SHORT REVIEW: PC VERSION
I’d never heard of Dex. But no… wait. This is enhanced Dex… meaning it’s far better than the normal everyday Dex you’ve enjoyed. Note – I’ve no idea what part of Dex is enhanced.
Originally a successful kickstarter campaign in 2012 the game was released last year. Thanks for the facts Mr Billy Internet.
Side scrolling cyberpunk… wait CyberPunk? Are we talking about Bladerunner again? Also why Punk? Can’t it be Cyber-Guys, Cyber-Gents, Cyber-Coats, Cyber-Chavs?
Reminds me of The Way, which was reviewed a month ago. Dex does look graphically similar. Ye gods, I hope this isn’t anymore nostalgia bait.
Main character looks a bit fucking weird. She has one of those jackets people in the future wear. You know the one. She has blue hair and a massive comedy jump, I quite liked that. No, I’m not sold on the slightly off art style and slightly off animations. The tiny character against the large world backdrop, the cheap cyberpunk knock off, the fantastic scooby-doo run of (what’s her name?) Dex. It does not make for a great first impression, not when you meet a bloke called Decker with clichéd dialogue.
You start proceedings with the Matrix opening. You know the one. Quick! They’re after you! Get outta’ the building. A strange moment happens as you hack a terminal, pausing time and bringing up a bright blue cursor overlay to the screen; very odd. It’s quickly forgotten as you slog through the sewers hitting blokes in the face.
Let’s see where this takes us.
This isn’t you’re normal everyday platform game, oh no. This has a lot more going on.
A small but open world appears before you. The world isn’t one big fight, but has actual shops and locations. You meet a few people, agree to take on a simple quest or two, some of them very minor. I’m a huge fan of the minor quest. You peruse the menu’s and note the Inventory system, that includes all the standard things you’d expect to see in an inventory, oh and bottles of wine and condoms. An empty augmentation tab for your improved platforming needs and all that interesting menu jazz, such as levelling up. You can improve Dex’s slapping people round the mush ability with an skill upgrade point or two and even upgrade Dex’s smarmy charm dialogue. Charming people in games, always a fun distraction. Oh…. You can insta-travel to any location on the map, which is great, even though it generally takes 30 seconds to run from one next area to the next.
This really is a strange little game.
You can punch people in the face and dodge roll, for when they try to punch you; in the face. You have a massive HP bar and your enemies are also pretty handy in a fight. These fist fights have the capacity to go on for a little while, especially against the larger blokes. One punch, dodge, one punch, dodge. Repeat. Get bored and try a jump kick, get hit. Back to one punch, dodge. Block, get hit with unblockable attack. Where’s the upgrade screen again?
The art styles not that bad, it’s ok and I don’t mind her silly jacket anymore. You get used to it.
There’s also a rudimentary sneaking system, as you can hide behind conveniently placed boxes to smother a naughty man whilst their back’s turned. This does not feel like a stealth game, but there are camera’s and hired goons that will become alert if they spot you. You can safely leave dead bodies lying around in full view of the hired goons, without the hired goons batting an eyelid. This somewhat breaks the illusion.
Of course, you can pop into any good convenience store to buy a gun, without waiting for a license. You can shoot the naughty men, or shoot out pesky camera’s. Much like my comment about the stealth, Dex is not really a shoot em’ up. Guns chip away at the heath of enemies, much like they do to Dex. It is an interesting sight to enter into a gun battle as both combatants fire bullet after bullet into each others fleshy but resilient skin. Computer games are fucking great aren’t they!
I wish to take a moment to revel in the ladder action in this game. It’s gloriously slow. Almost like watching a real human climb a ladder in real time. After taking 12 bullets to the shoulder, I guess we can’t suspend our disbelief at incredible feats of ladder climbing.
I’m really loving the pulling out gun animation. It’s real deliberate and meaningful. If only the guns had more weight to them. Would love to pull out the pistol in the cyber-restaurant, watch the background crowd freak out. ‘Everybody stay cool this is a robbery!’ We can only dream.
Remember earlier when I mentioned the odd moment with the blue cursor on screen?
Welcome to hacking! At any time you can stop time to hack things.
You don’t rob people the old fashioned way of waving a gun around in eating establishments, oh no. You enter the net to shoot red things and pick up.. erm.. wads of bitcoins laying around all over the internet. You can also hack the real world and steal from vending machines. You can even upgrade this mechanic to stun those wondering bad guys, to cut down on the epic ‘They Live‘ style fights. Very handy.
As the map isn’t overly large you’ll end up revisiting locations and revisiting the same shops, which is nice as this gives you a sense of place. Not every map needs to be San Andreas. It’s pretty well designed and memorable.
As with all strange games with independent fancy-pants ideas, there are strange design choices or bugs. Yes, you guessed it, I even broke a long-winded side quest. Disheartening as you jumped through all these hoops for no pay off. A simple but maddening bug is having the same button climb and pick up things up. Arghh, just pick up the trinket first then climb!
A personal frustration I find in any of these games, is when you beat someone up waving a gun around, you can’t pick it up after. Oh, I don’t know why, but that’s always bothered me. I know, I know, it’s a game and would make things too easy if you had 500 guns stuffed down your pants. At least drop a round of ammo you bastard. If you’re going to have magic inventory pants, I guess it’s hard to really complain about this… but ya know, I really wanted that uzi.
Also I’ve encountered far too many “leap of faith” moments. Jumping to your death because you can’t see how far the drop is. This was a common problem in poorly designed platform games of the 90’s. Thankfully this has been weeded out and mostly eradicated with natural-platformgame-selection. It’s a shocking reminder as we encounter this problem once again, as we must remain ever vigilant against the dark arts of shoddy 90s platformer. At least Dex doesn’t have slippy-slidey ice world levels. Dex also include piss-poor moments unfair moments, like walking through a door to be greeted by murder turrets. Hnnghhh, how was I supposed t-
I’m inexplicably loving the art style and world. It’s all a bit janky and when you really zoom in, I’m pretty sure her heads strangely misplaced as she carries out her odd run. But Dex’s really grown on me. The cheap and tacky look suits the game perfectly, especially that off colour oversized blue cursor. The augmented upgrades are fun and there is a fine sense of progression.
I guess, it’s a bit like watching a late night film on the Horror channel. Sometimes you just want to enjoy a fun trashy film, with a lot of free-flowing silly ideas.
It sounds like I’m hugely downbeat about Dex but i’m not. Attempting a 2D Deus Ex on a shoestring budget sounds like madness and it is. It doesn’t get away with it. I’ve been conflicted with Dex from the beginning. The world and story didn’t pull me in, the mechanics are wonky, as it’s not a great shooter or stealth game and the platforming’s adequate. It’s a master of none.
Now this isn’t Bland Nostalgia Bait, this is a culmination of independent ideas without overbearing restraint. Some hit, more miss. I flitted between frustration and having a decent time. Dex has heart. I originally scored the game a 6 for good, then 3 because it’s broken. A fair compromise is…
Protest to Mr score guide for venting number rage.