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Dynablaster Review

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My first experience with Bomberman-style games wasn’t with Bomberman. Back on the Nintendo Gameboy, I picked up Dynablaster from a market stall in Brighton, and it was that game which introduced me to the pains and joys of accidentally trapping myself behind bombs. From then on things got confusing, as the character from the front cover seemed to crop up in a series called Bomberman instead, and the name ‘Dynablaster’ was dead.

Cue the ringing of bells and cries of “It’s alive! It’s alive!”. Dynablaster is BACK, and it’s taking on the might of Super Bomberman R 2 in a grudge match for the ages. Or at least a grudge match for this Thursday. 

dynablaster review 1
Dynablaster or Bomberman?

At the very least it made us go on a Wikipedia Quest, to find out how the Dynablaster and Bomberman series related to each other. It turns out that Dynablaster was the European name for several early Bomberman games (Bomberman and Bomberman II, most notably), before Hudson Soft presumably got less concerned about including ‘bomb’ in the title. What that means for this game and the copyright around Dynablaster, well, we may never know. 

The overlap with Bomberman is all you need to know, as Dynablaster is most definitely gunning (bombing?) for the same experience. This is Bomberman as you know and love it, with grid-like arenas, bombs that blow up in a cross-shape, and plenty of opportunities to get stuck in alleys. That creates a clear opposition with Bomberman, and most recently Super Bomberman R, so Dynablaster immediately has a challenge on its hands. What can it offer that those games can’t?

Price is the obvious one. Dynablaster is £16.74, Super Bomberman R 2 is £44.99. If you’re comparing against the most recent Bomberman experience, then Dynablaster is definitely more affordable for the ‘slap it on after a night out’ crowd. The asterisk being that Bomberman Battlefest is still around for £6.75. But we’ll ignore that for the moment.

Dynablaster’s problem is that, if price isn’t the issue, then it struggles to make a case for itself. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it’s nestled so deeply into the shadow of Bomberman that its skin is looking anemic. 

Take the graphics. There’s an early Xbox 360 sheen to them that can’t compare with the tin-toy or cartoon stylisation of the various Bomberman games. The characters, even with their various cosmetic disguises on, lack a little in the personality department, and I genuinely have some issues identifying what is a block and what is a wall. It’s not an abundantly legible game. All of this adds up to something that is basic, shall we say, if not ugly.

dynablaster review 2
Some explosive action on display

It certainly ticks all the boxes of what you’d want from this kind of party game. Four players are available locally, with online multiplayer – and online friend match-ups – also an option (although we didn’t get a single multiplayer match to trigger, presumably because the player base isn’t quite there). There are a couple of modes to play, too, should you want to play competitively in Tournaments or more cooperatively in something called Key Picker, which has you racing to expose and then collect keys, often before enemies kill you. 

Those are the table-stakes, the fundamentals, of what we’d expect from this kind of game. But it does cut some corners, and those corners turn out to be missed. You can’t choose a specific level to play: you are left to the whims of randomisation, which is frankly odd. There are loads of levels here, some including warps or blast-pads, so it’s an enigma why BBG Entertainment chose to hide them away. Additionally, you can’t fiddle with the difficulty levels of the computer players. That’s a staple of any Bomberman game, as there’s such a high skill ceiling to playing. When you get good, you don’t want to be playing with enemies who stay stock-still because their AI doesn’t allow for the ‘mine’ power-up, or wait in corridors for you to block them in.

There’s a fair amount of stuff packed into Dynablaster, but it’s not spread out evenly. Power-ups, for example, are as wide-ranging as the competitors. There’s frigging loads of them, and the tutorial does an odd job of explaining some of them but not all of them. There are those you expect like additional flame range, extra bombs and TNT, but there’s also water to turn enemy bombs into duds, shields, diseases and x-rays. There’s no filter or choice on which power-ups are present, so you’re going to be exposed to them straight away. But they add a lot (sometimes too much. We’re convinced that a shield is too powerful, as it allows you to wander into explosions and deliberately trap other players. It’s just not cricket). 

But while power-ups are generous to a fault, the mechanics in the levels aren’t so hot. As mentioned, portals and blast-pads are present and correct, but there are no conveyor belts, reverse pads, springboards or anything like that. Not even the cool kangaroos from Super Bomberman 3. The result is a large bank of levels that differ mostly in terms of layout, but not in any landmarks or killer scenarios. Some people might get excited by a level that’s got more corridors, or one that’s got more dead-ends, but we found the flavour to be on the vanilla side. 

dynablaster review 3
We think you should probably stick to Super Bomberman

Something we find harder to pinpoint is the controls and the way the game reacts to us. Having put hundreds of hours into games of this type, we expect it to react in certain ways. Perhaps that’s unkind, but we’ve got muscle-memory now – we can’t help it. So, when we accidentally wander into the blast of a bomb but survive, we start asking questions. That shouldn’t happen, right? But because Dynablaster’s rules are slightly askew, the collision detection that little bit different, it felt wrong. The same is true of a slight delay on dropping bombs, and a slipperiness to character movement when using the analogue stick. 

Our concern for Dynablaster is that in any other game these problems would be small – miniscule even. But when Dynablaster is scrapping directly against Bomberman, who has solved most of these problems, and with a deal more charm, too, then they feel larger than they really are.

Because Dynablaster is fine – a perfectly perfunctory, vanilla version of the party classic. But we couldn’t help thinking about other Bombermen while we were playing it.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Plenty of levels
  • Online, local and friend play
  • Stuffed with power-ups
Cons:
  • Lacks needed options
  • Drab presentation
  • Can’t muster a challenge to Bomberman
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, BBG Entertainment
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 14 September 2023 | £16.74
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Plenty of levels</li> <li>Online, local and friend play</li> <li>Stuffed with power-ups</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Lacks needed options</li> <li>Drab presentation</li> <li>Can’t muster a challenge to Bomberman</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, BBG Entertainment</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 14 September 2023 | £16.74</li> </ul>Dynablaster Review
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