Nothing warms the heart of this gamer like a great 3D game. Still, I do not feel a game should be judged for its dimensions, but rather its core design. If it is fun, engaging, and just so happens to be in 2D, great! Yet more and more of the classic sprite-based characters are being forced into the third dimension, whether it makes for a better game or not. The result is a parade of me-too titles that look alike, act alike, and lack the artistic touch that distinguished them from other offerings.
Enter a green gecko, stage right.
The original game, released first on the 3DO, was a terrific, satirical romp. It starred a fast-talking, tail-cracking Gex, who was out to stop his arch nemesis, Rez, from conquering the Media Dimension. Comedian Dana Gould imbued the proceedings with a superb, comic edge, and the game itself made a unique mark through its suction-cupped hero, who could scramble up walls and across ceilings. Much of the impact was lost in the PC port due to washed-out graphics and troublesome controls, but the 3DO rendition was an unqualified winner.
The pungent witticisms were the highlight of the first game, and the same can be said of the sequel. Yet that is where the comparisons end. Sure, Gould is back lampooning
pop-culture and the American media, and our hero returns in all his tongue-lashing grandeur, but the remainder of the fun is gone. In its place are sub-par 3D graphics, mediocre maps, and a stubborn third-person camera that all but ruins the game.
That is too bad, because the opening cinema is ripe with promise. Having defeated Rez, our hero goes on a much-needed furlough. For months, the gecko vegetates in front of his television, watching one episode of Kung Fu theatre after another, and piling emptied Chinese take-out containers in the corner. This utopian life is interrupted when Federal agents whisk him back into the Media Dimension to battle a rejuvenated Rez, who once again has his sites set on TV Land. Considering the calibre of most television shows, this would not be one of modern times' greatest tragedies. Nonetheless, there are maps to prospect and baddies to beat, and Gex is up to the task.
Like other 3D games, this title bills itself as a 360-degree, free-roaming game. I am not sure those terms hold much special meaning at this point, but the suction-cupped hero does continue the tradition of climbing up walls and across ceilings. Unfortunately, this wears off fast, since it is not used to full effect. Other actions include the popular tongue-lashing, mid-air karate kicks, and super-high tail jumps. In addition, there are glowing green spheres that enable him to perform special actions, such as mega-jumps, and flies that confer special powers, such as an ice mode and a fire mode.
The basics of control are uncomplicated, and the enemies are just as simple to defeat. For most creatures, a solid tail-whack or three does the job, though defeating the four bosses is a bit more complicated. Still, most of the monsters are rather wimpish, and fail to generate much of a pulse. There is a huge assortment of standard grunts, all based on the themes, but the modellers took such a minimalist design approach, the thrill of battling tons of different creatures is just not there.
The game is structured like similar titles. There is a world map, known as the Media Dimension, that offers access to smaller, theme-based maps. The smaller maps contain a certain number of red remotes. To get the remotes, gamers must perform specific tasks, such as tail-whacking a particular opponent or item, or reaching a pre-defined location. Once enough red remotes are found, a boss map becomes accessible; defeat the boss, and additional parts of the Media Dimension open up. There are secret areas, bonus maps, and lots of theme-based goodies to collect, but little of the game feels unique or fresh.
The maps do contain potential, but in the end the themes percolate into nothingness. For example, Out of Toon sees our hero change into a rabbit in order to smack down a couple of Elmer Fudds. The entire map attempts to simulate the look and feel of those great old cartoons, including the teetering desert rocks, but so little of it can be appreciated because the camera refuses to cooperate, and the map fails to generate much genuine humour from the concept. The entire game is like this -- the ideas are there, but the execution falls short. This is disposable entertainment in its purest form.