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Dynamite Jack is a 2D stealth game by Phil Hassey about the escape of an imprisoned Space Marine, the eponymous Jack. Using your flashlight, bombs, and stealthy cunning to blow this alien popsicle stand! Find it here for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iPodPhonePad.

The best way to describe this game would be stealth meets Bomberman: on the one hand, guards with quarter-circle flashlight beams and a curious amount of perseverance and devotion to their patrol path, and on the other, you get to place bombs to destroy walls and enemies with almost reckless abandon. The gameplay is tight, with there being just enough bells and whistles to accommodate the various types of puzzles you'll be doing. And yes, bombs in a stealth game do work out amazingly well. Everything else is simplified down to the point of being almost conservative: I hesitate to call it simplistic, because there's plenty of pleasant visuals that really get you into the feel of the game, but there's really no clutter or distraction that isn't intentional.

The plot is virtually non-existent, with Jack being a Space Marine that was captured in battle, who for the purposes of this game is in the process of breaking out (the fun way). It gives a very open-ended feel to the game, as though to eschew linearity or progression for the ability to put Jack in a variety of situations. One level, you're in what feels like a sprawling mine, where you have to destroy the scattered alien technology to proceed; another, you're infiltrating a house, swiping keycard upon keycard to get into the safe room; in a third, you're running for your life from zombies in an abandoned, caved-in factory. That last one was particularly nice, because you don't get the handy flashlight or your bombs until later in the level, which espouses a very neat sort of helplessness and panic, as you're faced with a pack of zombies that would otherwise be easy pickings.

Besides a main sort of story mode where Jack works his way out of the Anathema mines, there is also a level editor and map-sharing community that the game can connect to, to download maps and such. It gives plenty of extra value to the game, if level editors are your kind of thing. As expected, not every level you'll find online will be a good one: expecting this, there's also a website, Dynamite Maps, dedicated to finding and promoting the good ones.

Running the risk of ascribing more meaning to a game than is probably reasonable, I'd like to note that the guards have absolutely no sixth sense at all. They break formation to check out loud noises, but unfortunately are not immune to death by violent explosion and don't seem to bat much of an eye when one of their comrades becomes a dark stain on the floor. I like to think of this as due to an impending sense of dread, counteracted a squadron- or force-wide devotion to their duty—borne of equal parts fear for what may happen if they break formation, and hope that they would not suffer the same fate if they do what they were originally told. Of course, strictly speaking, they're just simple pseudo-AI routines to add some spice to this video game meal, but when Eco said a novel is a machine for generating interpretations, I think he'd be okay with us saying this of all art in general; and this game is definitely a work of art.

There are also zombie monster demons, which crave human flesh but are so unimaginative as to be impeded by any outcropping from a wall or light smattering of debris in their path; and lab coat–wearing lightning-wielders (don't ask) that lack flashlights but frequently populate brightly lit rooms. As nice as the game is, the art makes it a little hard to believe that they are all on the same team: it would be an interesting addition if zombies and guards, for instance, would be able to quarrel with each other should they meet. And speaking of allegiances, the guards and scientists both look a little too human to be aliens. Maybe they're actually just hopelessly brainwashed humans? Suddenly the game is a little sad and morbid.

There's not a whole lot to be said about this game that it doesn't tell you itself when you start playing. If you loved the bomb coordination tactics of Bomberman, or the feel of weaving through complex guard patrols sneakily that stealth games thrive on, then Dynamite Jack is likely something you'll enjoy.

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