You Should Play: Dynamite Jack
[These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.]
We’ve all been there: Stuck in a remote mine on an alien world, with nothing but a flashlight and an endless supply of bombs. Honestly, it kind of sounds like the next sci-fi/action Will Smith vehicle—and heck, he’d be perfect for the hero of Dynamite Jack.
Don’t worry too much about the plot of the game—it’s not really important. What is important is the clever stealth-based gameplay and puzzles of this top-down action game. As you traverse each level of the mine, looking for a way out, you’ll face off against flashlight-bearing guards—who will shoot you if you’re caught in their sights—scientists with ray guns, mutants who fear the light, and, of course, laser beams, endless chasms, and robot turrets.
Maybe life in the mines wasn’t so bad after all.
Of course, it’s not just a matter of making it from one end of a level to another. There are things you need to do on the way, you see: acquire key cards, grab data chips that unlock further levels, and—of course—survive. You’ll be aided in that last task by save points along your route, which I like to think look a bit like a bird’s-eye view of the TARDIS.
To control your hero, you can choose between using a virtual joystick to direct him, or drawing his path on the screen with your finger. (You can also switch back and forth, if you’re so inclined, but leaving both options active can occasionally result in your untimely demise when you accidentally trigger the wrong control.) While virtual joysticks aren’t usually my favorite type of controller, it suffices here, though occasionally my finger drifted to the iPad’s bezel, which ended up with me standing stock still as guards peppered me with bullets. But, hey—c’est la vie.
If you’ve snagged an iCade, Dynamite Jack includes built-in support for that accessory, giving you a real arcade experience.
Just in case blowing stuff up and escaping armed guards isn’t enough to sell you, here’s a few other reasons you might want to give Dynamite Jack a run for its money.
Tricky, but not too tricky: I like puzzles, but there’s nothing worse than a puzzle that has you beating your head against a wall for minutes on end. Fortunately, most of Dynamite Jack’s puzzles are the kind that you can figure out with just a little applied thought: What tools do I have? What can I do with those tools? A few seconds of consideration—if you can avoid getting mauled or shot in the meantime—can yield a world of help.
Intuitive: Not the controls, necessarily, but the game world. It makes sense. Set off a bomb, and guards come running. Mutants that live in caves fear lights, but will pounce when your back is turned. With a little work, you can turn all of these factors—and their predictability—to your own advantage. Bombs, for example, can be used to distract guards, sending them off to investigate while you sneak in and take what you need.
Expandability: It took me a while to play through most of the included 28 levels, since I played only a couple levels in any given stretch. But the game doesn’t have to end after you finish its included maps: Not only can you make your own levels using a built-in map editor, but you can share those levels with others online, and play the levels they’ve created.
Pulse-pounding and head-scratching: Some games are all adrenaline, while others are all cold calculation. Dynamite Jack does a good job of mixing the two—so much so that you’ll find yourself struggling between them. Do you rush out into what looks like a split-second window of opportunity? Or do you coolly sit tight and watch for the patterns to ensure your success. Dynamite Jack’s levels are timed, but that’s more for bragging rights than any gameplay reward. So it’s all about how you want to play it.