Ninja Theory is synonymous with creating beautiful, mechanically solid games that never quite break through into the mainstream consciousness. Games such as Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and the reboot of Devil May Cry are examples of critically well-received games that never quite transferred into blockbuster sales. The studio is well renowned for its creativity, visual flair, and a cheeky attitude that certainly reared its head during the development of the controversial Devil May Cry reboot. Their upcoming title, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, shows Ninja Theory is not afraid of taking risks, as the game focuses on the effects of PTSD whilst addressing the mental health issues involved with this condition. It is a brave move and demonstrates that Ninja Theory is not resting on its laurels. With this in mind, can their first foray into VR bring the same level of beauty, creativity, and mechanical excellence that the studio is famous for?
Dexed is an on-rails shooter that is very similar to games such as Rez and Child of Eden with a sprinkling of Ikaruga thrown in for good measure. The game is controlled via the PS Move controllers, one shoots ice and the other shoots fire. There are two elemental enemy types featured in the game, one is fire and the other is ice. The hook here is to kill the enemies with the opposing element, the fire will kill ice enemies and vice versa. It is quite an interesting mechanic and initially, it is slightly tricky due to the inbuilt urge to shoot the same coloured enemy with the same coloured shot. To begin with, your brainpower and dexterity will be tested, but after 30 minutes or so, you will be highlighting numerous enemies and racking up large combos. The system is simple at first but does gain complexity as the levels progress. The enemy spawning patterns steadily increase in difficulty, fire and ice deviously intertwining with each other, requiring a keen eye and good reflexes. Shooting an enemy with the same element will result in your score either being frozen or burned away and the enemy will also fire a shot, pressing the T button on the move will active a shield that absorbs the shot whilst preserving your combo and score. The gameplay loop is fun and can be very addictive, especially when chasing a high score and trying to climb to the top of the leader board.
There are a number of game modes on offer that provide some much-needed variation on the formula. Arcade mode takes place in a minimalist dome with various portals that open spewing enemies out for a limited time. This wave-based mode becomes increasingly more difficult, round after round, with numerous portals opening at once. It is certainly fast and frantic whilst also not being too overwhelming. The second mode features on-rails progression through various themed areas such as underwater, forest, inferno and winter land. Each area has its own personality and feels very distinct. Every level can be played on easy, normal and hard difficulty with each difficulty setting having its own parameters for increasing the challenge. The final mode on offer is Zen which allows you to travel through the various areas without any enemies and enables you to just marvel at the worlds that have been created. This is a nice option and is useful for new players that might not be familiar with VR.
Visually the game is reasonably impressive considering its budget price of £7.39 UK, $9.99 US and €9.99 EU. However, the game does feel like a tech demo. Certain pieces of architecture in the levels can look slightly angular and some of the textures are not hugely detailed. There is a very impressive sense of scale and depth, especially in the underwater and inferno stages, which can induce some slight vertigo. Overall, the game does look nice with some lovely lighting effects that really add an ambience to the individual stages and provide a lovely virtual window into the themed environments.
The sound design is reasonable with each stage having its own theme. The choice of composition is focused on ambient background music and sets a mood rather than enhancing the action. This is an odd choice considering this game is essentially a shooter. I am not sure if the developers were being cautious as this is a VR game and they were wary of overloading the senses of the player or if the game was initially, just an experience based game with the shooting mechanics implemented later. The soundtrack is pleasant but not anything that will linger in the mind once the game is over.
Dexed is a fun shooter and a nice introduction to VR for new players. The gameplay loop is fun, addictive and challenging with enough varied modes to warrant some replayability outside of the quest for high scores. Unfortunately, there are only five stages and the game can be beaten easily within 40 minutes or so. However, Ninja Theory has priced the game well and have not tried to exploit the consumer as other VR titles have. If you are looking for a high score based shooter or a smaller experience to while away some hours in VR then Dexed is the game for you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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