Your Weekly Kusoge
For those who enjoyed the original Dexter's Laboratory on Cartoon Network, the New episodes which ran from 2001 to 2003 were most likely a disappointment, with cruder animation, pointless storylines and a change to the voice acting cast, with Christine Cavanaugh replaced by Candi Milo who tries, but just doesn't get it right. Many fans would have rightly felt alienated.
Then, right in the middle of all that, comes this game. It starts with an animated cut-scene which is just repurposed footage from the show - from the original series to be exact. This is painfully obvious when you have Candi Milo's voice coming out of classic Dexter's mouth, in clips from episodes you've already seen, with the lip flap almost never matching. Worse still, the cut-scenes have the tendency to repeat static or barely moving characters and superimpose them onto different backgrounds, emphasising the laziness. A certain shot of Mandark is used at least three times, which is especially noticeable given the short length of the game.
After the cut-scene ends you are assailed by the second biggest punch in the face - the horrible CGI. The graphics, for a post-mortem PS1 game, are just plain embarrassing, and actually pale in comparison to those of Jumping Flash, a game released in 1995, a full seven years prior, on the same platform. Not only did Flash's graphics not look ugly, simply more polygonal, it had huge sprawling environments where the player was completely free to go explore in any direction. Mandark's Lab has neither nice polygonal models, nor sprawling environments.
And yet I had some expectations for the game, at least from the simple fact of being able to walk around Dexter's house freely. Sadly, this is not fully utilised, as you can't access the kitchen at any point, and worst of all the game doesn't even feature Dexter's parents in any way, highlighting the true cash-in nature of the title. The game consists of a small series of mini-games (in total eight) you have to play through to win, while the overworld serves as a simple, bare bones corridor from one minigame to the next. And they couldn't even be bothered to actually think up eight distinct mini-games, so you have two nearly identical DDR segments, only differing thanks to the different CGI animation in the background. The first DDR segment (no I'm not going to make that pun) really shows just how little time was put into this game.
The mini-games in order are: Dee Dee's (DDR) Dance off, which plays as you'd expect; Cootie Call, which is a simplistic rail shooter where you spray 2D Cootie sprites; What's Buggin Dexter, which involves chasing after a computer bug and swatting it; Up N' Atom, which is a flying shooter); Dodge Ball, which is as uncreative as you'd expect; Soapbox Derby, a racing game; Molecular Mix off, also known as Dance Off version two; and Sub Zero Hero, which is basically shuffle puck. All of these are extremely basic, and the idea to re-use classic episodes as levels is poorly executed, with only two of them featuring. The Dodge Ball minigame doesn't even provide any kind of decent action, as you're glued in place and can only turn about 130 degrees in total.
The game itself can be beaten in about 30-40 minutes, including the cut-scenes, and outside of trying to beat your high score there isn't much point in replaying it ever again once you finish it. The irony is, instead of wasting money on this game, you'd have more enjoyment just watching a few of the older Dexter episodes on TV.