Dynowarz: The Destruction of Spondylus (NES)

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Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 07/12/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night

Dynowarz: Destruction of Spondylus (which gets stuck in my head as “Destruction of Spinobifyda”) is an example of a phenomenon that plagued the Atari 2600 era and remained fairly common into the 8-bit and 16-bit eras – box art describing a game that is way cooler than the game it actually contains.  For most NES games, it’s not usually that bad as what’s being shown is typically pretty close, at least in basic concept, to what you get.  Dynowarz is 2600-tier, though.  The box art makes it look like you’re going to be playing a game as fast-paced and intense as Contra or Xenophobe, but it ends up feeling more like Dragon’s Lair.

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The premise of Dynowarz is fairly similar to Mega Man except instead of robot masters, it’s robot dinosaurs in space.  Part of the game even feels like a dollar store Mega Man, although that’s only half of the two playstyles you’ll see in the game.  You play a part of the game as a random dude in a spacesuit with a peashooter gun, and this is the part that feels a little bit like a bad Mega Man clone.  You progress through a short section horizontally with some light and extremely cumbersome platforming until you reach a bootleg Mother Brain.  Shoot that until it dies, go back the way you came through the platforming part, and then hop into a giant dinosaur mech.  This is where the gameplay style changes.

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The second playstyle is where the game goes from disappointing to bad.  This is also side-scrolling, but in your giant dinosaur, you move at a snail’s pace and jump with all the effect of a paraplegic.  Fortunately, the platforms here are few and far between, but there are some spike pits that you have to jump over, and the controls are even more awkward than with the spacesuit guy.  To make matters worse, you don’t even have a gun.  You have a fist.  This dude had the technology to make a giant dinosaur mech, but he couldn’t be bothered to put a gun on it.  You can, at least, pick up weapon power-ups if they drop from defeated dinosaur robots, but none of them really feel that great.  You can get a punch throw – you literally throw your robot fist, and it comes back like a crappy boomerang – a fireball so small that you can barely see it, a bomb that launches in an arc over your head, or a laser that is about as satisfying to use as a slingshot.

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Dynowarz is a tale of two failures.  It’s like they played Blaster Master and said “What if we made this but terrible?”  The on-foot stages are a little more fun to play (though it would be more accurate to say “slightly less awful”), but the dinosaur robot stages are a bit better to look at with more interesting sprites and detailed worlds; neither, however, are truly good in either the visual or gameplay departments (except the cut scenes of your robo-dino; those are cool).  They both look drab, and they both handle like crap.  The sprite flicker is also pretty intense at times to the point of being outright distracting, and while I understand that the limits of the NES’s PPU make sprite flicker a fact of life, there are so many games that run much better and play much better without nearly as much flicker.  This is just not a great game.  It’s passable, but it’s definitely not good.  Unfortunately, it’s not even like Rollerblade Racer where it’s laughably bad; it’s just bad.

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