Dexter the Game


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GDC 2009: Dexter The Game Hands-On

The oft-gruesome drama Dexter, starring Michael C. Hall as “mission-oriented” serial killer Dexter Morgan, has garnered a following over the last couple years, and was recently re-upped by Showtime for its fourth and fifth seasons. Marc Ecko Entertainment has been working on the series’ iPhone adaptation for about nine months now, and was ready to show the game off to us at GDC.

The first thing we learned about Dexter The Game is that Michael C. Hall has been heavily involved in the game’s production. He’s supplied all of the game’s voiceover work, and he worked on the concept and story as well, which roughly traces the first season of the show’s plot. The actor has invested Dexter The Game with a level of authenticity that’s sure to please fans of the series.

Happily, Marc Ecko Entertainment and developer Icarus Studios are holding up their end of the bargain as well. It seems like they have spared no expense on Dexter The Game; this thing looks and plays like a miniature GTA4 in some ways. There aren’t many limitations on the player at all–you’re free to travel, interact, and investigate as you wish using facile touch or tilt controls, from either a first- or third-person viewpoint.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Dexter is a serial killer who seeks out, stalks, and executes other serial killers. He follows the strict “Code of Harry” (named after his adoptive father), meaning that he must first prove a murderer’s guilt and extract a confession before punishing him or her with his, er, “special toolkit.” By day, he works as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami PD… useful cover indeed for a man with his inclinations.

Dexter’s not a good guy. He’s a true-blue sociopath–essentially an animal who’s been molded into human shape–and is constantly in danger of losing control of his instincts. This perilous balancing act is represented in-game by the Mask Meter, which measures your success in keeping Dexter’s facade going.

So, if you fail to disguise your true motivations during the game–say, by insulting your boss at the police station–you’ll lose some Mask. If it hits zero, you lose, but you can replenish it by tracking down and murdering killers.

This is a big job that takes a lot of detective work. You have to find the bodies, gather evidence, prove guilt, abduct the killer, and get a confession before the big finale. The screen fades to black, and you start hacking off limbs by making sawing motions with your iPhone, while your victim screams. It’s seriously crazy stuff, but we were assured that Apple’s cool with it. They carry the Dexter TV show on iTunes, after all, and the game’s no bloodier.

But Dexter The Game has a lot more going for it than just the violence. The environments from the show, like Dexter’s apartment, have been perfectly reproduced in the game, and prerendered cutscenes keep the story moving along. Plus, there are many different kinds of gameplay to enjoy. For instance, there are light stealth sequences (a bit like Metal Gear Solid) when silently stalking your prey, as well as a spatter-matching minigame for determining the murder weapon.

We were told that the first episode of Dexter The Game will have about 25 areas to explore over 10 hours of gameplay when it comes out this summer; additional episodes are to be available by September. No price is available yet, but expect it to be on the high end. It looks like it’ll be worth the dough.

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Dexter the Game Review

With just a couple of weeks left before the fourth season of the Showtime series kicks off, Dexter the Game hits the App Store to appease fans of the world’s most likable serial killer. The game puts you in the shoes of Dexter Morgan as you work your way through five cases that take place during the first season of the show. The cases are new, the corpses are fresh, and Dexter won’t let the bad guys get out alive.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Dexter is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami police by day and a serial killer by night. To maintain viewers’ sympathies, he commits his crimes under a strict code that requires him to kill only those who deserve to die. Indeed, the victims are usually serial killers themselves, who have taken innocent lives and will continue to do so unless Dexter finishes them off on his stabbing table.

In the game, as in the show, Dexter’s life is complicated by having to keep his secret from those close to him. There’s his sister, who is also on the force, his girlfriend, with her troubled past, and, obviously, his fellow police officers who need to be kept in the dark.

Most of the basics of the story are explained early on in the game through an excellent ongoing voiceover delivered by Michael C. Hall, the actor who plays Dexter on the show. In fact, the voiceover, combined with background music taken directly from the show, make playing the game feel remarkably similar to watching an episode on TV. With earbuds feeding the excellent audio into your brain, and your face inches from your iDevice’s screen, you become completely immersed in the dark and twisted world of Dexter.

Wait a minute… That’s not the H1N1 vaccine.

And make no mistake: this game is not for younger kids. It’s full of R-rated stuff, like swearing, blood, mature themes, and murder most foul. The clincher is that most of the murder is committed by you. Now, that might sound like nothing new to seasoned gamers who are used to pumping baddies full of lead; but when the victim is tied down and you’re slashing away (off camera, but with sound) until the victim stops screaming, the killing feels as disturbing on your iDevice as it is to watch on the show.

