If you grew up playing games like Streets of Rage and 90’s-styled RPGs, you’re most likely going to love this offering from Dreadlocks Ltd and BadLand Games. Dex is a beautifully stylised game set in a hand drawn cyberpunk world. This side scrolling RPG will have you tapping away at your controller buttons for hours as you take on various inhabitants of the city – but don’t be fooled; it’s not going to be as easy as it looks.
The story takes place in Harbour Prime, a city ruled by corporations that are integrated into a secret authority known as The Complex. Right from the start, they’re coming for you and they’re not going to take it easy on you just because you’re a girl – don’t worry, you don’t have to play nice with them either. Your first job (apart from running for your life) is to work out why they’re after you, and with help from a very colourful cast, the story unfolds.
I instantly fell in love with the elegance of the visuals – we’re always craving new games with a growing demand for perfection on the graphics, but Dex has a certain charm about it that’s extremely pleasant on the eyes. Even the opening scenes are artistically flawless, and immediately you’re thrown into a world full of neon darkness.
The controls are pretty simple, which is a big help as there’s not much of a tutorial, so it helps if you’re a fast learner: Left stick: move, X: Jump, Square: Attack, Triangle: Action. As the story progresses, you learn that in this futuristic world, everyone has jacks plugged into their brains allowing them to hack into computers (and later on people) – I guess it makes watching Netflix easier? However, Dex is special. She doesn’t need the cables and plugs; she’s just born with the ability. I think the term they use is, “Hacktivist”. This is when it becomes apparent that Dex is technically two games in one. There’s Harbour Prime Dex where you run around confused for a while in the “real world” and then there’s AR (Augmented Reality) where you can manipulate the real world through the use of computers/alarms/turrets. When you enter AR, suddenly, you’re playing an advanced version of Space Raiders – who doesn’t love that game? (and if you don’t know what Space Raiders is, you’re too young to be out of bed at this time!)
The best thing about this game are the characters – Dex is pretty badass, but the other people you meet along the way are definitely not just a supporting cast. It’s a game that has crazy, schizophrenic hobos living in the sewers, drug dealers running the streets, a not-so-lady-like lady running a brothel and, best of all, friends who use phrases like “why scratch their scrotum when they don’t like the smell of yours?”. These characters are funny, smart, moody, dark, nasty (even the good guys) and it shows that this isn’t just a game which revolves around getting to the end. The creative team have actually put personality into this world and it makes playing even more enjoyable.
The map of the city is split into segments and each area has its own identity. Whether you’re down in the slums and stepping over the homeless or fancy a night under the sheets with whoever you can afford, the city itself has just as much character as the people in it. At first, I got a little tired of running from one sector to another and back again and then I found out there’s a “fast travel” option. Once you’ve visited a part of town, you can just click open the map and jump halfway across the city in the blink of an eye. It saves hours of tedious travel if you head the wrong way and makes it much easier on your legs… well, thumbs. We’re gamers, not fitness gurus.
Along the way, you can follow the storyline simply by doing what you’re told, but nobody likes doing what they’re told, so instead you can get lost in hours and hours of sub-quests. The city is full of them and for the first few days of playing Dex, I completely forgot there was a main storyline and spent three nights off course – but it helps with levelling up and getting a few pennies in your pocket, so I guess I’m the real winner here.
Now, back to Streets of Rage. Throughout the city you will encounter quite a few (thousand) enemies, whether they’re part of the organisations hunting you down or just the local thugs who want to steal your lunch money. It’s not as simple as just walking over, smashing the square button and jumping up and down in victory – for such a “simple” fighter game, it’s actually quite difficult and you will die (if you can get through this game without one death, I’m impressed). You’ll have to decide when to sneak attack, block, duck or roll, and sometimes the best plan of action is to run away with your tail between your legs. Do not be afraid to leg it. You can always come back later after you’ve gained a few levels/powered up your abilities/learnt how to face the right way when fighting. Levelling up may take some time, but once you get the ball rolling it does get easier, and after a while you can equip items which will help boost your strength and restore health etc.
I could go on for days about every minor detail in this game, but instead I’ll wrap it up by telling you to definitely give Dex a try. It’s perfect for those who like to immerse themselves into a game for days on end and forget to feed themselves. It’s so addictive, you won’t even notice the time passing by.
Karl Pendlebury Rating 8/10