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GDC09: Dexter hands-on (iPhone)

Justin McElroy

A light drama about a heroic serial killer may not seem like the most natural fit for a game adaptation, but Marc Ecko VP Marc Fernandez couldn't ignore the opportunity as he watched Dexter.

Fernandez told us at GDC that he felt like the show was almost set up like a game, with the titular murderer researching each kill, setting them up and finally executing on the mission. It's madness, sure. But, as in any good game, there are rules.

Gallery: Dexter (iPhone) | 5 Photos

The rules (and the rest of Dexter's world) should be instantly familiar to anyone who watches the show. Considering that it's native to the iPhone, Dexter's Miami is rendered with stunning detail, as are the show's leads.

Fans are going to recognize plot lines, too, as the game follows the show's first season and the hunt for the Ice Truck Killer, while still taking a few creative liberties.

What we couldn't get a great bead on was the actual game part of Dexter: The Game. There's some adventure-style clue hunting, there's stealth, there are conversations, there's accelerometer-controlled bone sawing, there's rhythm-based arguing. Seriously, it's all over the map.

The game's summer release is still a ways off, and we were only seeing a series of scenes out of context from the game. That said, the sections we saw seemed to take a scattershot approach, tossing gameplay at the wall and seeing what stuck.

Some of it, like slowing stalking your prey and hiding behind boxes when they turn to look at you is pretty enjoyable. Other scenes, like having to tap sections of the screen to maintain your concentration when confronted by the suspicious Sgt. Doakes, just seem like a stretch.

Failing any task will cause your "Mask" to lower, meaning those around you are just a little bit closer to discovering your secret. It's a neat touch, but not quite enough to give the game the cohesion it seems to need right now.

Still, we're going to be watching Dexter pretty closely. If developer Icarus Studios can get all the elements to work in concert, it could be a really unusual experience, and one that even those who don't watch the show will want to take a stab at.

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