First published back in May of 2016, British author Adam Millard’s novel ‘The Bad Game’ offered up an 80’s pulp horror tale with a hefty homage to classic arcade games thrown in for good measure.

DLS Synopsis:
Hemsby was your typical seaside town.  Bursting at the seams with tourist shops, ice cream sellers, amusement rides and arcades.  Its pier stretched out into the sea, promising all the fun and sights that a holidaymaker could want from a trip to the seaside.

For fifteen-year-old Jamie Garrett, living in the thriving seaside town was far from idyllic.  For the young teenager, Hemsby was a place of boredom and tiresome solitude.  His only solace from the relentless monotony was in Scottie’s Amusement Arcade.  There he could while away the time playing arcade games; chasing down pellets, dodgy the badguys and seeking out power-ups.

Jamie was a connoisseur of classic arcade games.  He had no interest in the new ones which would arrive into Scottie’s arcade from time to time.  The real skill of game playing could be found in the beautiful simplicity of the classics.  There you found the real puzzles.  In the classics you found the real challenge.  The real fun.

However, when a mysterious new game arrives at the arcade, the local kids go wild for a go on it.  Emblazoned with the name Gēmuōbā, not only has no one heard of the game (in fact Scottie hadn’t even ordered it), but the instructions were in a different language that none of them could decipher.  For a causal onlooker the game made little to no sense.  A series of strangely coloured shapes floating around the screen accompanied by beeps and thrums.  But when the kids get behind the joystick and start playing the game, it appears to take over them.  They become addicted to it.  And it’s not long before queues of kids wanting a turn had started to form.

But once they’ve played Gēmuōbā something inside of the kids changes.  A strange black fluid starts dipping from their mouth, and where their irises and pupils had once been, there is now only blackness.  That’s when the violence begins.  Brutal, murderous and uncharacteristic.

The streets of Hemsby are about to erupt with the sound of rampaging violence and mindless cold-blooded murder.  Time is quickly running out for the residents and holidaymakers of Hemsby.  Something must be done before it’s too late and Game Over for them all…

DLS Review:
Like many fellow readers, I have to confess to having a soft spot for tales that hark back to the days of my youth.  For me this is the 1980’s – when (pardon the following clichés) the balmy summer months were filled with hurtling around on my trusty BMX, hanging around arcades, and getting up to all sorts of mischief.

Although ‘The Bad Game’ doesn’t exactly cover these exact same bygone days, there’s nevertheless still many of those glorious key ingredients that send you back to when you were a young teenager, reminiscing at all those universal troubles and woes that come with growing up.

Plot-wise this is classic Millard – with a strong, direct narrative that charges forth like a rhino racing to the bar for last orders.  Millard’s clearly got a love for classic arcade games.  The homages and loving nods towards all those old favs are scattered across the entire tale.  Furthermore, Millard applies a shiny gloss coat of off-the-cuff humour throughout, that compliments the colour of the ‘arcade game’ backdrop pretty much perfectly.

One of the real strengths with ‘The Bad Game’ is with the characters.  There’s absolutely no heavy padding in establishing them or any unnecessary sub-stories merely shoe-horned in to bulk out the main tale.  Everyone has their place and purpose in the unfolding story.  They all interweave with each other; their interaction bringing the already incredibly tight storyline in tighter still.

From early on you’re introduced to the tale’s principal protagonist – fifteen-year-old Jamie Garrett.  Jamie’s you’re atypical young teenager, who loves amusement arcades and just wants to spend his time playing the games.  Of course life’s never that simple.  In come a couple of idiotic bullies, who for no reason other than for their own moronic enjoyment, decide to pick on Jamie.  But Jamie’s made a friend out of the arcade’s proprietor – the alcoholic but utterly down-to-earth nice guy Scottie.  Scottie’s got his own baggage.  A troubled past that he tries to keep pushed to the back of his mind via booze, booze and more booze.

Of course, what sort of rose-tinted coming-of-age horror would it be without a good old love interest thrown in?  Millard knows the score.  It’s textbook – but that feel good factor more often than not comes up trumps when penning a quirky 80’s style pulp horror.  So why the fuckety not eh?!

Ergo in walks Liza White.  An instantly loveable redhead with a bubbly personality that makes our Jamie think she’s the most perfect girl to have ever walked this fine Earth.  And of course – the two of them get on like a house on fire.

But it can’t all be beaming grins and carefree amusement park dates.  Millard’s not that kind of author.  Yeah, we’re feeling a bit good about life at the moment, but things are about to take a turn for the worse my friend.  If you’re new to Adam Millard’s work, then now’s about the time you find out what puts that big ole grin on his cheeky little face.  He’s a damn fine author, and he tells some mighty entertaining stories, but he also likes to dish out a hefty helping of in-your-face gruesome gore with a healthy side-helping of cold-hearted sadistic glee.

Don’t get me wrong, this aint no Jack Ketchum you’ve got here.  But the horror’s nevertheless plenty visceral, and the blood that splatters the wooden slates of Hemsby’s pier is damn near gushing out by the end of the tale.

There’s just no denying the absolute unadulterated entertainment in this story.  From a quirky coming-of-age stripped-down-Stephen-King style opening, we’re lunged into the madness, mayhem and carnage of a rampaging 80s pulp horror that pumps out the good stuff like there’s no tomorrow.  What’s more, all through the escalating chaos Millard maintains an incredibly British vibe – with the backdrop never veering far from the textbook ‘British seaside’ setting.  Furthermore there’s some classic ‘holed-up-in-a-pub’ scenes which are reminiscent of Iain Rob Wright’s ‘The Final Winter’ (2011) blended with ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ (2004).  What’s not to like?!

Okay, so there’s plenty of cheese jammed into the nooks and crannies of the tale.  But we’re not talking annoyingly clichéd cheese here – it’s all purposeful, gloriously B-Movie-esque lowbrow cheese that brings a damn insuppressible grin to your face.  To top it off Millard wades in with as much 80’s video game homage as he does horror.  And it’s soooo much the richer for it.

This one’s just so much fun.  From start to finish it packs in the cheesy 80’s style pulp horror; soaking the floor in blood and black shit as the violence erupts around you.  Love it!

The novel runs for a total of 238 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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