Following its release on PC and other consoles across the years, developer Dreadlocks’ thrilling cyberpunk adventure Dex has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch. With its futuristic world, hacking antics, and engaging narrative, it offers a genuinely absorbing adventure to dive into too – who needs Cyberpunk 2077, right?!
Players take on the role of Dex, a young hacker who is able to exploit the most intricate of computer systems with just her mind. When a mysterious and powerful organisation look to hunt her down because of her skills, she ends up on the run across the city of Harbor Prime where she works with an array of allies in her quest to bring down her pursuers. What follows is a tale full of twists and turns, with a well-written script that’s fully voice acted bringing it all to life.
Whilst the main story offers plenty of conspiracy-laden intrigue, Dex’s world is also fleshed out by the abundance of side missions that the player can dive into. Whilst these tasks give you the opportunity to earn extra experience points and bonuses, they also reveal an array of smaller details about the world and its inhabitants. It’s clear that the team at Dreadlocks have really put their all into developing this slick cyberpunk world, with each minor detail or interaction you share with another character making the experience all the more engaging and believable.
The best way to describe Dex would be as Deus Ex and Blade Runner crossed with a Metroidvania-style world, with players working through an array of futuristic environments that require some platforming finesse to traverse. You’ll be running, jumping, and climbing your way across platforms as you explore each location and complete the game’s vast selection of quests, with some genuinely tricky platforming segments to be found that will catch you off-guard if you aren’t careful. There are plenty of enemies to beat up along the way too, because… you know… you’re being hunted and messing around with some dodgy folk.
The combat mechanics in Dex were probably the game’s weakest aspect, with nothing too special to be found throughout your encounters with enemies. Your attacks boil down to a few simple manoeuvres with the player able to hit out with basic punch combos or throw in a flying kick, whilst you’re also able to perform a swift dodge-roll to avoid any incoming attacks. Weapons also come into play and allow you to pick off enemies from a distance, whilst sneakier players can get the upper hand on unaware foes and pick them off with a stealth attacks.
Whilst there are multiple ways to take enemies out, none ever feel too satisfying. The hand-to-hand encounters felt a bit button-mashy and didn’t require much thought outside of occasionally dodge-rolling, whilst the guns you can use felt like they lacked any real impact. I found myself simply resorting to sneakier methods whenever possible just to avoid a lot of these encounters – not because they were necessarily bad, but just a little bland and repetitive.
Fortunately, that’s the only area in which Dex really falters, with the game world a fascinating one to explore and the quests you complete all deep and involving. In a similar fashion to the games that inspired Dex, missions can be approached in a multitude of ways, whether that’s going all-guns blazing, stealthily making your way through environments, or even talking your way out of harm’s way. You’ll even get involved with some hacking on occasions, which plays out in the style of a twin-stick shooter where you have to blast various tech-based enemies to smithereens. It’s a really neat system and one that offered an intuitive take on what can often be bland mini-games in similar titles in the genre, with each instance of hacking in Dex proving fun and tense.
You’ll earn experience points as you progress through the game, which can be used to improve Dex’s stats and abilities in a variety of ways. Upgrading your combat and weapon skills could actually make battling enemies a bit more fun, especially since encounters didn’t drag out so much when you’re dishing out a bit more damage. Alternatively, improving your hacking skills makes taking over augmentations and security cameras a heck of a lot easier, which opens up all new avenues for Dex to exploit when exploring the world. There’s just a genuine sense of progression to be felt within the levelling up system and you’ll certainly feel pretty powerful by the time you reach the back end of the main story… maybe a bit TOO powerful, with the challenge dwindling away towards the end.
Everything is backed up by a world that genuinely feels intriguing to explore, with its neon-lit cyberpunk-vibes making each locale you traverse across feel distinct in design. Admittedly, nothing felt too original (especially if you’ve played games in the Deus Ex series before), but that didn’t make each location you visit any less interesting. The only real issue I had with the game’s visuals came with the character animations, which just looked a little off. It’s hard to explain exactly what it was, but there was an unnatural stiffness to movement in places that looked a bit awkward in-game – especially when compared to the stellar backgrounds. I wish the camera could have been a bit more zoomed out at times to see platforms that were slightly hidden out of view too, but that’s a minor complaint.
At least everything performs well on the Nintendo Switch though, with the game holding up well in both handheld and docked modes. There were a handful of occasions where the frame rate would stutter a little, but it never felt unplayable and remained slick for the most part.
Dex sends players on an immersive and entertaining cyberpunk adventure that’s let down only by some lacking combat mechanics. Besides that, you’ll come across an engaging (though slightly unoriginal) narrative, a well-designed and attractive world, and an assortment of quests that offer a multitude of ways to approach them. I said it earlier in this review and I’ll say it again: Dex is basically a Metroidvania-style take on the Deus Ex series and it does a really good job of offering a futuristic hacking-fuelled escapade for players to dive into.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC