If you’re a fan of the Cartoon Network, you’ve likely seen an episode or two of Dexter’s Laboratory. The show follows the exploits of Dexter, a diminuitive, red-headed boy genius who invents gadgets and solves problems within the confines of his fully-equipped bedroom laboratory. In conjunction with the Cartoon Network, BAM! Entertainment has brought Dexter and his cartoon compadres to life on the Game Boy Advance in Dexter’s Laboratory: Deesaster Strikes.
Developed by Virtucraft (F-14 Tomcat), Dexter’s Laboratory: Deesaster Strikes is an action-adventure game that manages to capture the essence of the cartoon show perfectly. Dexter has just completed work on his latest invention, the Clone-a-matic, but as usual his meddling sister Dee Dee has gone and messed things up, accidentally cloning herself and infesting Dexter’s laboratory with mini-Dee Dee’s bent on destroying Dexter’s experiments. Players take on the role of Dexter as he tries to recover all the mini-Dee Dee’s, repair his damaged machines, and return Dee Dee to her normal self again.
Dexter’s sprawling maze of a laboratory is divided into eight different areas, connected by a hub that acts as the saving point in the game. Only one area of the laboratory is made available to start with, while the other zones are unlocked as Dexter collects a specific number of mini-Dee Dee’s. Each area of Dexter’s laboratory features a different theme, such as an Aviation Hangar, a Nuclear Power Station and a Chemistry Lab.
Gameplay in Dexter’s Laboratory is broken down into platform elements, combat and puzzle solving. While searching for the mini-Dee Dee’s, you’ll come across a myriad of bizarre enemies including robots, carnivorous plants, slime monsters and aliens. You’ll do battle against these creatures with the assistance of a selection of weapons hidden around each of the levels, such as a Ray Guy or Splurge Gun. You’ll also find various tools and remote controlled items that will help you solve some of the game’s puzzles.
Most of the puzzles in Dexter’s Laboratory are simple to solve, relying on your ability to find certain items and put them to use. When you’re not fighting monsters or solving puzzles, you’ll be hunting down the mini-Dee Dee’s. In order to capture them, you have to use Dexter’s Grabber Arm to grab hold of them and then carry them to the nearest suction tube for storage.
Initially, I had a lot of fun playing Dexter’s Laboratory, in a quirky kind of way, but as the adventure progressed, the game became a little too repetitive. With seventy levels in total, there’s unquestionably a lot of gameplay in Dexter’s Laboratory, but I wish the later stages of the game were as fresh and entertaining and the earlier ones. Another issue with Dexter’s Laboratory are the controls. Moving Dexter around is a bit of a pain, especially when it comes to jumping across platforms and fighting monsters. The control scheme is a little awkward and the camera angle doesn’t help much, creating a few frustrating moments during play.
Visually, Dexter’s Laboratory doesn't exactly showcase the power of the Game Boy Advance. The level design is pretty plain, although the environments are bright and colourful, much like its cartoon counterpart. In terms of audio, the game features an upbeat carnival theme soundtrack, which is surprisingly fun to listen too.
Deesaster Strikes is an entertaining romp through Dexter’s cartoon world. While the game lacks visual flair and can become a little repetitive in the later stages, fans of the show, particularly younger gamers, are sure to enjoy the familiar theme, characters and wackiness that is Dexter’s Laboratory.