Game of the Week (1/1/18) – Gex

Mascots are kind of important for a fledgling gaming console. Or at least they were in the 1990s (see Nintendo, Mario; Sega, Sonic and Bonk, NEC). Gex was likely supposed to be the face of the 3DO gaming console when it was released in late 1993 but the Crystal Dynamics developed game was delayed. The character of Gex is that of wise cracking, TV addicted gecko with an attitude. Perfect for garnering attention in the “more attitude the better” 90s marketing culture. Unfortunately by the time Gex was finally released in 1995 and ultimately included as the pack-in with the more economical versions of the 3DO console, it was too late. 3DO was no longer the “next big thing”. Both the Sega Saturn and more importantly, Sony PlayStation were released the same year and 3DO never had a chance to compete. Gex was eventually ported to those other two disc based 32-bit consoles, but many consider the 3DO original the best. I haven’t played Gex on any other console so I can’t offer an opinion on this matter, but I can offer my opinion of the game that I do own.

Gex is a 2D sidescrolling platform adventure that pits Gex against the evil Rez in a alternate media dimension. Rez has sucked Gex into his TV during a particular unfortunate evening snack and binge watch session (I’m not certain why). Gex must traverse this cyber-media dimension and find remotes that allow him to turn on televisions in each world and ultimately fight his way to the final battle against Rez. Gex can run, jump, collect items or use his tongue to catch power ups and whip his tail to defeat enemies. Enemies can also be defeated using a tail spin jump attack from above or destroyed using one of the various power ups Gex ingests (fire, ice, etc). The level design includes 4 worlds all with differing themes, enemies and music before unlocking the final world. The overworld screen includes a map that is somewhat similar to Super Mario World’s overworld set up where Gex can sort of approach levels in a non-linear fashion. After 5 total worlds with multiple sub-levels and mini bosses within, Gex meets Rez in the final battle. Sounds like standard platforming fare and in many ways it is. Trust me, that’s not a bad thing with Gex.

The number of things that Gex gets right, is quite impressive. Out of the gate, after a short animated FMV scene to set the game’s plot, the graphics immediately impress. They are clear, colorful and Gex, who is a pre-rendered sprite and moves very fluidly. There is a bit of paralax scrolling and Gex comes forward towards you on screen when he loses a life.

A successful and effective platformer must have excellent controls and for the most part, Gex delivers. All 3 buttons on the 3DO controller are used in the game (tongue lash, jump, tail whip) and the left shoulder button, when held down, makes Gex run fast for those longer jumps that are sometimes needed. One of the coolest features is Gex’s ability to cling to walls, ceilings, and in some cases, even the backgrounds of the levels, that really opens the game up beyond just a run, jump move to the right that a typical platform game offers. This is all part of an effective technique used to distinguish platform mascots/heroes from each other. Mario could use his feather to float in the air. Sonic could run really fast and spin through walls. Bonk could use his powerful jaws to grab onto cliffs and climb. Gex’s claim to fame is his sticky feet and wall clinging ability. I really like this aspect of the game and it gives Gex that special something that is needed to stand out as an exceptional game.

Gex’s voice, by comic Dana Gould, is amusing at first but after awhile he cycles through the same half dozen or so phrases during each level and by the 10th time hearing them, they lose a bit of their charm. This was 90s CD technology and Crystal Dynamics wanted to show what a game on CD could do, besides taking a long time to load. In all, the cheesy voice acting is a small gripe for what is an otherwise stellar title. Gex is a must own for any 2D platform fan and owner of a 3DO.

Rating: A

Currently in my collection: game, manual

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