Dynamite Powers vs. the Ray of Night!

cover (20)

Potential spoilers ahead.

Alright! 1940’s/50’s pulp space opera parody parser game. Nice. One of my favorite Infocom games back in the day (aside from Trinity of course) was Leather Goddesses of Phobos, which, in some ways this game reminds me of. To be effective, this needs to be done well, and Dynamite Powers does it very well indeed. The text is tight and very well written and is pitched perfectly for the era it parodies. Cleverly, the game even acknowledges the fact that it is black and white – but then it takes this a step further and incorporates that fact into its main puzzle.

As Dynamite Powers, we must rescue the Earth from certain doom! Lord Infamy’s (haha – look up the Carry on films….. that made me chuckle) big weapon is ready to fire at the Earth, and you don’t have long. But first you need to escape from this cage slowly being lowered into a pool of Martian razorfish.

Structurally, the game is set in three (I think, but more about that later) sections, each of which has a puzzle to solve before you get into the next. I found the first two puzzles to be relatively simple (I use the word relatively loosely, they were quite hard….but…). They also are in keeping with the voice of the game. All mad science and impossible bravado.

Then we get to the third puzzle. The Big Puzzle. Now, I have form on this. My first game, Fifteen Minutes, was, essentially, a Big Puzzle Machine – people like them or hate them (as I discovered). In Dynamite Powers, we are wrestling with a weapon that requires multiple colored lenses to be placed in multiple slots. But of course, the game is set in black and white, so we have a light grey lens, a taupe lens and white lens and so on. Figuring this out, as well as how we combine different colors of light is a very involved thing. I couldn’t do it. I had to go to the walkthru. Even with that, I determined that I had not written something down earlier in the game that I needed and therefore had to restart. It all makes sense in hindsight, and you do have all the information required, but I will say it is very tough. And unfair. I didn’t complete it in the 2 hours.

Oh, the game is entirely unfair. On purpose. I died frequently. It’s a ‘learn by death’ game. We can’t, for example, know how to do the ‘alien transformation’ machine puzzle without understanding the attributes we need. We don’t know these till we’ve died from them at least once. We don’t know we need a certain piece of information until after we get to a point where we can’t go back again.

I’ve moaned at length about insta-death in previous reviews. However, here, with the combination of save and undo, it kind of works. Just. It’s in keeping with the tone of the game. In a way, it reminds me of the old sci-fi serials where the hero ‘dies’ in an explosion at the end of an episode – then, next week, we discover that they haven’t actually died at all because off camera they had crawled, unseen by the viewer, into a handy pipe/culvert of some kind and survived. It’s not exactly like that, but, well, a bit. In a way, I wish the deaths had been treated like that – we ‘die’ but are resurrected at a point we can continue by some form of deus-ex-machina – it would have added to the feel of the game.

On the whole, I really am enjoying Dynamite. 8/10


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