Point and click adventures were all the rage for PC gamers back in the early to mid 90s, but seemed to fall out of favour as the 3D graphics arms race – led, mainly, by FPS titles – took hold across the industry. Companies such as Telltale, with their episodic, mostly licensed games, brought them back for a while before they morphed into a more choice-based narrative style of game; though this of course evolved from the point and click adventure, they felt pretty distinct from them in many ways.

Indie publishers – and developers have kept the genre alive though. Dexter Stardust: Adventures in Outer Space is a great example of a modern point and click adventure that doesn’t fall into the obscure puzzle trap that older titles often did.

Earth has been rendered all but uninhabitable by Vreesian robots, causing the planet’s surviving population to escape to safety on Mars. Among the survivors is young Dexter Stardust, who we take control of 20 years later – with Stardust having become an intergalactic courier. Alongside his friend Aurora, Stardust takes on a seemingly mundane job – but unbeknownst to either of them, an awfully big adventure is about to unfold.

The episodic nature of Dexter Stardust allows it to split its overarching narrative into bite-sized, accessible chunks – which makes for a welcome change of pace to the usual long form style of point and click adventures. Each episode also opens with a sort of credit sequence and montage introducing the character whilst showing clips of their adventures; it’s a lovely touch that gives the whole affair the feel of an animated, ongoing TV show.

The pseudo-animated visual style is pretty nice too, with well designed creatures – and distinct humans – that are bursting with character. Though the voice acting is sometimes a little weak – and there’s a lot of dialogue for the actors to get through – the writing saves the day; it’s frequently witty and full of genuinely amusing, sometimes fourth wall breaking quips.

The Prologue does a great job of introducing players to the various mechanics on offer, though everything here will be instantly familiar to longer-term point and click adventure fans: you move the character around the screen and use one of four options to interact with characters and/or objects – speak, interact, take or look at. Additionally, selecting an object from your inventory allows you to combine it with another or give it to someone. That’s generally it for the basics, though there’s often dialogue options to choose from too, when you do get chatting to other characters.

Dexter himself often mutters to himself or wonders aloud about the solution to a particular puzzle; though this does take some of the feeling of achievement out of solving a difficult conundrum, I found it pretty useful – I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve simply become stuck in a point and click adventure and simply not been clever enough to progress. I never felt like I was facing something insurmountable in Dexter Stardust, even if a few things did flummox me for a little while. Generally, each episode does a good job of keeping you on the right path and giving you hints to nudge nudge you in the right direction – there were only a few occasions where I felt like I hit a dead end, but this was usually down to talking to someone or finding an object in the ‘wrong’ order.

Each of the five chapters varies a little in length, but the entire game can be completed in around five hours or so. Despite seeming short on paper, this felt like it was the right length of time; any longer and it may well have outstayed its welcome somewhat.

Dexter Stardust: Adventures in Outer Space is an excellent little game though; a nicely nostalgic throwback to a genre that got left behind – albeit with some nicely modern touches.

Many thanks to Flynn’s Arcade for providing me with a Dexter Stardust code for review purposes.

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