Gameplay-wise, you’re presented with five cases to solve, and each one requires numerous steps to complete. Generally, you’ll discover a person of interest and then snoop around to find evidence of his crimes. You’ll analyze the evidence to make sure that this person has killed numerous people and is likely to kill again. And then you’ll prepare your murder room, capture the killer, force a confession, and dispatch him brutality.

Each of these steps is completed interactively using a wide variety of minigames. There’s one for lock-picking, password cracking, fingerprint analyzing, DNA comparing, stalking, and setting up your killing room, to name a few. Some of the minigames aren’t clearly explained, so it takes some trial and error to figure out exactly what you’re supposed to do in them.

Unfortunately, the stalking mechanic, which you spend more time using than most other gameplay modes, is poorly-implemented. The basic movement controls simply aren’t up to the task. Dexter will get caught up on objects because of bad collision detection, or won’t hustle behind cover as quickly as you need him to.

Bookshelf? Check. Blood samples in the AC unit? Check.

The amount of gameplay variety is a strength in many ways. Unfortunately, it also makes the game feel almost like a collection of minigames. There’s no core gameplay mechanic for the game to fall back on, aside from walking around and talking to people. The game is also a little buggy. Sometimes it would fail to register that we had completed a step in a mission, though the storyline would continue. It would also crash on occasion. Thankfully, it autosaves each time you travel to a different location, which helps stave off too much frustration.

What this game does flawlessly, and what will matter most to fans, is that it mimics the feel of the show. It uses the show’s quirky, dark music to great effect. There are hundreds of lines of dialogue in the game, most of which are voiced by the actual cast members. All regular characters from the show make appearances, from Sgt. Doakes and Masuka to Camilla in records.

If you haven’t seen the show, playing the game will give you a basic introduction to the plot and characters. But if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re probably better off renting the DVDs. At the same time, this game delivers a much deeper experience than the vast majority of games on the platform. It packs five plus hours’ worth of play time, tons of voice acting, and lots of high quality CG cutscenes. Any gamer who’s a big fan of Dexter will find plenty of enjoyment here. Everyone else should check out the show, because it’s pretty great. And once you have, you might also be compelled to pick up the game.

Dexter Game Nearing Completion

Marc Ecko Entertainment and Icarus Studios brought us by their room at the E3 to update us on the progress of their upcoming Dexter iPhone game, which is based on a four-episode arc of the first season. Lead game designer Christopher Mifsud of Icarus said the game is 80 percent complete with its design features and 60 percent complete with its content, like voiceovers and art.

Anyone who follows the Dexter TV series knows that this show is dark. Mifsud said the game tries as best as it can to capture the spirit of the show, guiding players in a detective-style adventure game as Dexter metes out his own brand of gruesome vigilante justice.

Dexter: Making torture fun!

“This game is based on the Showtime version [of Dexter], not the CBS version,” Mifsud said. “But we’re working very closely with Apple.

“We’re not doing any gratuitous violence. We’re just sticking with the theme of the show.”

The game is a faithful re-creation of the sets and layouts from the show, even featuring the voice work of Michael C. Hall, who plays Dexter. Much of the detective work that Dexter performs in the show also must be done in the game. All this is done in the name of determine the guilt of your unwitting victim. Clues are gathered through an interactive gaming mechanic, such as digging up a fresh grave using touch buttons.

“We wanted to get away from the old style adventure games and make it a little more interactive,” Mifsud said.

Things get get much darker after Dexter gathers enough evidence to carry out his execution. In our playthrough of the first level, this involved prepping his “kill room” with plastic and tools, and then stalking the victim with a stealth gameplay mechanic–basically, staying out of sight.

Once our victim was caught, he was brought to the kill room, where you get to torture him with a variety of tools. We used the bonesaw.

There is no actual violence in the game, per se. The actual execution is carried out on a blacked-out screen, but the build up to the killing will most certainly have players taking a good long hard look at their moral compass.

Gameplay was deep from what we saw, even in this early build. The game is non-linear, so Dexter can take up multiple cases, as well as play a variety of forensic-style mini games.

“It’s a premium game,” Mifsud said. “We really want to push the envelope of what iPhone games will look like.”

Though there’s no set timetable, Mifsud could only give a general release date of later this summer.