Bermuda Triangle Review—More a Shemp Than a Shmup

BermudaTriangleTitle

Old SNK arcade games have made up a lot of the Minis we’ve gotten lately. They seem to have started with the older titles, and now we’re getting their later ones. This title, Bermuda Triangle, hails from 1987 and is a vertical shooter. That genre can range from the old simple and fairly sedate shooters like Ozma Wars and Vanguard to a more modern-style, bullet hell “shoot ‘em up” or “shmup.” This isn’t exactly bullet hell, but it does certainly lean toward the latter category.

The first thing you really notice about the game when it starts is how stretched out vertically it is. It appears to have about the same ratio as a widescreen monitor set on edge. Since the PSP basically is a widescreen monitor, this ends up with either the playing field being cut off at the top and bottom or, if you choose to fit the whole thing, the playing field being very narrow. Strangely, there is no display option for a rotated mode, which is often found in pinball games and many other retro arcade compilations.

While I probably do need glasses, this is not easy to make out, either.

While I probably do need glasses, this is not easy to make out, either.

Still, once you get used to the game’s strange resolution, it plays like a solid, if surprisingly dull shooter, despite it having a number of twists. While the core is very basic—you shoot things and pick up drops from enemies labeled “E” (presumably “Energy”) which give your ship the ability to take more damage—there are a number of unusual things that happen. As you gain or lose this energy, your ship changes shapes. You can also pick up an escort group of ships, though what they do isn’t clear (they seem to just absorb damage and, when highly charged, shoot rather strangely, in a reversed cone pattern).

Less obvious is that your ship has a turret that can fire in any direction. Unless you look at the control setup, you might not even notice this. You can aim this yourself using two buttons or have it set to auto aim, which does a pretty good job of finding enemies at the side or behind.

Like playing a video game from nosebleed seats

Like playing a video game from nosebleed seats

The really curious thing about the gameplay is that you don’t just fly forward. You do that for a while, but then you come to a halt, as if attached to a rubber band, and start flying backwards, the way you came. This is strange, but actually quite novel. Once you finish retreating to the place where you started, you go back forward through the zone once more. Only when you reach the end the second time are you now confronted with a boss.

When you finish him, you fall through a black triangle (thus the name of the game, I guess) and into a new zone where you repeat the process. Each zone is in a different time, sort of like Time Pilot, I guess, but not nearly as interesting. Or easy. That is perhaps my biggest complaint with the game—it’s pretty darn hard. At least the boss fights.

Boss Fight, I think. Or is that Bono? (good luck getting that joke)

Boss Fight, I think. Or is that Bono? (good luck getting that joke)

Unlike a lot of these old SNK shooters, you can’t continue after you die. Five lives (or three, selectable from the emulator settings menu) and that is it. This is especially bad when you are fighting a boss and die, since you really can’t get any more energy drops to power your ship back up to take more damage, so you subsequently die much easier fighting him.

Somewhat surprisingly, G1M2 didn’t add a cheat to address this, which is something they’ve done in past games. They do provide their other usual options, including the ability to save and load the game state, so you can cheat your way through it, but it’s just a lot more effort.

The graphics are in fact pretty good, if you use the view where you can actually see them, at least. The sound effects are also pretty good, including several phrases of synthesized speech.

This side-by-side comparison illustrates how much of the playing field is cut off if you use the normal zoomed-in view (simulated on the right).

This side-by-side comparison illustrates how much of the playing field is cut off if you use the normal zoomed-in view (simulated on the right).

While Bermuda Triangle does have some unique features, like the ship changing form and the moving backwards, it’s just not that remarkable a game. Other than perhaps Victory Road, I don’t think there is an SNK shooter that I had less fun with. The weird resolution doesn’t help, though maybe if you have a huge TV and play it on a PS3 it won’t be so bad, but on a PSP, it’s not much fun.

Unless you really enjoy vertical shooters or have run out of other SNK Minis to buy, I would give this a pass, because after all is said and done, it commits the ultimate sin in a shooter: it’s boring.

