whereby US president Franklin D Roosevelt attempted to revitalise the US after the great depression. As a secret agent during this period, you embark on a mission to stop an evil plot from taking shape.

An amercianised feel

The game shines in this regard; its setting makes it stand out. The game has an Americanised 1930’s look which is beautiful. The outstanding graphics combined with its early 20th-century pre-war soundtrack puts you in the boots of a secret agent during this particular part of US history. You feel like a secret agent during the period, and it feels great. By great feeling, I mean the gameplay. Although I wasn’t a fan of the gameplay at the start of my playthrough, it grew on me as I continued to work my way through the story. The gameplay is fun and strategic having you the player using various weapons to take down enemies in a classic arcade shooter feel but in early 20th-century America.

A classic level

Outstanding variety and customisation

As you progress through the story, the enemy types vary, making you choose how to take down the enemies to go through the level strategically. Bartlow’s Dread Machine also has considerable variation in level design and uses various camera angles to change gameplay dynamics. This variation makes the game stand out, turning a traditional arcade shooter into a strategy game. One example is the use of the top-down camera angle to position the player in such a way as to be able to take down and see incoming waves of enemies otherwise impossible from a side-on view. Furthermore, Bartlow’s Dread Machine also has considerable customisation with a vast range of weapons and 1930’s clothing to choose from, to give your agent that 1930’s feel. Further adding appeal to the game.

Despite the positives, I found the lack of complete control of your secret agent still very restrictive. Your secret agent can only move up, down, left and right and this restrive movement made boss battles reasonably bland. Likewise, your character’s motion is slow and could have done with more speed to improve the game’s pacing. Thus the pacing of the game is bad, due to restrive and slow movement. Nevertheless, controlling your character in this respect is easy. The game’s controls are easy to pick up and simple, making it an appealing and accessible arcade shooter.

Arcade shooter action


Overall, Bartlow’s Dread Machine stands out as an arcade shooter. From the great graphics to the outstanding variety in levels and customisation. Bartlow’s Dread Machine incorporates all of this in a 20th-century feel that not only controls well but makes you feel like an agent of a bygone era. Despite pacing and movement issues, the game stands out amongst its rivals in the arcade shooter genre. It is adding a considerable amount of new to an already saturated genre of games.


+Fantastic graphics and art style
+Appealing soundtrack
+Large variety of customisation and level design
+Easy to pick up controls
-Bad pacing
-Movement issues

(Reviewed on Xbox Series S also available on PC and other Xbox One consoles)
Jack Boreham
My name is Jack. I've been a video gamer all my life since getting my very first starter Pokemon on the GameBoy Advance. When I'm not becoming a Pokemon master, I'm a freelance writer, podcaster and streamer, focusing on my postgraduate degree. For more about me and my work. Check out my website


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