There were those (ourselves included) who, while not passing judgement, employed a level of caution when iOS gaming entered the already overcrowded gaming arena. We weren’t sufficiently convinced to agree with the “console gaming on the go” mentality which quickly attached itself to the platform, but neither did we dismiss it out of hand. As with any new system launch, the initial avalanche of games significantly varied in quality. Developers were swift to store, offering a wealth of so called “casual” titles, hoping to prove that touchscreen control mechanics were a progression from the standardised controllers gamers were accustomed to. Control schemes notwithstanding, iOS as a gaming platform matured faster than its rivals could hope to match, with an audience eager to embrace the low price and convenient method of purchase; it soon became clear, regardless of personal opinions, that iOS gaming had arrived and was here to stay. It wasn’t until a little further into the format’s lifecycle that LaptopZombie really started to take note of it, thanks in most part to a title exclusive to the operating system (at launch, anyway). That game was Dexter. On the surface the title looked to be a faithful adaptation of the popular TV show, endorsed by the actors and scripted by the original writers. Despite a number of shortfalls, the game was essentially enjoyable, and proved that smartphone gaming had the potential to deliver the type of experience traditionally offered by a home console. Suffice to say things have rapidly evolved, allowing iOS gaming to further stake its claim, bringing with it technically stunning entries into modern gaming, both in terms of gameplay and graphical fidelity. With that in mind, the announcement of Dexter 2: The Game had us eagerly awaiting the reappearance of Miami’s finest, promising an open world to explore and unlimited killers to bring to justice. What, you might wonder, could possibly go wrong?
As a generally rule, video game sequels look to expand on what made the original successful and entertaining. Don’t stray too far from the initial formula, the ethos goes, but make sure to add a spattering of unique features. Improve the game engine with as little funding as possible, allowing for a shinier complexion and the odd impressive shadow here and there. Finally, finish it off with a vast collection of bold and often unjustifiable claims as to the game’s content, then sit back and watch the money roll in. Marc Ecko, fashion designer and founder of the entertainment company that bears his name, seems to have decided to forgo all of the above and strike out in a radically different direction. It’s clear from the moment Dexter 2: The Game is launched that its development was guided not by Harry’s code but by code written by the Dark Passenger himself. Choosing not to address the original game’s criticisms in any way, it not only strives to remove any trace of what made the original so entertaining, but goes to impressive lengths to alienate fans of the TV show. If during the original design phase the development team agreed to craft a title which, upon release, would been seen as hugely inferior to the original in every conceivable way, with graphics which offend the eye and a game engine twice as unstable as its predecessor, they can pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
Dexter 2: The game once again sees players step into the blood-drenched shoes of Dexter Morgan, a Miami Police Department blood spatter analyst by day, and killer of killers by night, tasked with solving murders during office hours and butchering those responsible during his downtime. On paper it all sounds very enticing, but its utterly flawed execution murders the game. Firstly, Miami’s population seems to consists of around six people and half as many cars. It’s a ghost town, and not because of Dexter’s nocturnal activities. Gamers will have to cast their minds back many years to recall a world as scarcely populated as this. In an age where smartphone gamers can happily relive their exploits in Liberty City (and soon Vice City, fact fans!) while on their daily commute, Dexter’s interpretation of Miami is just plain offensive. Secondly, solving crimes (a facet we very much enjoyed in the original) adheres to the most mundane of templates. You arrive at the crime scene, select the most obviously apparent piece of evidence (which your co-workers either refuse to acknowledge or somehow comprehensively overlook), take the evidence back to the lab and tap on it. Rinse and repeat until Dexter is convinced of the culprit’s identity, then (thanks to a criminally underdeveloped stealth section) find and kill them. While easy and in no way entertaining, further problems arise when traversing the barren landscape, with unresponsive controls often causing awkward crashes and making already unwelcome tasks last even longer. Add to this a handful of recorded dialogue repeated throughout and you’ll soon agree that murder is not the game’s foremost crime.
Sadly, Dexter is not the only member of the sterling TV show forced to suffer this digital indignity, as regular cast members are at hand to lend an air of authenticity. Authenticity, that would be, if their role in the TV show were to stand motionless, offering no form of assistance whatsoever and looking dumbfounded by any piece of evidence presented to them. If that were true Dexter 2: The Game would stand as one of the most faithful adaptations of the year. As it is, the inclusion of these “characters” simply adds to the sense of ineptitude which underpins every aspect of the game. Quite what happened here is a mystery, as the original, while flawed, was at the very least entertaining. In jettisoning everything that came before, Dexter 2: The Game successfully delivers a frustrating, often unplayable and always deeply inadequate follow-up. One can only imagine the development team were subject to a strict release schedule in order to capitalise on the show’s current season, and what looks to be a dramatically reduced budget. As things are, and in the absence of a significant patch, Dexter 2: The Game begs to be added to a blood slide collection and dumped in the cold, dark ocean.