Dyna Bomb is built on an entirely sensible idea. What if you took two of the most satisfying experiences in gaming – zooming around on a jetpack, and lobbing bombs – and smooshed them together? We were certainly on board. Then it does the equally sensible thing of cutting away everything else like story, multiplayer or open worlds. Dyna Bomb is a pure arcade take on the concept: 64 levels, no bigger than a few screens, loaded with enemies and collectibles.
You can probably sense a ‘but’ coming. The abiding problem throughout Dyna Bomb is that the idea is good, but the execution is sloppy. It’s a game that knows what it wants to be, but doesn’t quite have the chops to get there.
It clips every hurdle. The first one is presentation. Every menu in Dyna Bomb (and there are a surprising number of them) would be valuable on game design courses as an example of what not to do. It’s quite a list: they’re hilariously garish, it’s hard to tell what you’re selecting, there’s no information about what anything represents, and they animate like they were made in PowerPoint. As a first impression, it’s not great.
Get into the game and things improve, but only marginally. It looks a bit like Metal Slug, left out in the rain to corrode a bit. The sprites are rough-edged but plastered with primary colours, and there’s a fuzziness to everything that makes you wonder if it’s at the right resolution. Everything’s so loud-looking that it competes for your attention, and you can often miss the important elements in the level like stars and keys.
With our hands on the pad, things improve a fair amount, at least in the first hour or so. Luzzing bombs at enemies has a satisfying feel to it. The arc of the bomb soon becomes second nature, and you can pull off trick shots at enemies, bouncing them off walls, or letting the bomb roll towards them. With most enemies being one-shottable, you can whizz through the levels, raining carnage.
The jetpack is spottier, but is satisfying enough. It feels a bit like Flappy Bird, as you repeatedly tap the button to hold relatively still, or jam it down to get some accelerated lift. It’s spotty because Dyna Bomb neglects to use the trigger buttons, so it becomes moderately awkward to both float and throw a bomb at the same time. You get used to it. Plus, particularly in the latter levels, Dyna Bomb likes to have you hovering in tight spaces between lazers and bombs, but the controls are at their worst when dealing with precision. That’s when it hurts the most.
Dyna Bomb opts for an approach to levels where a single hit means death. In the opening levels, that’s fine – things are dialed down to such a friendly level that dying isn’t much of an inconvenience, and it doesn’t happen all that often anyway. But on the harder levels where the scope broadens out a bit and there is hazard on virtually every pixel, well, it can get a bit more punishing. We’ve got no problem with difficulty, particularly in an arcade game like this, but it has a certain effect on how you play. We became more tentative, taking things slowly, as the game view isn’t particularly broad, and it’s easy to get ambushed. But in a game with bombs and jetpacks, playing slowly feels like it undermines what Dyna Bomb could have been.
It also creates some frustrating moments where the loose gameplay and punishing failure butt horns. Dyna Bomb loves to drop in lazer gates that intermittently turn on and off, but it’s entirely possible for you to get hit when you’re below the lazer nodes rather than between them, and it’s back to the start of the level with you: or paying an exorbitant 500 gems (more than a level offers) to restart from where you died.
But when the skies clear and the levels open up a bit, Dyna Bomb can be exactly what it aims to be: a blast. The enemies can be cleared out with one bomb each, meaning that you can be a skybound assassin, emptying a level before they even register you are there. That’s when Dyna Bomb flourishes: when it lets you show your skills with the tools that you have been given, rather than shackling you to levels that use them poorly. Who wants to play a Just Cause that takes place in a tiny room?
The final nail is the lack of variety. Dyna Bomb is stretching itself by committing to 64 levels, as it doesn’t have the toys to keep that interesting. The enemies repeat, the obstacles remain largely the same, and only the concentration of them and the backdrops change in a meaningful way. You could happily keep to the less punishing, more satisfying first few worlds, and leave happier than if you played them all. You’d be getting 1000G that way, too: Dyna Bomb frontloads its achievements so you can get them all in the first world, should you choose to.
Dyna Bomb is a likeable action-platformer built on two of gaming’s great staples: the jetpack and the bomb. But while it’s a reasonably pure arcade experience, it gets undermined consistently with terrible presentation, a refusal to let you loose with your tools, and levels that refuse to change things up in a meaningful way. While it has its fun moments, this bomb is more of a dud.
You can buy Dyna Bomb from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S