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Down in Bermuda (XOne)

Down in Bermuda (XOne) - Review

by Lee Mehr , posted on 27 January 2021 / 2,054 Views

Known previously for its applauded work Agent A: Puzzle in Disguise, developer Yak & Co.'s sophomore effort enlists The Bermuda Triangle as a new backdrop.  Despite replacing locations, Yak's game release schedule remained the same: made first for iOS then ported to PC & console years later.  The task of transplanting a tablet-oriented control scheme to analog buttons has its share of hurdles.  In this respect, and as a puzzle game in its own right, Down in Bermuda's dire blunders suggest it’s destined to disappear in your backlog.

Tapping into the enduring stories of The Bermuda Triangle, an adventurous aviator named Milton gets caught in a perilous storm while flying through this precarious area. Stranded for decades, he calls upon your help to solve the islands' mysteries and get back to his family.  It won't be easy, but your advantageous "God view" of the environment gives Milton a dash of hope.


The story is barebones, but has abundant charm.  Scattered photographs (treated as collectibles) across each island present a short snippet of Milton's pre-crash life.  The reasons for going home become clearer with each new photo.  Several anthropomorphic creatures and a friendly AI are also eager to help.  It has the prerequisites of a sweet, basic children's tale.  I think the "basic" descriptor aptly fits for why striving for this beleaguered old man wasn’t always motivating though.  The fact that he's often out of frame putzing around while you do the heavy lifting shows where Yak & Co. missed a golden opportunity.  The final island is when gameplay and emotional investment are more tangible because you consistently see his momentum to the finish line – visually and through dialogue.

Perhaps you’d argue Milton’s emotional distance is tied to the hip with the gameplay structure.  The pizza slices for Bermuda can be split into three distinct categories: majority are hidden-object puzzles, one-third are escape-room contraptions, and a sliver is left for boss puzzles.  The special objects to uncover around the map are small glowing orbs.  Collect all of them to secure a bigger orb, which acts as part of a key to unlock the next portal.  Since perspective plays a critical role in uncovering each small orb, you'll be scanning each map until you know the island inside and out.

Imagine controls akin to maneuvering on an xyz coordinate axis system.  The D-pad treats movement like moving a camera within a 2D space (think of shifting a flat petri dish under a microscope).  The right thumb stick treats the island like a globe you're slowly spinning.  Finally, left and right triggers are for zooming in and out of your currently fixed spot.  If you're thinking what I'm thinking then, yes: intuitive touch controls feel cumbersome on a controller.  Level design is often clear and inviting, but the process of scrolling from one spot to the next feels laborious.  It's a lynchpin for most of Down in Bermuda's ills.


Such tactile hindrances most clearly manifested on my favorite level: Shipwreck Island.  Because hidden objects and puzzles center around moving a mobile cannon on tracks (holding A button and using left thumbstick), you're forced to make a lot of ugly moves.  Managing track turns with a control stick feels combative, jamming the stick can result in the cart flying out of view, and having to constantly stop for camera readjustments becomes more tedious over time.  Outside of that, anomalies like clicking on orbs or opening chests I couldn't see happened quite often; worse than that, I incidentally 'unlocked' a couple of Rube Goldberg machines prematurely by randomly clicking on the environment.

These problems are a shame since this puzzler has solid positives too.  Sure, its entry-to-mid-level challenges aren't demanding; and yet, this complements the chill atmosphere.  You're often soaking in a cutesy world and casually going along.  It has that mobile feel: stay as long or short as you'd like.  I also appreciate the hidden rooms unlocked via scattered keys, forcing you to return to an old island for one last brainteaser.  It's a nice way to appreciate your influence on each locale.  It may not be a challenging way to begin 2021, but the gentler approach honors the developer's intentions.

With all of this said, I – unfortunately – think back on Bermuda's gameplay with mixed feelings.  The core design isn't arduous, but still visually creative and engaging to complete.  That sense of unearthing long-buried secrets comes in at the right time to see the next task through.  The difficulty pacing also hits that mix between upwardly improving and varied to keep you on your toes.  But that rough design turbulence remains there to endanger my enjoyment too.  Even micro-decisions like achievements tied to not using any level's Star Map to track down the last orb bother me.  Why these oddball punishments for using something I discovered?  Qualities big and small could leave me hot or cold without warning.


Like its humbler gameplay intentions, Bermuda's visuals and soundscapes are only trying to capture a relaxing ethos.  Special credit to Yak & Co. on this focus too.  It's not often you see media around The Bermuda Triangle trying to not be spooky.  From the soft textures to vivid colors, the convivial visual design tries as much as possible to keep you delighted while you're solving puzzles.  Although the soundtrack is treated more as complimentary (or "filler") to the artistic design, it's still pleasant and fits with each world.  Whether on a tablet or a 75-inch QLED TV, character will be brimming from either screen; further, no visual bugs or other annoyance disrupted my time taking in the game's islands.

For all the scary rhetoric and tall tales about The Bermuda Triangle, who'd think escaping would happen so quickly?  Another puzzle game with a disputed value proposition shouldn't surprise me by now.  Sure, completionist challenges and arbitrary achievements can compel you to remain a bit longer.  But skimming through a $20 puzzler in 2.5 hours is tougher to bare knowing even that time is stretched by hidden-object hunting.  Compared to other short titles, Bermuda feels less like trimmed fat and more like missing veggies; a potential four-course meal stripped to two.


For such a pleasant backdrop, it's funny how Down in Bermuda is so annoying to evaluate.  Yak & Co. set out to do something relatively simple: make a charming, light puzzler to fill your time.  Perhaps on mobile that translates better for short spurts.  But that argument is harder to make with a troublesome control scheme and a steep price compared to what else is offered on consoles.  Like the infamous setting itself, this one's destined to be lost amongst genre fans' collective memories.

 


Despite being one of newest writers on VGChartz, Lee has been a part of the community for over a decade. His gaming history spans several console generations: N64 & NES at home while enjoying some Playstation, SEGA, and PC titles elsewhere. Being an Independent Contractor by trade (electric, plumbing, etc.) affords him more gaming luxuries today though. Reader warning: each click given to his articles only helps to inflate his Texas-sized ego. Proceed with caution.


VGChartz Verdict


5.5
Acceptable

This review is based on a digital copy of Down in Bermuda for the XOne

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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