5/10

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • NewsVine
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Technorati
  • Live
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace

Comments

3 Responses to “Bermuda Triangle Review—More a Shemp Than a Shmup”
  1. onmode-ky says:

    I didn’t enjoy this game as much as I’d hoped, but I think I would have rated it slightly higher. Personally, I don’t think the backward-scrolling adds much, as it’s just a background; even while scrolling forward, you can have enemies appear from behind you anyway. Even odder, “stationary” enemies that you missed while scrolling in one direction are not there when you come back.

    “This isn’t exactly bullet hell, but it does certainly lean toward the latter category.”

    I think it needs 10x more enemy bullets and a player hitbox 10x smaller to count as bullet hell. :)

    “The first thing you really notice about the game when it starts is how stretched out vertically it is.”

    Our theory about this in the forum is that the game originally ran with a 3:4 aspect ratio, but G1M2’s emulator does not account for original, non-square pixel shape in rendering the screen. So, with the PSP’s square pixels, the image ends up looking super skinny. In any case, a rotated “TATE” screen mode really would have been helpful, if perhaps awkward to control.

    “You can also pick up an escort group of ships, though what they do isn’t clear (they seem to just absorb damage and, when highly charged, shoot rather strangely, in a reversed cone pattern).”

    I think that’s all they’re for. Kind of ignoble for these Alpha Mission SYD fighters. You can change their formation around your ship (mislabeled as a “Missile” button in the control setup screen), to provide different shielding coverage for yourself, but I almost never used anything other than the all-3-on-my-nose setup. The reversed cone thing is supposed to be a perspective view of them firing down to the ground (wide-area bombs; this is when your ship is the most powered-up), I think.

    “You can aim this yourself using two buttons or have it set to auto aim, which does a pretty good job of finding enemies at the side or behind.”

    I was under the impression that the auto aim just fired in the direction in which you most recently moved the ship, sort of like a reverse Image Fight. Not so?

    “When you finish him, you fall through a black triangle”

    There are also parts of the game where black circles scroll down the screen, and if you fall into one of those, you end up in a really hard zone until you die, at which point you return to the original zone. Has anyone survived that black hole zone?

    “Unlike a lot of these old SNK shooters, you can’t continue after you die.”

    The original game DIP switch settings (assuming I interpreted the minimal description correctly) allowed you to either have extra coins count as credits for players 1 and 2 (what we have here) or have them count as extra ships for player 1. Given that Minis don’t allow for a player 2 anyway, it seems pointless for the game to have been released with these settings.

    Using save states, I think the farthest I got was somewhere in Stage 5. The game has 9 stages total, I think, so that, well, sucks.

    “The sound effects are also pretty good, including several phrases of synthesized speech.”

    I can’t tell what most of the phrases (which may be samples, rather than synthesis) are saying. Also, I don’t know what the on-screen status text (like “Safety”) are talking about.

    “maybe if you have a huge TV and play it on a PS3 it won’t be so bad”

    I think it helps, but not a whole lot, since the PS3 is upscaling a downscaled image (i.e., it’s blurry). The main good point of playing the game on the PS3 is that it runs at the proper speed; it’s somewhat slower on the PSP and has instances of added slowdown.

    While there is a lot of novelty factor in the game, like being one of very few scrolling shooters where you play as a capital ship rather than a fighter craft, this ultimately came off somewhat disappointing. The boss fights are hard but fairly simple in design. The music adds nothing to the atmosphere. Cycling the SYD formations takes too long. The turret’s current direction is difficult to tell at a glance. The stages, despite the supposed time-traveling aspect, all look remarkably similar. Too bad there was never a sequel that addressed these issues. Alpha Mission II was a big playability improvement over Alpha Mission.

  2. pspminisman says:

    i want i proper retro game

  3. stalepie says:

    I think the game sounds like Data East’s Darwin series (Darwin 4078 and 4081) and maybe B-Wings and Slap Fight in the way your ship transforms. Thanks for the explanatory review. I might pick it up (on sale for 60 cents this week!)

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!