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Gex 64: Enter the Gecko

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Reviewed by Raymond Almeda At first glance, one might expect Gex 64: Enter the Gecko to deliver a stellar 3D-platform experience comparable to N64 classics like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie. Then, at second glance, one might play the game. For some of us, there would be no third glance. Gex: Enter the Gecko is a 3D platformer that stars a character made popular on 3DO a few years ago. Remember 3DO? It was the 'next generation' gaming machine that somehow managed to get everything wrong: pricing, software, distribution, etc. Its existence placed nary a blip on the radar screens of Nintendo, Sega, or (then gameless) Sony. When it crashed and died a violent death (losing some $100 million in the process), only a few lucky creatures survived. These resilient animals included Trip Hawkins, and Gex the Gecko. Now, I'm as open to the idea of a wisecracking gecko as I am to the idea of a bear/bird duo, or a flying fat Italian plumber. Gex's schtick is a zany sense of humor. He's not just a gecko, he's a wisecracking gecko. HBO comedian Dana Gould has the honor of delivering Gex's lines. These are timeless classics, like: "I feel like I'm trapped in Boy George's pants." Or who can forget: "Never take career advice from Joe Piscopo." (Note to self: Never take career advice from Dana Gould.) The wisecracks are moderately entertaining at first. Then you notice that the same lines are being delivered repeatedly, regardless of the particular situation Gex is facing. After you've heard these lines 50 times on a particular level, you are ready to tape Gex's mouth shut. The basic gameplay of Gex is familiar to all gamers by now. Gamer takes control of beloved animal-themed character. Player maneuvers beloved animal- themed characters through a variety of 3D environments. Beloved animal-themed character possesses exemplary jumping ability, as well as unique attacking skills. Player accomplishes a variety of routine tasks, en route to successfully completing the game. Gex himself is blessed with a number of gecko-specific abilities. One of the cooler techniques concerns walking on walls; Gex is able to walk up the side of certain walls (but not too many). Gex is also able to attack other creatures with his tail, as well as with his tongue. This is all fine and dandy. A reasonable amount of creative energy was expended in creating the various Gex 3D environments. Each world draws inspiration from some memorable bit of TV pop culture. For example, in the "Rabbit Hunting" level, Gex jumps into a hole and emerges in a pink bunny rabbit suit. There are numerous Elmer Fudds lurking about with loaded shotguns. Again, this is an interesting idea, but the implementation just falls short. Gex 64 feels like a somewhat sloppy port of the PC/PSX game of the same name. Instead of the crystal clear levels with outstanding depth of vision we saw in Banjo-Kazooie, Gex employs a lot of artificial fogging. Every level looks foggy; it's impossible to see from one end of the level to the other. This makes navigating the environments a bit confusing. Further, Gex is hindered by a few nagging control problems. Control of the gecko feels a bit loose; it is overly difficult to perform some maneuvers due to the sloppy control. The level design is unremarkable. Specific objectives are often simple and obvious (ie. locate the five purple flowers, and destroy them). There's not really a cohesive narrative behind most of these 'missions.' Gex just does what he is told. Ultimately, Gex: Enter the Gecko emerges as a second tier N64 platformer. While superior to first-generation fare like Chameleon Twist (which looks rather pathetic in retrospect), Gex falls far short of the standards set by Banjo and Mario. Don't turn to Gex until you have experienced those games, and even then, turn with caution.

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