Get Dexter, Amstrad CPC

Get Dexter is an isometric action puzzle game originally released for the Amstrad CPC in 1986. It was programmed by Remi Herbulot with graphics by Michel Rho. In its native France the game is known as “Crafton & Xunk“, which I always thought was a bizarre title for a video game.

Get Dexter is set in 2912 when a war on Earth is escalating out of control. You play as Dexter, with a strange alien sidekick called Scooter, and are given a mission to find a central computer (The Chamber of Zarxas) in order to copy its memory and save the human race. Which is all a thin veneer for some Ultimate-influenced puzzle-solving and room exploration.

When the game starts you’re give the option of four different control options (1 is directional joystick, 2 is rotational joystick, 3 is directional keys, and 4 is rotational keys) and begin in a random room out of the 50 available.

You wander around each room, exploring, picking stuff up, jumping, avoiding hostile creatures, and moving objects around so that you can reach places you couldn’t get to before. Stacking items on top of each other allows you to create platforms to higher places.

Ultimately you need to assemble an eight-digit access code so that you can download the data from the central computer. To get the code you need to ‘question’ eight scientists by giving them a jab from syringes found within the maze. Knowing how to do this, though, is very difficult without a walkthrough since the instructions give little information.

Dexter has one life and limited energy, and this will be sapped by contacting with hostiles found patrolling the rooms. You can jump over them, destroy them with certain items, and even stand on top of some of them without losing energy. And you can also replenish Dexter‘s energy by connecting to ‘holophonic cabins‘ that are occasionally found in the complex.

Graphically, Get Dexter is excellent, with colourful backgrounds and sprites that are a step-up from many of the monochromatic isometric adventures of the time. Many rooms have objects like desks and chairs that will move if you walk into them, giving the game a sandbox feel similar to Fairlight on the ZX Spectrum. Unlike similar games, if you exit a room and re-enter, everything that’s been moved will not reset back to their start positions.

You have some control over your sidekick Scooter (pressing ‘R’ will recall him to you), but generally the little sh*t just seems to get in the way… To be honest I don’t know what the point of him is. I guess at the very least you can sometimes use him as a platform.

Gameplay-wise Get Dexter is interesting, but extremely frustrating at times. Objects move with a degree of realism, and you can pull things (by pressing ‘P’), as well as push things, which you don’t see very often in these kind of games. And you can even walk backwards. Which makes the game a little more involving than many of its peers.

Coloured keycards open the appropriately-coloured doors, although you can only hold one item at a time so you often end up having to do some frantic inventory-juggling to get through certain doors. Thankfully there seem to be multiple copies of most keycards, so if you accidentally leave one behind a door that you can no longer get through there should be others to be found in the maze. That said: I wish the game’s designers had given you more than one inventory slot…

Overall, Get Dexter is a nice little 8-bit isometric action game and arguably one of the best original releases on the Amstrad CPC. The game has some nice hidden touches, like the beds that you can bounce on (and which can also permanently break if you bounce on them too much), or the fans that blow you upwards. And also the fact that you can pin hostile men in place with bottles of booze, and hostile women with roses. It’s just a pity the objectives of the game are so obscure, and the gameplay so hair-tearingly frustrating, but these were the standards of the time.

Get Dexter was published by ERE Informatique in France and PSS in Britain. A sequel, called Get Dexter 2, was released in 1988.

More: Get Dexter on Wikipedia

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