Dex is a 2D side-scrolling action RPG with a unique take on what future society will look like, and how it would function. Developed by Dreadlock Ltd, It's setting takes place in a cyberpunk open-world, where exploration and non-linear gameplay allow for a free-feeling experience where you shape the game around you at many times. Build up your character's skills, equip her with the best weapons and gear, and grow in-depth character building of citizens within Harbour Prime as you unravel the conspiracy plot of the power-hungry corporation who seeks to use your abilities for their own self-interest. You can buy Dex on PlayStation Network or Xbox Marketplace or Steam for $19.99.
Everything is centered around one specific individual; a woman with bright blue hair, who goes by the name Dex. Her story (and your game) starts in the city of Harbour Prime, inside of her apartment. Quickly you will learn she is being hunted after by a corrupt and secret organization called "The Complex" (because they will be swarming the apartment with a whole militia of police officers) who seeks to use her special augmented reality powers to further control the city and all of its inhabitants. They will act as the antagonist throughout the game. With a sudden and mysterious phone call from an underground hacker cell called "Raycast," she is urged to escape into the sewer systems. Dex's special powers of hacking will be on display here for the first time. Following her escape, she meets with and joins Raycast in their efforts to fight The Complex. This is when you essentially enroll yourself into a war between freedom and corrupt corporate power.
The main campaign plays out over about a dozen hours but offers much more in terms of side-stories, which can total nearly 20 hours combined. The game is littered with these unique and incredibly intriguing sub-plots that show off every corner of maturity throughout the fictitious cyberpunk world as you involve yourself in everything from sex and drug trafficking to how you approach random civilians for objectives or information (do you beat them up, have conversation with them regarding something, or find an alternative solution on your own). They arguably make for more interesting experiences as they are equally full of deep dialog and choices that you can change the outcomes through.
Although 2D side-scrolling games can sometimes feel claustrophobic, the game does a fantastic job at making every different environment you travel through feel wide open, or at least comfortably small. The game feels connected between each region enough that fast traveling is only debatably quicker than running to. There are many shortcuts to quicker traverse the maps, and you can feel the sense of a complete city ready to be explored top to bottom. You'll find the city consists of everything from skyscrapers to poverty stricken towns, to the red-light districts where you'll find everything you'd expect to find.
Initially, I felt the game played very Gameboy-Advance-like. The simple, almost stiff, movement of all the characters, especially Dex as she runs, rolls, and fights brought back those good old days but also didn't feel appropriate for a console today (at first). After playing the game for a little while, this old school feeling becomes less and less a negative to the game. I started feeling it was a mature action-adventure roleplaying-brawler game that was chosen to be displayed through a 2D world, rather than a 2D game trying to hit basic genre requirements in a forced fashion. It's immersive regarding the characters and environments and performs perfectly at everything it needs to, with the expected minor bugs here and there and general screen lag when in densely populated areas.
The RPG aspect of the game is progressed via typical experience points system, as well as selling masses of scavenged items for in-game currency to buy new weapons, gear, and other desired items. Upon finishing quests or defeating enemies (such as criminals, Complex personnel, and random individuals hellbent on keeping you out of their business), you gain experience points that can be used to upgrade skills. These skills can be found in the image above. You are encouraged to experiment with different tactical approaches to combat and general exploration which is an awesome feeling to not be stuck with whatever you lean to in the beginning. Specializing in one specific form of combat is effective, and you have all the freedom to decide if you wish to make Dex a stealthy assassin, guns-blazing shooter, or pure hacking machine.
The one major flaw of the game is the way hacking plays out. Every "hacking" action in video game history has been in one form or another of a mini-game, so it is expected. But it could have been improved dramatically. You play a twin-stick shooter of a glowing circle, shooting glowing bullets at glowing enemies, as you navigate an extremely boring glowing "puzzle" looking for the objective needing to be hacked. Although dull, hacking can have strong benefits, such as being able to disable cameras and turrets and stunning enemies when in confrontation. Leveling up the hacking skill will allow greater hacking possibilities.
Music is abundant in this game and probably a little too much. Regardless of which environment or building you're in, the music is essentially drowning out any and all other sounds. The music itself matches the theme of the game well with the cyber/space-punk vibes but takes away from the atmosphere. There's usually only one or two generic sounds you'll hear in an area, such as your footsteps, rain, an annoying and repetitive beeping noise, or a passing car. That may seem exaggerating to say that there is only a handful of sounds, but it's truly not. I found this to be the most frustratingly disappointing part of the game as adding a couple more sounds would have dramatically made a difference.
Voice acting is the complete opposite from environmental audio. The characters throughout the game have deep and genuine voice acting that make everything feel somehow complete. If an individual speaks, then they tend to speak a lot, allowing the depth of that character's personality to build and their stories to engulf you into the game world. Dex's voice only shows up during the cutscenes when you're watching a beautifully made depiction of the environments and people through hand-drawn pictures, as all voices are continued to play on top as well. Her voice is also well acted and scripted, and it is a shame she doesn't speak more often throughout the 2D gameplay.
Dex as a whole is a wonderful experience and one that makes you feel that you've had the pleasure to enjoy a complete game. Its old-school feeling with the 2D style of gameplay was a welcomed one after giving it time to show off all the other aspects it offers. I found the story to be somewhat of a cliche idea that we've seen a lot in movies and games before, but somehow the developers made it feel unique to itself. A major advantage that ultimately made it feel this way was the incredibly deep and intriguing side-stories that made you actually want to play them out. The well-scripted stories and voice acting made the whole game feel glued together perfectly.
Just like every other game, this one comes with its fair share of issues, questionable gameplay choices by the developers, and technical bugs. I don't know if these will be addressed much in future patches, but as the game stands today, it is definitely worth giving a chance. You'll find a deep adventure and mature content around every corner; a combination that makes the game's world appear as cut-throat and dangerous, as it should make it feel like it has what it takes to give you a genuine adventure you'll remember for quite some time.
|+ Variety of gameplay and tactical options||– Slightly tricky combat|
|+ Bright and vibrant environments||– Environment sounds are extremely lacking|
|+ Well-planned story and side quests||– Occasional bugs and technical issues|
|+ Interesting characters and voices|