Over the past few years, Dex has been slowly rolled out for more and more platforms. It went from Steam to the Xbox One to the PS4, and now, the Vita. At first glance, it looks like it's been thrown together Mad Libs style. Genre: Side-Scroller. Style: Cyberpunk. Another Genre: RPG. Name of protagonist that sounds futuristic yet also science-y: Dex. It's hard to tell what kind of game it was going to be still. So then we played it.
The story is....kinda original? You're Dex, a blue-ish haired woman in the future. Artificial Intelligence is getting close to surpassing humans, and the city of Harbor Prime is facing not only this, but all manner of crime, urban decay, apparently a neon industry boom and an entity known as 'The Complex' that is making life hell for everyone. Especially you. You need to beat them, find out who you really are and save the day. Games like these make me wonder what cyberpunk would have been like without 'Blade Runner', as it's a big influence here. The story does have some interesting parts, but, besides one big twist, it's mostly telegraphed. You know what's going to happen and there's not much motivation besides not being killed. The story serves it's purpose, but it should have been a little more inventive.
Controls on the Vita work great. Handheld systems were always made for side-scrolling, and this is no exception. Jump, special controls, moving, etc. - it's straightforward and not confusing. Even a few moves like sleeper holds and some complicated moves were feast and effective with the control setup. Shooting even gives sight lines, which makes sense from some cybernetic enhancements you get, so it's a little ahead of other 2D games where you have no idea if your shot is going to hit something. So yeah. Really great here.
The graphics were a little disappointing. When you try to world build on the limitations of a 2D game, it's really hard to get a sense of the depth of the world. We see the city and industrial complexes in the background, but besides going on a few linear paths through them, we don't see all that much. I love the inclusion of details like throngs of silhouetted people in the foreground to give some sense of scale, but when the other side where you're running doesn't match up in people numbers, it throws this off a bit. They're colorful when they need to be, and the color tones are really well planned out for each area of the city you go to, but I found myself wanting more.
It looks realistic, but some backgrounds and characters to get a little blocky, and it can be distracting. That said, it's obvious they went to strains to not be all copy and paste when it comes to backgrounds, so it's not all bad. But there was just a little more they could have done to make it more immersive.
Sounds were a bit off too. You know that fake punch sound you hear in movies all the time? Dex incorporates that sound in fights. Sometimes when a character moves or hits you or you hit them, there is no sound. When you incorporate an implant, sometimes theres no sound. When you run sometimes it sounds like bones rattling for no reason. Character lip-synching is off. Some places have no sound at all. Some have music and only people talking. Weird shoot-em minigames have the same sound. Music too is a little all over, but a lot of it is this futuristic beat, that while looping very much, is addictive.
For Mechanics/bugs there are some issues, not including the aforementioned sound issues. Loading times are on the long side. Some game mechanics, such as the shooting parts, don't make much sense and can lock up at times. The game froze for me a few times, and some of the dialogue heavy parts might have the people repeating themselves a few times. No lag I saw, bu it's still not the smoothest of games.
I wanted so much more from Dex. Despite borrowing a lot from The Matrix and Blade Runner, it still has a cool vibe, and a lot of thought went into the overall city design. But we don't get a depth of the world, and some of the more off-the-rails parts can alienate people from playing. The graphics and sound could have been so much better too. If you like futuristic games, there's a lot to like here, but compared to other similar games on the market, it misses out on top marks.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.