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Written by Russell Archey on 3/1/2024 for PC  
More On: DynaCat

Ever since Sonic burst onto the gaming scene back in 1991, many games have tried to recreate that same magic by having a character who moves through stages at incredibly fast speeds, or at least tries to. Meanwhile, Sonic himself has had a few spinoff games, and while I’m sure there are games similar to those spinoffs out there somewhere, they’re not nearly as notable as those similar to Sonic’s main outings.  I mean, if there are games similar to Sonic Spinball or Sonic R, I’ve not seen them myself.  However, today’s game takes inspiration from a Sonic spinoff game that wasn’t the most popular of the hedgehog’s outings, but still has a place in people’s memories, good or bad. 

Dynacat’s home has been invaded by a group of robots known as the Spherons. The Spherons have been draining the land’s energy and are storing it in the form of magic crystals and now Dynacat must track down the Spheron’s, defeat them, and protect the land. Dynacat consists of multiple worlds with three stages in each: two action stages and a boss. The goal of each action stage is to simply make it to the end. Action stages have several ways to reach the end of them with multiple split paths in each. This gives you the option of either speeding through a stage as fast as you can and hit every boost panel and spring along the way to keep you moving at a high speed, or you can break off the main path to try to find the eight hidden crystals in each stage. Finding at least six will let you play the Special Stage where you have to try to collect a certain number of orbs before reaching the exit. Succeeding in enough Special Stages will net you a reward, but it’s not an easy feat and frankly, I was unable to finish enough to see what the reward was.

When starting a new file you have three difficulty options: Easy lets you play through the game with infinite health and lives while letting you backtrack to previously completed stages, Normal is the same only without the infinite health and lives, and Hard is like Normal only you play through the stages in order and you can’t replay prior stages (though upon completing a stage you can replay it for a better score, time, or to find more hidden crystals). Your health meter allows you to take a single hit if full, and collecting several orbs will fill it back up. Taking a hit when the meter isn’t full will cost you a life on Normal and Hard. Stages will have a few checkpoints and a death will restart you at a checkpoint, though you can also pause and choose to restart the stage from scratch if you wish.  Each stage also has a few challenges you can try to go for, such as getting all of the crystals or finishing with a fast time, so there is some incentive to going back to a prior stage.

Dynacat has a couple of abilities at his disposal, one of which is a tether he can use to home in on enemies from above to pull him towards them, or to grab projectiles fired by certain enemies to fling back at them. You can also tether certain poles to help change direction while boosting or to fling yourself to a higher platform. This is all useful to traverse certain areas and find hidden crystals, but there is a bit of a caveat. While the tether can take out a lot of enemies from above, it won’t from ground level. That’s a bit puzzling to be honest, since you can still fire the tether at ground level, but it seemingly doesn’t affect enemies (or if it does I just have terrible aim). Your other ability is boosting. Aside from the zip pads you’ll find lying around the stage which will set Dynacat blazing forward at high speeds, if you run for a few seconds you’ll see a prompt to hit a button and activate a boost. Boosting allows you to dash at a high speed and can hit certain springs to access different paths or hidden areas. However, if you make too sharp of a turn while running, you’ll lose your speed before you can activate the boost (sharp turning while boosting will also cause you to lose your boost).

On the surface Dynacat seems to take a lot of inspiration from Sonic 3D Blast. I have no problem with that; I’m one of those people who actually enjoyed Sonic 3D Blast. However, while playing I did come across a few issues that made the experience less than enjoyable a lot of the time, and the primary one was that the controls can feel a bit slippery. Since Dynacat can move in any direction, some ramps and slopes can cause problems if you don’t have enough speed built up before hitting them as if you’re facing even one or two degrees off from a slope, you’ll curve in that direction and won’t make it up. In fact, there are a few places in the game where if you don’t approach with enough speed or take a jump the wrong way, you are kind of stuck and if you don’t have enough space to build up speed, you might even have to take an intentional death just to restart back at the checkpoint. I even had one checkpoint right before a large jump that required me to approach while boosting, except I didn’t have enough room to build up speed so I had to actually backtrack and take a different path to continue. The thing that makes those situations frustrating is that Dynacat can’t build up speed from a standstill like Sonic’s spindash does. If you don’t have enough runoff room, you might find yourself unable to clear certain obstacles.

