Gex
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developers:
    • Crystal Dynamics (3DO/PC)
    • Beam Software (PS1/SAT)
  • Publishers:
    • BMG Interactive (3DO)
    • US Crystal Dynamics (PS1/SAT)
    • JP BMG Interactive (PS1/SAT)
    • US Eidos (PC)
    • UK Ubisoft (PC)
  • Released:
    3DO
    • US 11/16/1994
    • UK 1994
    • JP 07/14/1995
    PS1
    • US 12/13/1995
    • JP 03/08/1996
    • UK April 1996
    SAT
    • JP 03/29/1996
    • US 1996
    • UK 1996
    PC
    • US 11/07/1996
    • UK 1997
Score: 65%

This review was published on 05/01/2012.

Gex is a 2-D, side scrolling platform game originally released for the 3DO and later ported to other consoles like the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. The protagonist of Gex is, well, Gex. He's a gecko with an attitude. No, this particular gecko doesn't sell car insurance. Gex instead prefers to rely on referential humor, often quoting other games and movies. This was the defining aspect of his character. Gex was the 3DO's mascot, but future games in the series were released on other consoles due to the 3DO's low popularity. Gex is perhaps one of the first 32-bit platform games ever made, so two big selling points were the enhanced visuals and the improved audio quality. There's also full motion video, or FMV for short, which was a big deal back then. The increased fidelity in the audio department allowed them to give Gex plenty of voice clips to demonstrate his spunkiness. Gex is very much a product of the 1990s, and embodies the less desirable traits of the time.

Image

The story starts off with an FMV sequence showing Gex about to watch television in his mansion. Gex eats a mysterious fly that does something or other, and then the evil villain pulls Gex into the television. That doesn't explain a whole lot, does it? Well, for the full story, you'd have to consult with the game manual. Lucky for you, I know of its contents. According to the manual, Gex lived in Hawaii with his mom, dad, and siblings. His dad worked at NASA and died a horrible death in an accident. Now we know why NASA no longer employs geckos. Gex fell into a deep depression and spent all his time watching television in complete isolation. The little lizard's mother decided to move to California to see if a change of scenery would help them forget about the tragedy, but Gex continued in his behavior. The manual points out that the lizard family was surrounded by white supremacists. Mom did what she thought was best for her son and gave the TV away. Gex wasn't too pleased by this and ran away from home, becoming a bum on the streets. After a few months of living the life of a homeless gecko, Gex met with his mom again to find out that a rich uncle of his died, leaving his family an immense fortune. Gex celebrates this by purchasing a mansion with a miniature entertainment center and watches television in complete isolation... again. What a wonderful moral to teach kids. That's the story in a nutshell. It's quite a long-winded, depressing plot for a standard platform game. I get the feeling that the writers were just trying to fill pages in the manual in an effort to make it longer. It's to this game's credit that it decided to omit almost all of that.

Image

Gex can attack enemies with a tail whip, he can shoot out his tongue like Yoshi to eat power-ups, and he is able to smash objects below him if down is held on the directional pad. That makes him a platform hero with a decent amount of things to do, but there's more. What separates Gex from other conventional platform games is that the reptilian hero can climb on walls and ceilings. It's even possible to climb walls in the background, which is put to good use. This is the best thing about the game. The power-ups Gex can swallow are the same old stuff seen in other platform games: health restoration, temporary health extension, temporary invincibility, temporary use of projectiles, and various other temporary things. The controls to Gex are a little sloppy, but they get the job done. In particular, Gex's tendency to stick to walls can become bothersome in some areas. The amazing Spider-Man ability is a double edged sword. You know how the saying goes: with great power comes great responsibility. Gex can also swim, surprisingly, answering the eternal question of whether geckos can swim. The answer is yes, but only if they're fictional. The problem is that Gex's swimming mechanics are a little awkward. It's more like jumping repeatedly underwater than actual swimming. At least it works, I suppose.

Image

The very first world in the game is a haunted cemetery. That seems like an odd choice for the game's introductory world. It's dark, gloomy, and boring. They should have saved this world for later in the game, or not included it at all. I'm not against these kinds of themes, but this isn't a good way to introduce new players to the game. The second world does a much better job of doing that, and should have appeared first. It's a cartoon themed world with plenty of bright colors and playful enemy designs. This second world makes good use of Gex's climbing mechanic, so it's also better in a game play sense. It's too bad that the cemetery world is so long, because it's one of the worst looking worlds in the game. While the graphics do get more presentable in future worlds, this game has a problem with bland backgrounds. Sometimes the backgrounds look great, but sometimes the backgrounds are disgustingly basic, like the checkered board patterns in world two. I've noticed that the backgrounds are blander during indoor areas than outdoor ones, although there are times when even the outdoor areas are surprisingly vapid.

Image

There's a Mario styled map for each world with levels represented by television sets. The objective in each level is to collect TV remote controls and reach the exit safely. These remotes let you unlock new levels on their respective maps and occasionally let you access other world maps. What sucks about this is the potential to miss a remote and not have enough of them to unlock the next level or world. There's only one way to remedy that situation, and it involves you revisiting previous levels to play them all over again. It doesn't help that these levels are long, so going back to get what you missed is no picnic. Granted, the remotes are hard to miss, but you'll feel excruciating boredom if you do miss one. The bonus areas, on the other hand, are extremely easy to miss. These bonus stages earn you remotes to unlock levels in a secret world if you complete them successfully. Finding these bonus stages requires meticulous searching of the environment, and completing them successfully can be another challenge within itself. If you can handle the boredom of revisiting stages, then maybe you should try accomplishing this daunting task. I wouldn't recommend it.

Image

Gex's movie quotes and referential humor ranges from clever to corny. Whether or not you enjoy his banter, it can't be denied that it gets repetitious after a while. I mean that literally, because he says the same handful of lines over and over. Gex will say different things depending on the situation and place he's in, but he always runs out of things to say and starts to repeat himself. This quickly becomes irritating. It's possible to turn off his voice in the options menu, so you may want to look into that. Gex's voice is one of this game's main selling points, though, so if you don't like it, then maybe this isn't the game for you. The one redeeming factor is that his quips do spice up what otherwise would have been a bland experience, although not always in a good way. If you actually enjoy the barrage of movie quotes and cartoon references, then rest assured that you'll be getting a lot of them.

Image

If you're playing the PlayStation version of the game, then that means you can't save to a memory card. That's pretty inconvenient, though not too unusual for early PS1 titles. The game uses a password system in substitution of saving. This in itself isn't too bad, but you're required to find a VHS tape hidden in select levels on a per world basis or beat a boss in order to get a password. That makes the game the opposite of pick-up-and-play, because you can't quit the game until you find a VHS tape or beat a boss, which can take a good while. When sitting down to play Gex, you better make sure you have lots of time to invest into it. Looking at the bright side of things, you can always cheat by looking up passwords online. That's something, right? The 3DO apparently let you save your game, but it still required you to find those VHS tapes or beat a boss, so it's not much better.

Image

Gex showed potential, but ultimately comes up short. It's one of the blandest mascot platform games out there. The reptile's witty retorts and Spider-Man abilities aren't enough to save this game from the depths of mediocrity. Unless you're nostalgic for bland 1990s platform games, you should steer clear of Gex.

Word Count: 1,524

Tweet