Double Up is a monthly series spotlighting independent game developers in New Zealand. Each month an article and an interview will focus on a new and interesting gaming experience.
One of the powerful things about video games is their ability to transport us to another world. From the historical to the fantastical, and everything in between, video games offer a huge range of unique and exciting worlds to experience. Exploring alien planets (and often brutally slaughtering their inhabitants) has been a staple of gaming from its beginning. This year’s NZGDA KiwiGameStarter winner Dynabrick gives us another lush alien world, but with a bit of a twist. Although Dynabrick is in the early stages of development, there’s much to like and look forward to.
You play as Dynabrick, a very small and very hyperactive delivery robot. With a perpetually smiling face, this endearing little robot always looks eager to please. Equipped with multidirectional drills, single laser shots and a laser beam, you’re designed to defend and destroy. Running Dynabot into a block of terrain will activate his drill. Clicking fires powerful shots in any direction you choose. Double jumping activates Dynabot’s laser jump – a death beam that propels you over any terrain, annihilating whatever you fly over. It’s so easy to misstep and destroy huge chunks of pristine land, unique plant life and adorable critters. Therein lies Dynabrick’s challenge. Can you clear a level without destroying the native inhabitants? The aliens will start to fight back as you progress through the game, and stopping to learn about the plant life will become more rewarding then reducing it to ashes.
Not only does this idea add a unique puzzle element, it also asks the player to restrain themselves. Flying over an entire level on a laser beam of destruction is far too much fun, but caring about the levels inhabitants will require much more nuanced gameplay. Treading carefully, trying not to drill into too much land, and not firing off a series of deadly shots towards a helpless creatures are all tactics that ask the player to check themselves. What could have been another non-stop action platformer is given much more depth with the addition of this one optional condition. Dynabot’s other job is to find and collect Dynorbs. The scattered cargo of your crashed ship, these pickups give Dynabot his manic energy. Picking one up fills his energy bar, and everything from jumping to flying on his laser beam depletes his reserves. Careful conservation of energy is required to clear each level. Being stuck with no power means Dynabot can still drill and jump, but shooting and flying around on the laser beam is impossible. While running out of Dynorbs won’t end the game, it makes for a much greater challenge.
The world of Dynabrick is visually rich and detailed. Eye-popping colours work together to display a fun and unique environment, it’s always exciting to see what’s ahead of you. With a near infinite amount of alien plants, there is always something new to see. Thick cacti-like plants sprout shiny orbs while tubular grass snakes upwards. Giant pink leaves sprout from the holes in a trumpet shaped branch, and cloud-like bonsais have little faces and expressions. There’s plenty of colour and variety in Dynabrick, and learning about these alien plants will hopefully add a richness and sense of place.
The little creatures that you encounter fit perfectly in the world, often sporting petals or leaves as camouflage. Some critters blow up and destroy all the surrounding flora and fauna when killed, giving the occasional stray shot much larger consequences. Others have no way to defend themselves, and nowhere to escape to. As helpless as they are, killing their friends or blowing up terrain near them will make them frightened. As they pose little to no threat to Dynabot, killing them feels as senseless as it should, once again incentivising the player to tread carefully and make friends with the planet’s inhabitants.
With its distinctive style and bright colours, Dynabrick’s enticing world promises a fun ride. The plans for future features and a strong focus on peaceful puzzling are intriguing and exciting. The current incarnation of Dynabrick is a solid base, and expect to see huge additions as the game is developed. Getting to grips with Dynabot’s powers will inevitably lead to some smoking craters and deceased critters, but this earnest little robot will encourage you to stop and smell the (alien) roses.