Dexter's Laboratory Security Alert! offers a fun mixture of action and problem solving. With graphics that capture the cartoon's look and feel and varied level designs that present a variety of challenges, it overcomes some flaws with gameplay to become more engaging as you progress through the game.
In Dexter's Laboratory, you take the role of boy genius Dexter. Your rival in science, Mandark, has taken over your laboratory. You must use bubblegum bombs to blast apart walls, destroy robots, and eventually defeat Mandark to reclaim control of the lab. The basic gameplay and controls are simple: You use the D pad, or your phone's number pad, to maneuver through the lab and the "5" key to place bubblegum bombs. After about 10 seconds, your bomb detonates and destroys any enemies or brick walls that are adjacent to it--along the lines of the classic Bomberman model. Using these bombs, you must create a safe path through each level to the exit. Along the way, you can uncover power-ups and a key card that is needed to open the exit door beneath the brick walls you destroy. Power-ups increase your speed, grant your bombs a greater blast radius, allow you to place more than one bomb at a time, and reward you with extra lives.
On the surface, the gameplay sounds trivial. The first few dull levels support this conclusion, but as the game progresses the levels become increasingly difficult. You might face a situation where destroying a brick wall gives a robot a clear path toward you. Since the robots follow somewhat predictable routes, you must time a bomb's detonation so that the robot moves away from you as the wall disappears. You can then place a second bomb to destroy the robot. Since your bombs can also hurt you, you need to run for cover, wait for the first bomb to explode, and dash back to place the second, robot-destroying bomb, all while your robotic opponent bears down upon you. At its best, Dexter's Laboratory requires good planning and precise reflexes.
Many of the levels have a unique challenge. For example, you might have to destroy a giant cannon that launches bombs across the screen, all while handling the usual assortment of robots. Other levels offer a twisting maze, a series of teleporters that send you to tiny, cramped, robot-infested rooms, and a single, gigantic room with few places to hide and hordes of robots. These variations make Dexter's Laboratory into a combination puzzle/action game, as each level requires a different strategy. You must carefully plan your moves, as a misplaced bomb might catch you in its blast or leave you in a robot's clutches.
Despite these strengths, Dexter's Laboratory has two weaknesses. Everything in the game, from your character to the robotic opponents, moves slowly. The grinding pace is useful when you must dash into a passage, place a bomb, and run away from a robot, but it can grow boring when you must blast your way through a thick wall in search of the hidden key. Luckily, one of the power-ups increases your speed.
The boss battles against Mandark are disappointing. Mandark races around the board, placing bombs to blast you into smithereens. You must dodge his explosions while setting bombs of your own to defeat him. While this may sound fun, in practice Mandark tends to catch himself in his own blasts. He moves far too quickly to catch him with your explosions. Since you cannot move through a bomb once you have placed it, you might end up trapping yourself as you try to chase him down. However, if you find a safe corner of a level and dodge his attacks, eventually poor Mandark's limited artificial intelligence blows him up with his own bombs. With the engaging challenge the normal levels offer, the boss battles suffer by comparison.
Dexter's Laboratory's great graphics capture the spirit, tone, and feel of the cartoon series. The robots have a retro look, and characters taken from the TV show are well drawn. While the levels are built from a limited set of features, they are colorful, detailed, and appealing, as befits a game based on a cartoon. The game's sound is limited to a single tune that plays over and over again. The bombs, robots, and characters have no special sound effects.
Dexter's Laboratory is a fun game if you can look past its dull early levels and a few flaws. It requires an investment of time and effort, but in the long run it pays that off with fun gameplay and well-designed levels.