You might well accuse me of living under a rock, but I'd never heard of Bomberman before, and hadn't a clue to what he was referring. Undaunted, I sent in my $20 and soon received the game in the mail. I'm still in the dark about Bomberman, but have now spent quite a few hours playing one of the more unusual titles in the 8-bit library.
DynaKillers was coded in Germany in the late '90s and released to an unsuspecting North American market a few years ago by Video 61. Like most latter-day European titles, it boasts above-average graphics, interesting gameplay, and an outstanding soundtrack. DynaKillers is one of the 8-bits' few strategy/puzzlers, but it is also, alas, a 2-player (minimum) game. If you can convince an unwilling spouse or friend to spend some quality time with your XL or XE for an hour or two, though, Dynakillers will reward you with enough thrills -- and a laugh or two as well -- to make this a solid entertainment investment.
For those few players who, like me, are completely unfamiliar with concept of Bomberman, it may be best to describe DynaKillers as a combination of Spy Vs. Spy and Boulderdash. In essence, the goal of each game is to blow up your opponent with a limited supply of explosives while negotiating rock mazes that are filled with randomly-placed gaming hazards.
Rocks cannot be moved by the game's characters, but they can be blasted away with dynamite (bombs). Bombs will typically destroy several rocks and damage others. Damaged rocks may or may not reveal the presence of bonus items such as extra bombs, powerups, or even "surprises", which are indicated by a question-mark icon. Surprises are typically unpleasant and will usually hinder gameplay. For instance, one type of surprise destroys a player's entire arsenal of weapons, while another (and my personal favourite) detonates the player, instead of a bomb, when an explosive is triggered.
Players will soon realize that the safest route to the other player isn't necessarily the shortest one. Mazes have a static structure, but hazards are placed randomly in each game. Luck is, therefore, a factor that can't be discounted during gameplay, and it does somewhat even the playing field for novice and / or relatively unskilled players.
DynaKiller's standard mode enables two players to compete head-to-head, but a third can play by using the computer keyboard. This can, however, be somewhat awkward. DynaKillers does not, unfortunately, take opportunity of expanded-memory 400 and 800 machines and their four joystick ports to allow gameplay for up to five players. It's also somewhat puzzling that the game fails to offer single players a computer opponent.
Game controls are adequate, but I find that character control is less responsive than it should be, and there often seems to be a slight delay in joystick motion and character response.
DynaKillers was programmed specifically for NTSC machines, and North American gamers should not, as a result, experience any of the visual problems that seem to plague even the best translations of European import games. It has one of the better title screens to be found in the 8-bit library (love that anime drawing!), and the game's graphics are monochromatically pleasant, if unspectacular. They're certainly not a distraction during gameplay, and all of the bonus items (bombs, surprises, etc.) are both clearly identifiable and easy on the eyes.
DynaKillers features several wonderful "techno" soundtrack tunes which truly push POKEY to its limits. The in-game music is the equal of many Amiga games, and you may want to buy a copy just to impress disbelieving (and insufferably smug) Commodore-owning friends. The DynaKillers soundtrack should, at the very least, put an end to debate that POKEY just wasn't the equal of the SID chip.
The game's digitized sound effects are uniformly excellent. Explosions are clear and realistic, and they are used well throughout the game. Even better, however, are the numerous speech samples that are sprinkled liberally throughout the game. A German-accented announcer asks "are you ready"? at the beginning of each round, and players are told "OK!" when a bonus item is found. Players also get treated to a joker-like laugh when they (to their misfortune) find an unpleasant surprise. Additional digitized samples are triggered when bonus items are retrieved. You'll truly be astounded at how far this game actually pushes (literally) the 8-bit sound envelope.
Unfortunately, the 8-bits' memory constraints force players to choose between the "digi" samples and the excellent in-game music. This tends to compromise gameplay, as digitized samples often provide the only clue that players have triggered a booby trap.
DynaKillers, like all of Video 61's cartridges, comes with an attractive label and box that you won't have to hide at the back of your cartridge collection. Included instructions are sparse but give you enough information to start your game-playing quickly. This is an amusing multi-player puzzler that should find a strong welcome at parties or other large gatherings. If you can find a group of classic gamers and / or just want to find out what the rest of the world was up to when North America turned its back on the 8-bits, you'd be well advised to contact Video 61 and purchase yourself a copy of this well-done action / strategy title.
DynaKillers is now available for $19.95 from Video 61. Requirements: 64K, two joysticks, keyboard (for third player).