Neon lights, corporate skyscrapers, grimy streets, and hackers. Welcome to Harbour Prime, cyberpunk fans! Dex is a new 2D rogue-like, cyberpunk adventure from QubicGames that takes inspiration from classics, such as Shadowrun and Deus-Ex. However, will it be as fun to play as those heralded franchises? Connect your jack to the mainframe and join me in finding out!
Developer Dreadlocks (cool name!) have set out in an attempt to make Dex stand out from that crowd – a good thing, considering how many titles in a similar vein already exist on the eShop. In its introductory hour or two, however, Dex feels remarkably similar to the sea of eShop counterparts. Titular protagonist Dex is thrown into the sewers and neon lit streets of Harbour Prime, with little more than a head full of confusion and her fists. Attacking is limited to melee punching initially, but it doesn’t take long for our blue haired hacker to access guns, and lots of them. Unfortunately, the build up to firearms leaves a little to be desired as the impact of firing bullets is oddly negligent. I found myself mostly using guns only as a means to inflict a little damage before meeting the enemy head on, ultimately finishing them in melee. Bullets fail to even slow down an approaching enemy! While the gunplay controls are smooth, they often lack any meaningful impact.
Fortunately, Dex begins to separate itself from other eShop titles after the first couple of hours. Dex may be a 2D side scroller, but that certainly doesn’t make it a linear game. Our heroine learns to hack early on in the game. When performed correctly, this can unlock a new door that may create an easier path to the goal, lead to a rare item, or even open up a new side quest. Hacking plays out in a minigame not so different from classic Asteroids. A group of nano-bots close in rapidly and must be dealt with if the hack isn’t finished in time. Dex’s hacking expertise increases with her level, and certain doors or boxes can’t be hacked until she reaches a certain level threshold. This does create some frustrating backtracking, but the rewards usually make it all worthwhile.
“Worthwhile” happens to be a perfectly fitting term for this cybersleuth adventure, with the aforementioned two hour introduction being the worst part of it. The initial sewer area is considerably difficult for an intro – you’ll encounter armed baddies with high HP and weaponry that you don’t yet have access to. However, make it past this – and the pipe steam that rapidly deteriorates your health – and Dex will finally begin to reward you.
Aesthetics and Sound
Pixelated “grunge” may very well be an acquired taste, but it nonetheless works well for Dex. Fans of Early PS1 games will feel right at home with Dex – pixelated nudity and all. One thing that really stood out for me was the character design. Although there are some stereotypical racial tropes, the main characters involved in the plot are all interesting in their own way. They also do just enough to keep the player continuously questioning their true motives.
Dex is solid in the sound department, as well. Keyboards and slightly overused synths help to convey an appropriately futuristic (yet somewhat 80’s) ambiance. Sound effects are serviceable and varied, and gunfire sounds meaty (despite lacking in actual impact mechanically).
Titular heroine Dex wakes up in the corporately controlled metropolis of Harbour Prime where she – for reasons currently unknown – is immediately forced into a battle for her life. A mysterious A.I. known only as Raycast guides Dex to safety, and ultimately reveals that she is the last remaining fragment of a powerful artificial intelligence created by her would-be corporate assassins.
Dex subsequently sets out deeper into Harbour Prime for answers not only to her own mysteries, but also in an attempt to thwart the corporate overlords known as The Complex. She finds help along the way from those that wish for the return of the powerful A.I. known as Kether. Dex plays like a good book – a well written story always leaves the player in constant anticipation of what comes next, and Dex is no different. The cyberpunk setting only adds a layer to the atmosphere that the well crafted story brilliantly creates. A myriad of available side quests do the same, too, adding tidbits of lore to the world of Harbour Prime.
Impressions and Conclusion
Honestly, Dex was a breath of fresh air within the massive subsect of 2D, side scrolling rogue-likes. There have been some good games released in a similar vein, mind you, but they often lack in story depth. The plot more or less carries Dex, and I have no problem with that. Combat could use a little depth, though, and the dialogue can be cringe worthy in a couple of instances, but there isn’t much to complain about beyond that.
The game is rather short considering it can be completed in 8-10 hours, but the story packed such a punch that I didn’t mind that whatsoever. Switch owners can catch Dex on sale on the eShop right now at $14.99 USD – a price tag like that will certainly take the sting off it being a shorter game. Ultimately, Dex is a worthwhile cyberpunk RPG experience.