PSVR, Vive

If Dexed seemed to come out of nowhere, that’s be­cause to all in­tents and pur­poses it did. Con­ceived dur­ing an in­ter­nal game jam at Ninja Theory, it was as­sem­bled by a team of eight within a month and then pol­ished for the next two be­fore be­ing an­nounced and re­leased. You can see why it won, just as the short de­vel­op­ment time will come as no sur­prise once you’ve clocked its four lev­els and sin­gle boss stage well within an hour.

It’s a rail shooter, yet ac­knowl­edged in­flu­ences in­clud­ing Ikaruga and Panzer Dra­goon sug­gest an in­ten­sity Dexed con­sciously lacks. In­stead, it’s con­ducted at a rel­a­tively se­date pace, as you’re gen­tly car­ried along on a translu­cent cur­rent through four el­e­men­tal biomes. You’re armed with two types of shot – fire and ice – with which to hit tar­gets of the op­po­site po­lar­ity, your score mul­ti­plier build­ing for each wave elim­i­nated with­out er­ror. They’ll fire back if you hit like with like: de­ploy­ing a shield will pre­vent your score from burn­ing down or freez­ing, though you’ll lose your combo ei­ther way. As in Rez, you’re en­cour­aged to paint sev­eral tar­gets for a multi-lock be­fore re­leas­ing the trig­ger. Clear in­di­vid­ual tar­gets quickly and you’ll safely main­tain your mul­ti­plier; you’ll need to bide your time for big­ger score bonuses, but de­lay the re­lease too long and you risk tar­gets dis­ap­pear­ing from view be­fore your shots can land.

It’s de­signed pri­mar­ily for a pair of mo­tion con­trollers: mov­ing two ret­i­cles in­de­pen­dently through waves of in­ter­min­gling or­ange and blue tar­gets should in theory pro­duce higher scores. Yet we fared bet­ter with a DualShock, a two-handed grip nat­u­rally re­sult­ing in a stead­ier aim. As a score-chaser, how­ever, it’s not with­out flaws. Though you can can­cel an er­rant lock, en­emy pat­terns are tricky enough to ne­ces­si­tate a slight stick­i­ness to tar­get­ing: though you’ll rarely latch onto a tar­get you in­tended to sweep by rather than over, on oc­ca­sion you’ll need to paint a tar­get twice be­fore it reg­is­ters. Au­dio feed­back is a lit­tle muted, too, and when things get busy it can be hard to dis­tin­guish be­tween pro­jec­tiles and en­e­mies.

Still, if the re­sult some­times feels more like a ro­bust proof of con­cept than a com­plete game, it’s a rea­son­able out­lay for an af­ter­noon’s fun. In­deed, weigh­ing up the cost of de­vel­op­ing for VR against its com­par­a­tively lim­ited user­base sug­gests small, in­ven­tive ex­per­i­ments that al­low devs to let off cre­ative steam be­tween big­ger projects might well be where the for­mat’s im­me­di­ate fu­ture lies. That may not be why you in­vested in the hard­ware, but VR’s po­si­tion just out­side the main­stream makes it the ideal home for un­con­ven­tional, di­vert­ing short-form ex­pe­ri­ences such as this.

In Zen mode you’re in­vited to set the con­trollers down and lux­u­ri­ate in the views. The un­der­wa­ter and snow lev­els are rather pretty, though it’s un­likely many will bother with a re­turn visit to the vol­canic sec­tion

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