‘Dynamite Jack’ Review – Simply A Blast
What do you get when you mix Metal Gear Solid with Bomberman? No, the answer is not a 15 hour cinematic roller coaster into the life of a robotic terrorist. Instead you get Dynamite Jack – a blend of stealth gameplay and bomb-centric challenges with great controls and a incredible amount of polish. It’s not redefining any genre but it is fun, original, and smart enough to make it stand out in the crowd.
You play as a space marine that has just escaped captivity and must now flee from the adjoining mine. The story is told through a few images and and sentences right off the bat. Like many other indie games, it is there simply as an excuse to jump into the game.
Levels are short and completely separate from one another. It is a linear affair in that all you can do is complete the levels, but what order you tackle them in is sometimes up to you, though to only a small extent. The gameplay is an interesting blend of stealth and puzzle sequences. You will use your map, flashlight and bombs in order to bypass enemy guards, scientists, lasers, and beastly experiments. The bombs are clearly your most useful tool as they can be used to distract, kill, or explore. An argument could be made to say that the bombs are too powerful, eventually creating a formula where you can bait enemy guards to their deaths on nearly ever level. Then again, that problem could easily be blamed on the brain-dead A.I.
The flashlight mechanics are where the game gets creative. Sure, you have your standard Metal Gear Solid use of the cone of light as an enemy field of view. However for your character the flashlight is imperative to simply seeing your surroundings. While its not necessarily pretty, the light physics can create some interesting situations for hiding. The challenge regarding the flashlight is that shining it upon enemy guards and scientists always results in a quick and painful death. On the other hand, the abominations that chase you mindlessly fear the light and will run away from you should you use this to your advantage. It’s a neat method of dealing with enemies beyond simply bombing them. Unfortunately, bombing them feels far easier than playing keep away.
Then there are those moments where the game simply doesn’t give you a flashlight for the majority of the level, or has a challenge associated with not using one. These are the moments that truly make you appreciate the , as you will walk in the dark and often stumble into pits of doom. Not to mention the sense of panic caused when you are being chased by the light-fearing abominations without either bombs or a flashlight to defend yourself. This sense of helplessness due to lack of a flashlight or bombs is a highlight of each level. Who would think that the best part of a Bomberman style game is when you lack the ability to plant bombs?
There isn’t anything particularly creative in Dynamite Jack. Instead the game combines two different game styles to create a fairly fresh experience. Thanks to well-thought out level design and significant polish the developer is largely successful in crafting a fun experience. The save feature in the game is particularly noteworthy. If you step into the blue square you will save your progress in that level as well as remain safe from enemies and explosions. There is no waiting to save or load, it’s instant and never makes dying a frustrating experience.
Despite the praise, it isn’t without fault. While the music fits well, the sound in the game is primitive at best. Unfortunately the game highlights its sound by having death sounds of all kinds play 10 times louder than any other sound in the game. Not only does this bring attention to it but it also works to scare me silly every single time I died. That being said, that may have been the intention all along.
More importantly, the experience eventually flirts with tedium and repetition. Using bombs to lure enemies into another explosion will get old quickly. The game attempts to alleviate the problem by presenting you with three challenges on each level. The challenges that task you with completing the level in a time limit or without killing an enemy are clearly the highlights. Unfortunately, the game also features challenges like “blow up 50 bombs” which aren’t difficult by any means, only time consuming.
All in all Dynamite Jack deserves praise for being a fun, thought-provoking game that managed to feature a stealth experience using bombs. While the fun eventually teeters on repetition, the game throws enough challenges at you to keep you interested. The game makes controlling your character a breeze. Considering the polish in the visuals, audio, and gameplay, it should come as no surprise that Dynamite Jack is a mostly bug-free experience. If you like your games simple yet fairly challenging, don’t be surprised if you find Dynamite Jack to be a blast.
Review summary Pros:
Neat use of lighting; incredibly polished; simple controls, fun and challenging
Poor A.I; can become tedious and repetitive with time