August 11th, 2012 | By Charles Ferrendelli
Outside of Galcon Fusion I was unfamiliar with developer Phil Hassey’s work, but after playing Dynamite Jack, I will be keeping a very close eye on Galcon Studios. Dynamite Jack is a top down stealth-action game that requires the user to solve puzzles and have fast reflexes. Just saying this doesn’t do the game justice though. From the art style, to the setting, Dynamite Jack brings a unique artistic design to the stealth-action genre.
You could say Dynamite Jack is a combination of Hassey’s past games from 2005, such as Escape from Anathema Mines and Dynamite. Dynamite Jack brings the best of both of these games into one title to fulfill what is most likely a theme Hassey loves exploring. Jack, the main character of Dynamite Jack, is a space marine whose goal is to escape from Anathema Mines after being enslaved and forced to work. Equipped with only a flashlight and some bombs (yes, the very bombs given to him to mine in the first place…. Oh sweet justice….) the player will have to use their wits to outsmart the enemy AI.
Each level progresses Jack farther up into the mines as the goal is to get him to each glimmer of light peeking out from above. Some puzzles will require key cards to access restricted rooms, while other times the player will have to destroy resources that are being guarded by enemies who will shoot on sight. Each level starts the player outside a building and will sometimes require the player to blow their way out of the rocks and rubble to access other areas.
I reviewed Dynamite Jack on the iPad and found there is two different ways to control the game. You can either draw lines with your finger in which Jack will follow, or you can use the joystick positioned at the bottom of the screen, and is fully customizable depending on if you’re left or right handed. Whichever setup you choose the bomb and flashlight buttons are placed in two different sections to give the most comfortable feel. I personally went with the joystick control scheme as I found it gave me better control of Jack overall.
One minor annoyance is that the game will always let you know in every single level that you have the option of both control schemes. Whether you’re just starting out or finishing the game, expect that little box to pop up to let you know you can also use the control scheme you’ve decided against days ago. The only way of stopping this pop up is by disabling one of the controls in the settings, so for those who like having both options, you’re going to have to deal with it. For those with an iCade, get hype, Dynamite Jack comes with complete iCade support.
In my time playing Dynamite Jack I came across three different types of enemies, each with different modes of attack, and some reacting differently to the environments around them. For instance, the enemy soldiers will notice you if you have your flashlight and shine it on them, even if you’re not in their line of sight. Without giving too much away, I came into contact with other enemies that react differently towards Jack’s tools. This adds a fresh piece of gameplay just when you thought you had everything figured out.
Just as if you were exploring a real mine, it is almost dead silent outside of the chilling soundtrack and key gameplay sound effects. This creates a horror-type atmosphere, indie style. I can’t tell you how many times I would be sneaking around the building in dead silence only to get lit up by a machine gun and have the living shit scared out of me. What’s really odd is you never get used to it, no matter how many times you die. And I promise you, you’ll be dying a lot.
I’m talking Super Meat Boy level of dying if you’re really bad like I was at first. Even in a low to mid-level stage I died a total of 32 times before finally completing it. If that puts you off think about this first. Despite those 32 deaths, I completed the level in 8 ½ minutes thanks to the save points located around each map.
The save points in Dynamite Jack are the player’s best friend, right next to the flash light and bombs. Blue save points are scattered throughout each map and just walking over them will automatically save your progress. After every piece of resource I destroyed, guard I killed, or key card I grabbed, I found myself going back to the save points to not lose my hard-earned progress.
An interesting choice in gameplay related to these time savers, is that the enemies will not attack you if you’re on a save point. This seems silly because if they just get a glace of you around the corner you’re instantly dead. There’s no way around it, don’t even try running. So for the player to achieve complete immunity by standing on a save point is a design choice which will make you scratch your head a little. The main reason for this is that the player respawns at a save point once you die, and many save points are located right in the enemy’s line of sight, which would result in an endless death loop if Hassey didn’t design it this way.
One noticeable glitch I came across on the iPad version (iOS 5.1.1) of the game was that the in-game music sometimes will not play unless all audio applications such as Skype and Podcasts are closed. Even if you have no audio running on any of the apps, Dynamite Jack’s in game music will simply be nonexistent. Oddly enough, the in-game sound affects always worked. A rule of thumb I used was closing all apps before playing Dynamite Jack, which certainly isn’t ideal, but the music is very good and adds to the setting of the game greatly.
What makes the $2.99 price point of Dynamite Jack so appealing is it’s not another disposable app. Even upon completion of the main campaign you have plenty of extra stuff to play around with. There’s leaderboards for each level as well as computer chips to collect which will unlock secret levels. While there are not very many achievements to unlock, collecting all 13 will take you awhile.
What will really add to the replay value is the easy to use map builder that will allow the user to create maps with all the resources found in the campaign. These maps can then be shared online where other users can play, rate, and favorite your map. The community maps section is organized by the most popular or newest, as well as maps you’ve marked as favorite, creations by your friends, and your very own. You can tell it wasn’t a second thought and a lot of time and effort went into this portion of the game. I was also surprised to learn that the community maps and leaderboards are all cross platform and don’t require any sort of third party login service to immediately use them.
With a fresh artistic style, and fun – yet addictive gameplay, Dynamite Jack has become one of myfavorite games on the iPad. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a challenging, yet very enjoyable game.
You can pick up the universal Dynamite Jack on the App Store, Steam, or straight from the Galcon website DRM Free with a Steam code. For those looking for an Android version of the game, Phil Hassey wants you to express your desires on the Galcon forums today!