In a time… scratch that, here’s my Dex Switch review for all those yet to discover this 2D cyberpunk action RPG, available on the Nintendo eShop from the 24th July.
There was something familiar with this game, and I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. Was it the classic introduction of what button does what in the opening scenes, or have I seen so much cyberpunk that I feel I should change this website’s name to Tetsuo Punk?
Oh wait: I’ve played this on the PS4.
Was it so forgettable that it wasn’t worth the time, or that unimpressionable that we should skip the review? No. Having so many titles to play through, and Dex on the PS4 being something for me to play, it simply didn’t take priority. Now it lands on my lap, this time on the Switch.
Dex Switch Review
I won’t be jumping back to PS4 comparisons as my experience was so limited, so going in with fresh eyes, this title from Dreadlocks and Qubic Games is a pretty bold title for the Switch as there feels like it has a lot of depth.
Thrown into the cyberpunk casserole are the classic ingredients: evil corporation, oppressive environments of grey architecture juxtaposed with flamboyant neon streaks, and a protagonist with blue hair because that’s what the future holds.
Set in Harbour Prime, you play the titular Dex – an enigmatic character with a penchant for hacking. From the brief exploration across dystopian rooftops, it wasn’t long before I was engaging in some fisticuffs.
Up until then, the controls for this 2D side-scrolling adventure was pretty straightforward, but the combat was a little clumsy with a punch attack or block to ward off the thugs. Despite a world of augmentation, you can’t block bullets, so I was a little cautious with where the game was going.
Though there’s a focus on action, Dex is an RPG at heart, mixing in platform elements and visual novel storytelling techniques along the way. In many of the scenarios, you have the option to beat NPC’s sneak past them or strike up a conversation.
Dialogue choices are excellent too, with the conversation keeping your interest and compelling you to take part in the abundance of side quests. They don’t feel so much of a chore here. Each opportunity adds a new layer to the city and the illusion that the characters have a life beyond your story.
It all feels very retro, but modern at the same time. That’s not a reference to the era, but despite not having anything particularly innovative about the game, Dex felt fresh.
A Dystopian Landscape
The vast majority of backdrops are gorgeous, other a depth of field that is occasionally distracting for the right reasons. It’s not very often that you can experience this sort of diversity in a 2D open-world game.
In some respects, the game plays out like a Deus Ex equivalent as you can customise your upgrades, go in gung-ho or apply a little sneaky-sneaky stealth-like play and an abundance of hacker types.
The plot revolves around Gibson-esque evil corporation, The Complex who are out to get Dex to share tips on hair colouring techniques and her uncanny ability to ‘hack into the mainframe’ with relative ease. As can be expected, they want to use her powers for EVIL!
She gets by with a little help from her friends, the hacker group known as Raycast, help her master her powers and elude the nasty suits, represented by mercenary thugs.
Dex’s powers enable her to jack-in (heh) on the fly, without the need for any equipment. These hacking scenarios are a mini-game, depicting a top-down shooter that either appears deep within the system you are hacking, or overlayed on the screen while time seemingly pauses.
It’s an interesting concept, but I wasn’t a fan of these sections – shame really, as that’s like saying you don’t like Spider-Man due to all his swinging antics. That’s right; you heard it here first: Spider-Man is a swinger. Leave your keys in the dish.
Talking of swingers, there’s quite a bit of mature content in the game, from sex workers to drug abusers. This isn’t a game of titillation, but a focus on how corrupt society has become, and Dex holds the torch of change.
My Favourite Position
Somewhat of a surprise, Dex was released many years ago, i.e. more than one, yet it feels like a new IP on the Switch – as if it were exclusively designed for ze Nintendo.
I played in both handheld (my favourite position, Doctor) and also docked, but preferred the latter for a couple of reasons. First, it was the feel of the controls. They’re quite rigid and playing on the pro controller felt much better. This isn’t a valid criticism, just preference.
Playing on a bigger screen allows for the enjoyment of the excellent visuals. Both sprites and backgrounds are some of the best I’ve seen in a 2D game on the Switch.
Though there aren’t walls of text, there is a lot of dialogue in the game. Depending on your environment, you may miss-hear what is said. Reading the small text in handheld mode gave me a bit of fatigue, so had to have a lie down with a bowl of ice cream. That’s entirely made up – I added the last bit as it sounded pathetic, but the reality was, reading text on a larger screen was better for obvious reasons.
The difficulty is apt, but I will say the combat lets it down a bit, and I found myself enjoying the exploration and story more, even if socially awkward teens wrote some of the dialogue.
You can expect to finish the primary campaign is a relatively short time, but for the brief duration, the side quests are plentiful and in many ways, expand on the main journey; developing the character of Harbour Prime and its residents.