Review: Bermuda Triangle: Saving The Coral (Nintendo DS)

Bermuda Triangle: Saving The Coral
Developer: North Pole Studio
Publisher: Storm City Games
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: 02/23/2010

One of the most popular style of the puzzle genre is the match three style. By that I mean areas are cleared by matching similar colored objects off of a game board. Just on the Nintendo DS you can find games in this genre where you can match orbs, animals, swords, bombs, jewels, Pokemon, enemies, and so on. While some games are simple match three object puzzles, other games in the genre such as Harry Hatsworth or Puzzle Quest have taken risks with the formula and created games with a surprising amount of depth.

Bermuda Triangle: Saving The Coral is, as far as I know, the only match three game that uses coral. I would guess that it was just an excuse to use an object that is similarly shaped to an orb or jewel for convenience sake except that the game has a very strong pro-environment theme about the dangers of destroying coral reefs. Honestly, the game sometimes feels like a message about the environment with a video game added to it to keep people entertained than it feels like a game that has a political message tacked on.

The main part of the game is story mode. During the game a field is set up with some orbs that contain nutrition that is needed to grow a coral reef that are floating in water. There is a ship above the water that shoots more nutrition balls. When three of these balls match up, they pop and sprinkle nutrition down onto the bottom of the screen. At that point coral grows. There is a meter that keeps track of this growth and once you reach 100% of the growth for that area you move on.

One of the major differences between this and other match three games is the fact that these balls float in the water, so as you shoot more balls into the water they push the ones floating at the top downwards. These nutrition balls shift when pushed down, sometimes in predictable ways and sometimes in ways which are harder to predict. Every time you fail to make a match more nutrient balls float up from the bottom of the ocean to increase the challenge, which doesn’t really make sense. Think of it as sort of a reverse Bust-a-Move game. If the nutrient balls touch the coral at the bottom of the screen it is game over.

On top of trying to decide where to shoot the next ball there are a few other obstacles that stand in the way. There are squids that shoot ink onto the balls which make them un-poppable for a certain amount of time. Balls can also be encased in bubbles that keep them from being popped until they reach the surface of the water. Snails that eat the coral and take away from the progression meter. Sharks that hit the boat and make it so that you can’t choose the direction of a shot. Giant octopuses that ink up all of the balls on screen for a certain amount of time.

Juggling these obstacles adds an element of strategy to the game. There are objects that can help with these problems. There’s a bomb that pops the nutrient balls that it comes into contact with, a spray of water that removes the top row, a rainbow ball that removes all of the balls in play that match the color of the one it comes into contact with. There’s also an anchor that is used to drop on the heads of snails to keep them from eating the coral. For a pro-environment game, does anyone else think it is sort of screwed up that you have to kill snails by dropping anchors onto their heads?

At first the game with only throw a couple of these obstacles in your way at a time, and in story mode you can buy new items in between levels to make levels easier. As the story mode progresses the difficulty increases substantially and suddenly there are squid, sharks, snails, and such everywhere. The game does get fairly difficult for a self described casual title. My main problem is just when the game starts getting challenging…its over.

I clocked in just over two hours in order to beat the story mode. Aside from the story mode there is the now standard Endless mode, where you keep playing for score until the balls reach the bottom of the screen. There is also a Timed mode with a preset time limit of three minutes with the objective to gain as high of a score as possible during that time. There are no options to adjust time limits or any other game functions.

Because of this it feels like just a basic match three game. There are four areas with a couple of levels with very little differentiation in the background appearance of the fields you pop balls in. Nearly every area starts out the same with jumble of nutrient balls floating in the water. The only real difference between one area to the next is how many obstacles it puts in your path. While it has some interesting concepts and challenge, there’s no variation. Bust-a-Move has different arrangement of orbs in each level. Cradle of Rome has different boards and resource management. Henry Hatsworth keeps everything fresh with switching back and forth from puzzle to platform game. With Bermuda Triangle, every board feels identical to the last one in the story mode, and the two other modes don’t extend the game for very long.

The game is bright and colorful on the DS. The art direction for the coral and enemy types looks good and works well with the game. The controls are as easy as tapping the stylus on the area you want to have the next ball land. The items can be used by either bringing up a sub-menu on the bottom screen or by using the L and R bumpers to select the item on the top screen along with the Y button to use the item. I would recommend using the bumper controls over the stylus for items as sometimes the touchscreen can be sensitive and will take that tap as meaning you want to shoot a ball in that area instead of opening the item menu. Aurally the game sounds decent. There is an interesting Caribbean style to the music and to the voice that yells Combo! Or whatever it might be saying.

Overall Bermuda Triangle: Saving The Coral isn’t a bad match three game at all. Instead, it is a very basic handheld puzzle game. No risks were taken in trying to create new types of modes to match the game mechanics, the story mode isn’t that long and there is little variety between each level, no multiplayer modes, no ability to change even the length of the timed mode. It’s a very simple package, made on a budget and sold at a budget price.

The Scores

Modes: Decent
Graphics: Good
Audio: Decent
Gameplay: Above Average
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Very Good
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Poor
Final Score: Decent Game

Short Attention Span Summary:

Bermuda Triangle: Saving The Coral isn’t bad, it just doesn’t do enough to be a good game either. The puzzle mechanics work and the game can get challenging on later stages in the story mode, but there isn’t enough variety in the levels, game modes, or background art to really want to keep playing after a couple of hours.

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