Dexter Stardust Review – Pointing and Clicking and Tacos

Developer: Dexter Team Games // Publisher: Flynn’s Arcade // Price: $9.99 (Steam/eShop)
Review copy received from publisher

Despite my affinity for puzzles, point and click adventures have never been my type of game. I find that most solutions are too obscure for my brain.  Why should I combine a mouse and a letter opener to unlock a door?  When given the opportunity to play Dexter Stardust from developer Dexter Team Games, I had my doubts based on my previous experiences, but I gave it a chance to woo me.

Dare to be Different

The game takes place 20 years after the destruction of Earth in which the main protagonist, Dexter, and his uncle, Jedo, escaped to live in a Martian colony.  Dexter is now working for a courier service making deliveries for his uncle around the galaxy with his best friend Aurora.  While on a trip to Ganymede, Dexter discovers a robot which holds a secret: Dexter is the key to saving not only the human race, but also the race of aliens that destroyed Earth.

Dexter Stardust doesn’t take itself too seriously as evidenced by the story and colorful characters.  Dexter himself appears to be addicted to tacos, while his uncle Jedo is reminiscent of my dad, always looking to make a quick buck selling junk.  Dexter’s friend Aurora is the voice of reason with her no nonsense attitude.  She is a nice counter to Dexter’s childish behavior.  With minimum action, point and click adventures rely on writing to entertain the player.  The writing here is decent with attempts at humor sprinkled liberally throughout the script.  For me personally, the jokes didn’t hit, however comedy can be a matter of taste. Overall, Dexter Stardust feels like a classic LucasArts adventure with its whimsical characters and slightly absurd story.

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Variety is the Spice of Life

Without puzzles, point and click adventures would just be interactive movies where the players move the characters from scene to scene.  Dexter Stardust doesn’t disappoint; it has plenty of puzzles to keep players busy.  Unlike other games I’ve played in the same genre, the solutions make sense.  That doesn’t mean that the puzzles are easy to solve, just that I understood what I ultimately needed to do.  For example, I needed to get gas for a boat. I found a garden hose and a car that had a gas tank, but the gas tank was locked.  The owner of the car was sitting inside a nearby diner, and I had to figure out exactly how to distract him to get the keys off of his belt loop.  It was pleasing to see what needed to be done instead of guessing how random objects needed to be combined in order to proceed.

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Organized Chaos

As players get deeper into the story, the organization of the puzzles becomes messy.  With the exception of chapter 3, each chapter is balanced with story and puzzles arranged in a nice little chunk that can easily be solved in an hour or two.  The game is divided into 5 chapters; each one gives information on the amount of story it contains, the relative time to complete and puzzle difficulty.  The number of puzzles and the difficulty level of Chapter 3 are easily 2-3 times more than any other chapter.  It feels like Chapter 3 could have easily been split into multiple chapters because there are too many puzzles and branches to follow.  There are about 10 different locations each split into multiple screens, and the puzzles often require a considerate amount of travel back and forth to find items to apply to a puzzle somewhere else.  The inventory becomes so large that scrolling through items is necessary.  It can become quite overwhelming and at several times during all of this I became lost or had to scour each area looking for something I missed.  Based on the story revolving around opening 3 distinct locations, each one could have been the focus of its own chapter.  A compact area to search would have been helpful in avoiding wasted time looking through other areas that had nothing to offer for the current puzzles.

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A Pleasant Surprise

While playing through Dexter Stardust, the love used while making the game is evident.  Dexter Team Games went above and beyond, adding in voice acting for the primary and secondary characters.  Considering the budget for indie games is usually low, this was quite a shock.  However, the lips don’t sync to the speech which occasionally leads to some humorous foreign film style dubbing.  Dexter Stardust also includes something I’ve never seen in a game before: director commentary.  In every scene, players can listen to the director explain how the scene was constructed and why certain decisions were made while making the game, all with the press of a button.  It was such a surprise to have this bonus content in an indie game.

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Final Verdict

Dexter Stardust is an impressive package when looking at all of the parts.  The art style and animation are nicely developed and remind me of Adult Swim cartoons on Cartoon Network.  I wasn’t expecting the amount of voice acting in the game; it helped enhance the experience by giving the characters a true voice. However, I felt the voice acting could have used a little bit more polish.  There is a good balance of challenge involved with the bountiful puzzles found throughout the game.  After playing Dexter Stardust, I was impressed with how much I enjoyed it.  It didn’t make me a fan of the genre, but I appreciated what it accomplished and the gratification I had while playing.

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