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