#26 Dexter Stardust

#26 Dexter Stardust

March 3, 2022 0 By Owly

Dexter Stardust has been developed and published by Dexter Team Games, with help from established publishers, Flynn’s Arcade. But I’d be doing the game a disservice if I didn’t go further than that. Dexter Stardust has been written, directed, illustrated, animated, programmed, and scored all by one individual – Jeremy Fryc.

Dexter Stardust barely escaped when the Vreesians, inhabitants of the menacing Planet X, sent a fleet of robots to destroy all life on Earth. Now, twenty years later, a mechanical man from the 10th planet seeks to communicate to Dexter a very important message – he is the key to saving both humans and Vreesians. Play the taco-loving Dexter Stardust as he, and his good friend Aurora, go on the greatest adventure of their lives and discover the mystery of the Robot from the Planet X!

We spend our lives longing to hear three words. Point-and-click. A powerful, tri-pronged locution that offers comfort on a spiritual level, unknown beyond our species. I have played them all – Broken Sword, Monkey Island, Kings Quest, Gabriel Knight, Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, Do Not Feed the Monkeys, Papers Please, and many, many more. I like to think I can speak about this genre with a certain wealth of experience and appreciation. For twenty-five years I have pointed, clicked, clicked again, clicked everywhere, grown frustrated, and then clicked some more.

Dexter Stardust has an instant likeability. It is fresh, fun, and full of energy. Everything in-game has been hand-drawn and animated frame-by-frame, with a bold use of colour. All characters, cut-scenes, and gameplay are fully voice-acted. The style and presentation made me think of shows like Futurama and Archer. Everything is crisp, clean, and grounded in humour.

The game is presented as Season 1 and boasts 5 episodes that you can pick and choose as you please. This is more so for replayability and for collecting the achievements, as although each episode is self-contained, there is an overarching story that connects them all together. Playing the game in anything other than chronological order on your first run, will leave you confused as to what is going on.

A really nice touch, that you can see in the image above, is that each episode informs the player of the length of said episode, but also whether the focus will be on story progression or puzzle solving. I think point-and-clicks benefit greatly from adopting an episodic nature. Dexter Stardust goes beyond that and plays out like a 60s sci-fi early morning Saturday cartoon. Episodes have a short opening of exposition before the titles run and the theme song kicks in. As you progress, story beats will trigger ‘meanwhile…’ scenes, and each episode teases you with a cliffhanger at its climax. You can’t help but smile.

I’m very pleased to report that gameplay is everything you’d want from a classic point-and-click. Using nothing but my mouse, I could talk, look, use, and pick up – these are staples of the OG adventurer.

If you’re new to the genre, the game has you covered with a ‘how to play’ option in its main menu.

For long serving devotees, such as myself, you’ll take great pride in how Dexter Stardust openly acknowledges it’s inspirations. As far as I know, other gaming genres don’t do this. It is almost our little thing and I love it. At one point, Dexter is seeking an audience with the Viceroy and as he moves beyond the guards, for a split second, before he ascends the stairs, you see a poster of Guybrush Threepwood. It was enough to make this geek involuntarily squawk.

Of the five episodes that make up the first season, it was only episode three that caused me a little bother. This episode is by far the longest and it is full of puzzles. Given I’m a promoter and therefore I play games before most people, I couldn’t search for an answer online or watch a playthrough. I couldn’t even talk about on it on social media, due to the embargos we all agree to. So, around midnight, after exhausting every plausible idea I could conjure, I took a chance and just emailed the team asking for help. Within thirty minutes I had a response from Jeremy Fryc himself! That’s pretty cool. What was lovely was that he didn’t just tell me the answer, he offered additional information and sprinkled a few breadcrumbs for me to get back on track. It turns out, I had the solution all along, I just hadn’t checked my inventory carefully enough. This leads me nicely onto my next point.

The mark of a good point-and-click is how mental your inventory gets. You’ll know you have got it right if it looks like you’ve trolley-dashed a jumble sale at gunpoint. During one episode, I had tacos, a rusty cutlass, a banana, an inflatable pig, and a tin of worms in my inventory. It was beautiful.

I played Dexter Stardust on my MSI GF65 gaming laptop, which has an i7 and an RTX3060. I had no issues and my playthrough was bug-free.

This is the most fun I’ve had with a point-and-click in years. It stands out and has confidence in its own voice, all while respectfully honouring the classics that have inspired it. Characters are varied and likeable, and the story grips you from the beginning and doesn’t let go. The humour, references, and the breaking of the fourth wall are all well-placed, and the puzzles never go overboard and melt your brain. Everything here has been done to a very high standard and with a deep appreciation for the beloved collection of adventures it is contributing to. It is a no-brainer – this is a must-play for point-and-click fans.

Dexter Stardust will return for a second season, and I will be first in line.

Dexter Stardust is out now on PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch
Steam page – Dexter Stardust
Twitter – Dexter Stardust
Publisher – Flynn’s Arcade
Website – dexterstardust.com