minis Monday: DynoGems

April 5, 2010

After last week’s minis experience, I admit to being apprehensive as I downloaded DynoGems for £1.74 (it’s currently part of the PSN Special Offers) to my PS3 for this week’s minis Monday. I needn’t have worried really, as DynoGems is a pretty solid, if unspectacular, effort that can easily while away a few lazy hours.

Underneath its cute exterior, with its high-pitched excitable squeals and goggle-eyed friendly dinosaur, beats an oftentimes manic ‘match 4’ puzzle game. Anyone who ever played Columns for the Sega Megadrive, or literally any of the thousands of derivatives since, will feel immediately at home here. Pressing the ‘X’ button makes your dinosaur snap up a gem, and pressing the Square button spits it back out. The adorable ‘lil bugger can multitask too; he can hold on to up to three gems of the same colour at once. The columns of gems advance down the screen at a steady, ever-increasing pace. Should a gem reach the bottom of the screen, it’s game over. Matching four or more of the same colour in any kind of group (excluding diagonals) make them explode with a satisfying tinkle, hopefully causing a chain reaction to ripple up the playing field.

Where DynoGems differentiates itself from at least some of its peers, is in the doling out of magic items. Small black gems emblazoned with differing icons will release magic power-ups when exploded, from a stopwatch which freezes the advancing of the columns for 10 seconds, to a lightning bolt which, when used by pressing the Triangle button, can disintegrate an entire column of gems in one hit. Use of these magic items often leads to acquiring others, at a pace which initially leads the player to breeze through the levels. It’s not long, however, before DynoGems begins to tighten the screw; later levels in the game’s Classic Mode throw in extra colours to contend with, as well as a very rapid gem descent down the screen.

Graphically, the game is bright but basic. The gems look less like sparkling jewels and more like coloured cardboard boxes. The background images leave something to be desired also, but the little dinosaur that the player controls is actually well-realised and suitably cute. But it would be unfair to criticise DynoGems on its aesthetics – they perform their purpose perfectly well, any extra polish would be unnecessary. The music is bright and cheery, inoffensive and yet humably catchy.

With an Endless mode packaged alongside the Classic mode, where the aim of the game is simply to get the highest score possible before you are overwhelmed, there’s actually a lot of bang here for your buck, especially if you pick up DynoGems whilst it is still in the Special Offers selection. Whilst it’s unlikely you’ll turn to DynoGems for extended play sessions, it perfectly encapsulates what a minis game should be – a solid dose of fun in a short space of time, whether that be a half-hours train commute on your PSP, or a lazy Sunday morning on your HDTV.

73/100

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