Review by MTLH

Reviewed: 03/10/15

One cartridge, three modes and plenty of bombs.

The name Dynablaster may not ring a bell but one look at the game itself will reveal what's going on here. A squat little helmed figure, bombs and mazelike levels can mean only one thing, this is Bomberman. Dynablaster was the first of Hudson Soft's venerable series to appear on the Game Boy, way back in 1990. More intriguingly, Dynablaster offers two games on one cartridge which seems like a very generous move. What's more, besides Game A and B there is also a multiplayer mode. What riches.

The visuals are rather simple which isn't terribly surprising. What is however is that both Game A and B sport different styles with that of the first being more detailed and that of the latter looking more stretched out. The differences run deeper than that though, with both the protagonist and his enemies looking genuinely different across the two modes. Despite the simplicity there are still a few pleasing flourishes to savour. There is a nice reaction whenever an enemy explodes for instance, with some going wide-eyed while others crumble into pieces. The few cut scenes look simply great, being both bold and well detailed, and the tumbling rocks on the start screen are also nicely done.

Dynablaster's score is quite catchy, featuring some memorable tunes that will stick in your mind for quite a while. It's also surprisingly consistent in it's tone, at least in Game A, unifying the various pieces through a few recurring themes. Game B offers a single main tune which is nice enough but never changes and eventually just sort of drones on. The sound effects are simple yet robust and get the job done in a fairly straightforward manner. The explosions are rather pleasing though.

As mentioned, Dynablaster offers three different games in one package. Although ‘different’ would be too big a word here as, at their core, all adhere to the same type of gameplay. Bomberman must traverse mazelike areas and can lay down bombs with which to blow up destroyable scenery and enemies. With the way the areas are constructed, these explosives have no other option than to explode in a cross-like pattern. Destroying all the enemies allows Bomberman to use the exit to the next level, an exit which must, by the way, be uncovered first by blowing up blocks. Doing so can also lead to power-ups appearing which, for instance, increases the amount of bombs Bomberman can lay down or give him the ability to detonate them per remote.

The first offering, Game A, is essentially Dynablaster’s adventure mode. Here Bomberman is apparently known as the Kid and must travel to eight locations in order to save his friends. Seven can be completed in any order which eventually unlocks the eight one. Completing a level also unlocks a specific power-up which can then be bought in the shop. The Kid can put about thirty in his inventory and take ten with him in a level. Some power-ups remain, such as the extra firepowert or the increase of the number of bombs the Kid can use. Others, such as the remote and the ability to walk through walls are only temporary and disappear when the level has been finished.

This can lead to some strategic decisions. Seeing that the inventory has a limited space, choosing which power-up to buy and take with the Kid into a level can be crucial. For instance, whether to use a health item in a level so it can resurrect the Kid after death or keep the icon in the inventory where it acts as an extra life. Furthermore, filling up the inventory with more firepower may seem like a good idea but perhaps it's better to have less and be able to walk through walls or perhaps outrun the opposition.

Game A differentiates the various locations nicely by granting each a gimmick of sorts. Windria, for instance, has a continuously flowing wind which pushes the Kid and his enemies in all directions while in Cuolece the blocks must be blasted twice before they are gone. Not all of these ideas work out all that well though. The levels of Grad, for example, consist of several smaller interconnected areas with portals that transport the Kid between them. The problem is that they are randomised what can lead to him teleporting between the same two areas while the timer is winding down at a steady pace.

Game B is essentially a port of the original Bomberman. It plays like an arcade game and sees the eponymous character trying to blow up all enemies in a level so he can progress to the next one. Each level contains a hidden power-up of which some stay with Bomberman throughout the game while others disappear after death. There are fifty levels to beat which become progressively harder while after each five a bonus round appears in which the score can be racked up.

Of the two standard modes, Game B is by far the lesser. Don't get me wrong, it's enjoyable enough but there also is a distinct lack of variation. The levels themselves don't change, both with regard to gameplay mechanisms or simply presentation, while there aren't all that many different enemies to contend with. It doesn't take long for this mode to show everything it has to offer and than there are still a couple of dozen levels left to work through. Again, this mode is still somewhat fun, and certainly addictive once you've made some progress, but on the whole there is little here that is actually compelling.

Finally, there is a multiplayer mode. Truth be told, I don't remember much of it as it has been more than twenty years since I last played this mode with my friends. I do recall it being highly enjoyable though. Seeing that that applies to most Bomberman titles, they tend to excel at multiplayer, I'm inclined to give Dynablaster the benefit of the doubt in this case. Even so, due to my not being able to properly play it again, this mode won't affect the score except in that it's on the menu in the first place. Also, in this day and age I can't in all fairness see many people going through the hassle of bringing together two Game Boys, a link cable and two copies of the game. These items aren't nearly as ubiquitous as they where twenty years ago.

As for the game's difficulty level, it's fair to say that Dynablaster isn't the most challenging game around. Stocking up on power-ups in Game A will practically guarantee an easy ride, especially since the required money won't be a concern. Game B on the other hand can be conquered on sheer bloody-minded willpower alone. Lives are plentiful while only the last few levels actually can be considered somewhat difficult. All this means that the game can be completed in about two hours or so, give or take. The game does hand out passwords, even if it's not really necessary. There is always the multiplayer mode to lengthen the runtime but, while I enjoyed it very much back in the day, I can't see many people bothering with it in the here and now. Especially taking into account the amount of other Bomberman titles readily available today.

Back in 1990, the Game Boy's early days, Dynablaster was quite the offer. Two different games and a multiplayer mode on one cartridge must have seemed like a gift from heaven. I know my younger self thought so at the time, seeing that this was one of the first games I ever owned for the system.

Dynablaster is a Bomberman game through and through. Blowing stuff up never gets old and as such the game stays enjoyable until the end. Game A is in my opinion the main course here, offering a decent adventure with plenty of variation and a light strategic element. Game B on the other hand is a fun diversion that gets rather samey very quickly. Both modes aren't very challenging though so expect to reach the endcredits sooner rather than later. The multiplayer mode is a nice addition for those that can bring together the necessary components.

All in all, Dynablaster is a neat little game that will appeal to Bomberman fans and Game Boy aficionados alike. I wouldn't go out of my way to get it, there are superior games for both those groups to find and play first, but go for it if you happen to come across this game. Dynablaster is certainly worth a quick look.

OVERALL: a 7,0.

Rating: 7

Product Release: Dynablaster (EU, 12/31/91)

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