10 Thoughts On… Dexter: Slice of Life (Facebook)

I’m a huge fan of Dexter. From the moment I saw the first episode, I’ve been hooked. I’ve even purchased Showtime just to watch it as it airs, then subsequently dumped it after the finale. When I saw that there was a Facebook game coming out, I couldn’t wait to give it a try. I just wondered how they were going to do it.

As it turns out, not very well.

1. The game works by giving you missions to complete. You have usually several objectives to work through, changing depending on the overall goal. For example, your first mission involves finding evidence that two paramedics are killing patients in order to sell organs. The next mission involves stalking them and killing them. This is all well and good, but the locations you go to never change. After you kill the paramedic, he’ll still be at the location where you first caught him. On top of that, if you go back to the kill room, he’ll sill be there for you to kill. There’s no consistency.

2. When not playing as Dexter, you can play as your Dark Passenger. This brings you to a new area with nothing going on. You can then bring up a list of other players to visit. By spending “insanity” you can rob NPCs and various structures that player has put up. This takes place via a passive combat mechanic that depends on your stats. This even happens when you steal stuff, so it is possible that you can be defeated by a porta-John. It happened. You get some experience and cash for all of this as well as skulls that are somehow used as currency. The real odd thing here is that a lot of times you’ll click on a player, but not travel to their location. Even if you get there, the likelihood of not being able to do anything is high. Something isn’t right there.

3. It’s worth noting that this game follows the plot of the current season of Dexter. As such, a batch of missions will be released each week based on what happened in the most recent episode. After you’ve completed all of the missions for an episode, all you can do is dig around in already explored areas or perform repetitive PVP options. I’ll get to those in a bit. Completing episodes unlocks various video content for you to watch, so that’s nice.

4. Your primary way of completing missions is by using “mask”. This is basically an energy meter with a fancy name to symbolize Dexter’s ability to hide in plain sight. In each location, there are several areas of interest to explore. By clicking on them, Dexter will move over and a little bar will start to fill. When that’s done, you’ll get experience, some cash, and maybe some key items. This is pretty boring really, but the text that accompanies your actions can be amusing. Gaining the trust of an old schoolmate requires “idle banter” for example. A lot of these investigative spots require you to have an item in your inventory. Here’s the worst part of the game. You’ll be constantly required to purchase gloves, swabs, collection kits, and other such things in order to progress. The associated pop up window gets old. Some things require you to find them in the location first. For example, Dexter needed a kill hammer to finish off a victim. Naturally, I’d investigated the weapon table. It took about ten tries before the thing showed up. By then, I didn’t have enough mask left to actually get the kill. How hard can it be to find a hammer on a table? For that matter, how hard can it be to find a batch of human intestines WHEN THEY ARE CLEARLY VISIBLE ON THE MAP? There’s a lot of stupidiness here.

5. Potentially the most interesting thing about the game is the stalking. During these sections, you need to guide Dexter to various hiding spots until he can get close enough to stun his victim. However, it becomes painfully obvious which areas you should click on. After screwing up my first attempt, I’ve performed nothing but perfect runs. The hard part is that you lose “stalk” as you move about. The worse your position, the more stalk you lose. However, after a couple of levels, you can boost your stalk so high you’ll never fail. So these sections become boring necessities in which you watch characters walk painfully slow for the payoff of a poor animation.

6. There is a customization aspect to the game. You can add various niceties to your apartment to make it your own. While most of these are purely aesthetic, some grant you cash at timed intervals. Of course, any of these are likely to be robbed by fellow players to the point where you’ve spent a ton of money just to watch someone else use it all. Also, most of the items are way out of your price range. I’ve level 10 now. I’ve completed all of the available story missions. However, because of all of the times I had to spend fifteen bucks for gloves, all I have to show in my apartment are a couple of porta-Johns and a nanny. There was another NPC, but he disappeared without me getting my cash back. I’ve also sold items off only to watch them disappear.

7. This is a Facebook game. It stands to reason that there are some social aspects. Well, like I mentioned before, you can visit an apartment to rob it. Also, if you’re playing as Dexter, you can get revenge by tracking a rival down and killing them. This basically gives you a menial search through a generic location and then an easy stalk mission. Then you make the kill. If there is an actual adverse effect to the other player, I haven’t seen it. Oh, and you can send gifts. If you have enough friends, maybe you can get them to send you a lifetime supply of cotton swabs to save you some cash.

8. Normally, I wouldn’t care about graphics in a Facebook game. I don’t expect much. However, the character models in this game are horrendous. Dexter is the only character that looks even vaguely like the guy we all know from the show. Batista is only recognizable thanks to his hat. The models all look like dollar store brand toy dolls. They’re bland, generic, and look nothing like a human being. Worst of all, they use the same two body types for everyone. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad, except that the supposed child on screen is a fully grown man! What the hell? Oh yeah, and even if you lose a fight, you still get to watch the animation of you winning. It’s like a slap in the face.

9. It also wouldn’t be a Facebook game without a way to steal cash out of your pocket. They do this by making everything skippable if you’re willing to spend the money. I mean everything. You can buy evidence, mask, stalk, weapons, or whatever you want. I figure a huge part of that grinding for items is to frustrate players into spending money just to continue onwards. I spent nearly a whole day trying to get a stupid hammer to show up. Worst of all, since every item is one use only, and dropped items disappear if you click on something else, you can easily get stuck in a loop of completing every mission on a single location again. At that point, spending the money doesn’t seem so bad. I tell you, these guys are evil geniuses.

10. This game has only been out for a week, but that’s no excuse. True, a couple of patches have fixed a couple of things. For example, you can now tell where each interactive item on the map is instead of guessing. The game is just bad. All of the activities are boring, the inventory system if flawed, for some reason they decided to make the volume button a severed human ear when playing as the Dark Passenger, the game is repetitive very early on, and the game doesn’t save your settings. As a fan of the show, I’m insulted, but as a gamer, I’m not surprised. This is how licensed games tend to go. Honestly, this is one Facebook game I actively recommend that no one bother with unless there is a massive overhaul real soon.

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