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BERMUDA SYNDROME

"You are Jack J. Thompson. Destiny has brought you here."

It's 1942.

Shot down in the region of the infamous Bermuda Triangle, our hero has crash-landed into a dense tropical jungle ... and a whole heap of trouble.

"Are you a god?"

It's going to take more than divine intervention to fend off attacks from restless natives and ferocious dinosaurs, save a distressed damsel from a fate worse than death ... and escape this insanity to return home.

"Yes, Jack, kiss me!"

There's no time to party. Sharp reflexes and lateral thinking are essential if Jack is to escape from this land that time doesn't even know about. This ain't no holiday resort.
  • A seamless, stylish and staggering mix of action, adventure and cinematic atmosphere.
  • Over 250 sumptuous locations to explore.
  • Dozens of impressive 3D characters and creatures rendered and animated by former Disney artists.
  • Plenty of tricky traps to negotiate and devious puzzles to solve.
  • Outstanding cinematic soundtrack.
~ from the back of the box

I discovered many classic games thanks to a little resource called Home of the Underdogs. It's now a shadow of what it once was at the turn of the millennium but I'll be forever grateful for introducing me to many little known Top Dogs and forgotten classics. One such hidden gem was Bermuda Syndrome - a mid-90s cinematic platformer from BMG Interactive Entertainment.

Like all good adventure stories, the game begins with a plane crash on a remote island that just so happens to be inhabited with dinosaurs. In fact, the crash decapitates a T-Rex as he was just about to chow down on a human sacrifice, a half-dressed princess of these parts named Natalia. You play as Jackm the cocky pilot to this downed warplane and with your innuendo-filled "charm", you convince her to follow you on the adventure as you slay on average one endangered or mythical creature per screen. It reminded me of King Kong or the classic 1930s and 40s serials in its simple yet exciting set up and breezy charm.

It's not exactly the most well-known of games, but it's visual style and puzzle-heavy game design kept the teenage me hooked when I first played it (along with some pixelated nudity no doubt). The pre-rendered backgrounds still look good and exude a charm few others at the time had. The sprites – whether they be your player character, humans of face-hugger rip-offs - resemble plastic toys more than anything. They are still incredibly well animated, displaying a personality and character more through movement than fidelity. Stand still too long, and our hero begins to nonchalantly puff on a cigarette. Wander too close to a dinosaur and you’ll be devoured or trampled on in no time. And this is what you’ll mostly be doing in the early portions of the game – avoid dinosaurs. These are puzzles in and of themselves and the solution isn’t always obvious. It’s best to approach through trial and error, which is not my favourite way to solve conundrums, but at least you can save at any point which helps immensely. As it’s very top heavy in this regard, with the second half seeing more direct action, I can imagine the less patient of players may give up fairly early on.

Green orbs will completely heal you (left), but that won't help against all the insta-deaths (right)

Unlike many of the cinematic platformers I've been drawn to lately, the gameplay loop is a little different. There is still the occasional maze of platforms to cross and traps to avoid much like Prince of Persia (which it does reference in one witty dialogue exchange), but these tend to be limited to their own specific area. They are the closest the game has to ‘levels’ and are accessed by placing a crystal in the stone palm of a Raptor statue. It will then zap you to a frustrating and ugly underground cave system – the most visually unappealing areas of the game – which you then have to get to the next statue to continue. These sections were probably added to puff out the length of the game, but this isn’t necessarily a bad way to do so. They offer a different challenge to the rest of the game which can be annoying as you try to find the correct route, but once you get a hold of your character's move set and click with the layout, they aren't so terrible. Just a little slow.

Outside of these areas, each screen will likely have a puzzle to solve before you can continue. They tend to focus on removing or avoiding obstacles that block your way and failure means instant death. How you solve them often reminds me of an adventure game. There are even mechanics that use verb icons and an inventory! Press TAB and a window of icons will pop up. From here, you can select an item to hold in your hand, such as a knife or crystal, or you can select one of three icons; a hand, a mouth, and Natalia. The hand interacts and will mostly be used to pick things up. The mouth talks to whoever is in front of you, though if Natalia is with you, she has her own dedicated symbol (cue some awkward flirting...). You won't get anything as complex as a full adventure game, but combined with your traditional stilted cinematic platformer tropes, it makes for quite the engrossing experience.

Combat, on the other hand, plays very differently to what you might expect. In the early stages, encounters are treated as puzzles. Shoot down a pterodactyl to occupy and distract a hungry dino; wound a tyrannosaur to draw him into the clasps of a carnivorous tentacle. That's the sort of thing you'll be dealing with, for the first half at least. The second half has you down creatures left and right with your shotgun. You may think that a gun being your main offensive weapon will remove the unpredictable nature of melee combat that blight other cinematic platformers but in truth, it just removed all tension. These encounters, which amp up half way through, end up being the easiest obstacles in the entire game. At least some enemy types try to be different, forcing you to use your firearm’s inaccurate aim function, but I did miss those intense sword fights.

That being said, Bermuda Syndrome is still a high-calibre cinematic platformer. It does enough different to set it apart from the rather small crowd and those adventuring mechanics it introduces work to its advantage. It's a shame no other game took this design philosophy and ran with it (at least not to my knowledge). Just like those shimmering crystals found on this undiscovered tropical island, Bermuda Syndrome is definitely a hidden gem.


To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox running Microsoft Windows 3.1 to get the game working on modern systems. MP3 Soundtrack included in separate download (61.2 Mb). Tested on Windows 10.
   01.07.2021 - Version 2 - Now uses engine reimplementation 0.1.7 by Gregory Montoir (Version 1 remains).

File Size: 130 Mb (v2 133 Mb) .  Install Size: 217 Mb (v2 188 Mb).  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


Bermuda Syndrome is © BMG Interactive Entertainment
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


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5 comments:

  1. Nice to learn what Jack Thompson was doing prior to his legal career!

    I also have fond memories of HotU in its prime. Never did see this one on there but the promises of pixelated nu - I mean, dinosaurs have really sold me on it.

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    Replies
    1. Don't get your hopes up. The pixelation is such that it already looks censored. It's hard to tell a distant raptor from a compy at times :)

      Delete
  2. Your bit out of practice making good game packs Biff. Since when the Millennial Gen found this Dos 1996 German Gem in 2010, they debugged its engine to make it run on anything from PS1\PS2\PS3\PS4\Xbox1\Xbox360\Android\IOS\etc to on any Win version ... for it you go to the Cyxx's github.com/cyxx/bermuda or look for EmuELEC , the custom branch that can run this and any other engines on anything ... you only need to add the CDA music to it and that's it ... but they are many packs for it from ready made PS2 to PS1 to PSP versions ... kinda sad the sequel never happened since Win95 was too new(and this was a Exclusive Win95 game ouch) , and every game that was on it died from low sales ... since till 1998 Dos gaming was strong ... since this game they went all in into Multiplayer game scene

    PS. miss the edit button ;/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello. I didn't think to look for any fanmade projects. I had already made some progress using Windows 3.1 years ago and just polished up for this release. I might see if I can include it in an update but time is not on my side at the moment. I've noticed that controllers are supported in it, which makes it an improvement over the Windows 3.1 package, even if I thought it played just fine.

      PS Blogger has become really crap since they changed it all last year. Thought about moving to another service but that would be quite the task.

      Delete
  3. this is very interesting news, i like this article
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