When I played DEX at Rezzed recently, the first thing that struck me was the beautiful art style – with a unique blend of Comix Zone, Flashback and a dash of Blade Runner – the game looks amazing!
Equally unique is the game type. Not being content with simply making a very crisp looking game, Prague based developer, Dreadlocks Ltd, have decided to make DEX a 2D Stealth Platformer with RPG elements. It’s a bold idea but it actually seems to work. In fact, it’s a wonder this hasn’t been attempted before.
Starting the demo, there is no introduction, no cutscene to announce your mysterious female protagonist or the futuristic Neo-Tokyo setting. You simply start, accompanied by a hypnotic electronica soundtrack, stood in an alleyway. Moving around your surroundings, you find stray dogs searching for scraps, homeless people huddled around a bin fire and market traders serving up questionably fresh food. DX tries to paint a picture of a slightly dystopian cyberpunk future and so far. it’s pulling it off quite well. Even DEX herself – with her body armour under a trench coat and bright blue hair – walks the part. The NPCs usually shuffle around but DEX has a confident stride which make you feel more akin to characters like Ultraviolet.
Moving through sections of this playable build, you have the option to engage certain NPCs in conversation – this is structured very similarly to the Baldurs Gate games where you’ll have a selection of conversational options – some leading to another series of options, some leading to missions and others ending the conversation (either intentionally or not if you offend people)
There were a couple of missions available to me. The most prevalent one saw me distributing a virus through a series of vending machines (why vending machines is also explained) which amounted to nothing more than walking around and clicking on vending machines. However, the game itself lets you explore wherever you want. As a result, I found myself running around and jumping onto any ledge I could reach, just to see what was there.
Soon after leaping around like a lunatic, I found a number of shops, usually selling strange items which I can only assume act as restorative aids (cans of cola and stimulant pills, for instance) but also strange items like condoms and unequipable t-shirts. It’s entirely possible that these will end up being ‘junk’ in the game and worth nothing more than their monetary value, but the RPG player in me thought “they might be useful for a quest later on” so I purchased them. I carried on like this until I found the doctor…
That’s when the RPG element really hit me. An NPC inside the doctors offers to install some ‘upgrades’ to my body, like a respirator for immunity to toxic gas or power legs for aided jumping. Needless to say, I went for the power legs! After a quick operation, I was able to crouch jump and reach even higher. Of course, this opened up access to many more areas. As a result, I found locked safes, meaning I’d need to go back to the shop and buy lockpicks, then complete a minor quest to level up so that I could successfully lockpick. The safe itself only contained a datachip with additional Exp – a head-nod to The Matrix, the devs told me – and some ammo for a gun I didn’t buy earlier.
But finding such paltry rewards meant nothing to me, it was the journey to unlock this simple safe: a series of fetch quests that didn’t feel like fetch quests in a world that exuded style and personality. My only concern is that – even though the build I played was cited as ‘pre-alpha’ code and therefore the reason I haven’t mentioned a few bugs I found along the way – the combat and cyberspace integration haven’t been included in anyway. In fact, there are no hostile enemies in the preview build of Dex, which I feel would be like playing Hotline Miami with no enemies or with God Mode enabled. It’s good, but there’s clearly something missing at the moment.
We look forward to checking DEX out in the near future when it’s closer to being finished.