What really perplexed me was a couple of times where I accidentally went out of bounds while just trying to finish a stage normally. On the second boss fight you have to tether a couple of devices shooting laser beams to make the boss vulnerable, and at one point I tethered off of one of them and somehow landed above the arena and was unable to get back down. Thankfully, boss fights are their own stage, so restarting didn’t cost me much progress. What did cost me progress was when I accidentally missed a jump in a later stage and I fell into a pit, but I didn’t die. I could walk around a bit in the pit but the only way to continue was to restart the stage, and at that point I was already a couple checkpoints deep. Not a great experience when you have to lose progress due to something that technically wasn’t the player’s fault.

Probably the biggest issue I came across was Dynacat’s speed, especially when it came to platforming. Often times, I felt myself having to slow down due to not knowing what obstacles or enemies were up ahead. There are warnings on the ground that’ll tell you when to jump over gaps or to tether enemies to get to different areas, but several times I was speeding through a stage when out of nowhere I’d hit an enemy causing me to take damage. After a few times of this, I tended to take the stage a lot more cautiously which kind of goes against what the game wants you to do. A lot of the time you can just speed through, and once you know your way around the stage it gets a lot easier, but if you plan to look for crystals to get to those Special Stages, speeding your way through might get you into a bit of trouble. In addition, there will be some areas where, while in a boosted state, you’re directed to run up the side of a wall, but doing so at just the wrong angle can send you flying off the wall and possibly into a pit as opposed to landing safely back on the ground. It’s hard to describe without seeing it in action but a couple of the final stages are perfect examples.

Dynacat was seemingly made in the spirit of Sonic 3D Blast and does its best to be like it, but it feels like it needs a bit of polish. There’s good incentive to play through each stage again to try to get a faster time or find enough crystals to enter the special stages, but the issues I had with the movement and platforming, along with running into areas where I had to restart a stage due to not being able to get enough speed to proceed - or even getting stuck - kind of got to me to where I was just happy to complete a stage and move on. I also had a couple of times when getting screenshots for this review using the keyboard controls where the game just closed out on me somehow. Don’t get me wrong, Dynacat can be a fun game once you’ve mastered the controls (and as a bit of advice, definitely use a controller for this game) and if you don’t mind the minor speed-based issue popping up, but I still feel like it could use a bit more polish. There is a demo available for the game if you’re on the fence about it and from my experience, I’d say give the demo a shot before picking up the full game.

Dynacat does its best to be a throwback to Sonic 3D Blast and while the ideas are there, it feels like it could use a bit more polish.  There were times where I had to intentionally lose a life to restart at a checkpoint because I ended up landing in an area where I could not get enough speed to proceed, plus there were a couple of times I ended up out of bounds and had to restart an entire stage or boss fight.  Dynacat can be an enjoyable game once you learn the physicals and controls, but it feels like a little more polish could go a long way.

Rating: 7 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I began my lifelong love of gaming at an early age with my parent's Atari 2600.  Living in the small town that I did, arcades were pretty much non-existent so I had to settle for the less than stellar ports on the Atari 2600.  For a young kid my age it was the perfect past time and gave me something to do before Boy Scout meetings, after school, whenever I had the time and my parents weren't watching anything on TV.  I recall seeing Super Mario Bros. played on the NES at that young age and it was something I really wanted.  Come Christmas of 1988 (if I recall) Santa brought the family an NES with Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and I've been hooked ever since.

Over 35 years from the first time I picked up an Atari joystick and I'm more hooked on gaming than I ever have been.  If you name a system, classics to moderns, there's a good chance I've not only played it, but own it.  My collection of systems spans multiple decades, from the Odyssey 2, Atari 2600, and Colecovision, to the NES, Sega Genesis, and Panasonic 3DO, to more modern systems such as the Xbox One and PS4, and multiple systems in between as well as multiple handhelds.  As much as I consider myself a gamer I'm also a game collector.  I love collecting the older systems not only to collect but to play (I even own and still play a Virtual Boy from time to time).  I hope to bring those multiple decades of gaming experience to my time here at Gaming Nexus in some fashion.
These days when I'm not working my day job in the fun filled world of retail, I'm typically working on my backlog of games collecting dust on my bookshelf or trying to teach myself C# programming, as well as working on some projects over on YouTube and streaming on Twitch.  I've been playing games from multiple generations for over 35 years and I don't see that slowing down any time soon.
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