There’s a certain level of consistency that I associate with developers Ninja Theory, so it’s always exciting when I get to play one of their new releases. I absolutely loved both Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and DMC: Devil May Cry, whilst Heavenly Sword was an enjoyable adventure that showed off the Playstation 3’s capabilities early on. It looks like the trend is going to continue with the release of Hellblade later this year too, though somehow the developer has found room to squeeze out an extra game along the way with the release of virtual reality shooter Dexed.
Dexed is a simplistic on-rails virtual reality shooter that sends you through levels of luscious environments whilst challenging you to shoot down a horde of floating skulls and rack up high scores. The twist? These skulls are either made up of fire or ice, and it’s up to you to shoot them with the opposite element in order to destroy them. They’re quick too, so you’ll need to have precise shooting skills if you want to take them all down, though the immersion and freedom that virtual reality offers helps you out with that. Accidentally shoot the skulls with the wrong element and you’ll suffer one of two consequences: you’ll either see your score frozen, or some of your hard earned points burn away.
It isn’t a shooter in the traditional sense though, with Dexed having you mark your targets as opposed to actively shooting them with each press of the trigger button. You’ll hold the trigger button down and aim at each target to mark them, with either fire or ice elemental blasts shooting away at them when you release the trigger. To maximise your points and build up your combo meter you’ll want to mark as many targets as possible within one blast, though this comes with the risk of accidentally marking a target with the wrong element.
When you accidentally shoot a fire skull with a bolt of fire or an ice skull with a strike of ice you’ll see your score take a hit. Thankfully there are two ways to counter it: if you’ve already hit the target you can quickly put up a shield to block any incoming attacks, or if you’re fortunate enough to have only marked the target you can erase that mark with a press of a button. Deleting a mark isn’t an inconsequential task though, since it gets rid of any other correct marks you would’ve placed on other skulls – there’s certainly a risk and reward sort of feel to trying to build up these big combos and one wrong move can ruin all of your hard work.
One thing I did notice was that the game wouldn’t always recognise my reticle over a target, forcing me to keep following one of the skulls and holding the trigger button down in order to eventually mark them. It wasn’t a common occurrence, but did cause a few issues when trying to quickly get to as many targets as possible. It caused a few moments of frustration, but in honesty it didn’t happen often enough to really deter from my time with the game.
The best way to play Dexed is with two move controllers, since each controller represents either the fire or ice element. You simply aim with the relevant move controller and shoot away. It is playable with a standard Dualshock controller, but I wouldn’t recommend it – only having one reticle that you can alternate elements with doesn’t only make the whole thing a lot more difficult, but also a lot less fun too.
Of course, having two move controllers doesn’t make the game easy by any means. Despite there being a clear indication of what element you’re using, the amount of times I’d forget or accidentally use the wrong one was ridiculous. This is no fault of the game though, with each mistake made my own doing. It becomes a bit like juggling in a way, with a severe need for good hand to eye co-ordination and quick reactions if you’re going to rack up the highest score possible.
The whole game revolves around incredibly simple gameplay mechanics, yet they all flow together so well and it makes for a really enjoyable experience. You can actively feel yourself getting better and better the more you play the game, and it won’t take you long before you’re racking up high scores that are in the millions. At the time of writing I’m second place on the high score table on the ‘Winter’ level, which I consider a big success after some pretty embarrassing attempts the first time I played through it – it really is a case of the game being easy to pick up, but difficult to master.
The only real problem with Dexed is the lack of content the game offers. There are only five main levels to play through and one of them is an incredibly simple boss battle. You can easily make your way through all of the levels in around twenty minutes, which is a bit disappointing when you consider other on-rails shooters available on Playstation VR last a whole lot longer. There is the added incentive of harder difficulties to play through as well as high score tables to try and reach the pinnacle of, though they don’t really offer enough to encourage you to keep coming back to the game.
There is an endless arcade mode on offer that adds the extra challenge of giving you a health bar too. There’s certainly longevity to be found here, though I found it a little lacking thanks to the dull environment it takes place in. All of the other levels included in Dexed take you across an assortment of stunning locales that come in a wide range of varieties; arcade mode on the other hand sticks you in one boring room that barely feels that much different each time you tackle it. It’s a shame, especially when you consider how good a job Ninja Theory have done in making the other levels look so spectacular.
Despite the lack of meaty content to the game, Dexed does come with the added benefit of a low price point. You can grab Dexed for less than £8 on the Playstation Store, which is much cheaper than a lot of other Playstation VR games available right now. I’d say you definitely get good value for money with the game – whilst I don’t see myself coming back to Dexed a whole lot in the future, the hours of fun I’ve had with it already more than justify the price-point. It’s also a good game to showcase to virtual reality newbies, with the easy to grasp gameplay mechanics and simplistic movement offering a fairly nausea-free VR experience.
Dexed is a little guilty of feeling a bit like a virtual reality tech demo at times thanks to its lack of content, but I think it does enough to be worth checking out. I enjoyed my time with the game with its ‘easy to pick up, difficult to master’ gameplay mechanics, whilst the visually fantastic environments that we’ve come to expect from Ninja Theory are a delight to venture through in virtual reality.
You’re not going to be spending a long time playing Dexed, but at such a low price point I think it’s something that’s definitely worth investing in if you’re a Playstation VR owner.
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Ninja Theory
Release Date: 01/02/2017
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift