Bartlow's Dread Machine is a twin-stick shooter that recreates, with some embellishments, the old penny arcade machines from the turn of the 20th century. It follows the adventures of a member of the Secret Service, who rushes to the rescue after president Teddy Roosevelt is kidnapped by Anarcho-Satanists bent on destroying the American way of life.
That's not the deepest narrative setup ever, but there's a silly charm to all of it, including the gear-driven game worlds that will take players from turn-of-the-century New York City to the Pacific Ocean and beyond. Characters move along slots in the game board, a lot like tabletop hockey games, which looks restrictive at first glance but actually adds an interesting tactical layer to the action—you have to be very careful about where you going and who's coming after you, because it's very easy to get boxed in if you're not paying attention.
Health, reloads, and checkpoint saves are also activated by running across certain sections of track and flipping the switches laid out across them. It's an interesting and effective blend of digital and mechanical—not "realistic" in any sense of the word, but with a keen attention to detail that creates a satisfying impression of a steam-and-gears machine grinding away as it should.
The game has been in Steam Early Access since July, and developer Beep Games announced today that it will go into full release on September 29. The complete version of Bartlow's Dread Machine will support solo and co-op play with six game worlds to work through, more than 50 guns from basic six-shooters to futuristic Tesla guns, and 16 playable characters, including Nicola Tesla himself, who was added in an update released today along with pioneering stage coach driver Mary Fields and a new location called the Canal Zone, "where construction of the Panama Canal has unearthed a mysterious structure containing untold horrors and dark magic."
You can find out more about Bartlow's Dread Machine at dreadmachine.com.