App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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I have some ambivalence in sorting out my thoughts about Dexter Stardust. On the one hand, this point-and-click adventure makes a lot of the right decisions when it comes to pacing, voice acting, puzzle design, etc. but on the other, it's missing some core features and relies heavily on cliche cultural stereotypes to flesh out its characters. I definitely enjoyed my time with it, but there was almost never a moment where I felt entirely comfortable playing.
Serialized adventure game
Dexter Stardust is an adventure game that centers around a young space courier named Dexter. He works for his uncle delivering all kinds of space tchotchkes across the galaxy, but has a somewhat mysterious past that slowly comes to a head across the game's individual episodes.
As the scenes of these episodes play out (with full voice acting, I might add), you inevitably run up against some obstacle, like guards who don't want to let you in somewhere, seemingly uncrossable gaps, and more where you have to put your wits to the test and combine different items you've gathered and deploy them in the right moments on the right things to push the story forward.
The sci-fi world of Dexter Stardust is whimsical and doesn't take itself too seriously. It imagines an intergalactic society full of disposable blasters, vending machine s'mores kits, and floating taco stands in space. These features bring life to the Dexter Stardust, and with each episode of the game presenting itself like an episode in a sci-fi TV show, there is plenty of room for Dexter and other characters to play off of these gags in entertaining ways.
Dexter Stardust gets a little less entertaining with some of its world-building primarily around expressions of Hispanic culture. Dexter, his uncle, his crewmate, and several other characters in the game are clearly of Hispanic descent, but their characters seem built around cartoonish cliches like loving tacos and wearing sombreros. In fairness, Dexter Stardust seems intentionally set up to capture a campy and cliche tone, but there are just too many times where the game seemingly goes out of its way to flatten the identity of characters by repeatedly referencing just a small handful of surface-level cultural objects and exports.
Hints of greatness
When Dexter Stardust isn't pounding you over the head with dialog about how much Dexter enjoys tacos, the game mostly shines. Its puzzles are clever without being overly complicated or strung out, and the episodic structure helps keep the scope of any given mission pretty reasonable even if you don't know what to do. For adventure game fans, there are also a ton of great references and easter eggs to other adventure classics that are fun to encounter along the way.
All that said, I do kind of wish Dexter Stardust had some kind of hint system. Despite the mostly reasonable puzzle design, there were a few times when playing where I flat-out could not figure out what I was supposed to do, and the in-game list of objectives and trial and error of item combining was not helpful. This is endemic to point-and-click adventure games to a certain degree, though many modern titles have addressed this shortcoming with some form of hint system that can let you move forward without having to consult a guide.
The bottom line
Dexter Stardust is clearly an adventure experience made with a lot of love and heart. There are some frustrating things about it, though, and unfortunately they don't exactly hang quietly in the background. As long as you are ok with that, there's a lot to like here.