Gex 2 and 3

 

It seems like any given year and any given console generation there’s always one specific genre that dominates the marketplace, there’s always invariably some super successful game that comes along and shakes things up and then tons of imitators try to replicate the success until eventually it becomes so over saturated that things die down and it’s on to the next big thing

For this generation it’s without a doubt First Person Shooters and these days specifically it’s games trying to replicate the success of the Call of Duty series (remember when that series was just a humble WW2 shooter and not the beast it later became?)

It’s hard to pick one specific genre in the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox generation that dominated, but I would say probably Grand Theft Auto knockoffs, games like Driver 3, The Getaway and True Crime (which ironically was going to get another sequel that was canceled by Activision, the publisher of the Call of Duty series) all tried to get a slice of that GTA pie (which these days, not counting any other Rockstar games or Saints Row, how many games do you see trying to be like Grand Theft Auto?)

But for the PS1/N64 generation there can be no doubt what was the dominant genre, Platformers (specifically 3D ones in this case), good Lord were there so many Platformers back then, it seems like literally every other game was a Platformer, you could not swing a dead cat without hitting a few Platformer mascots with lots of ‘tude, even the Tomb Raider games were basically Platformers where you played as a hot woman with big tits instead of a cute anthropomorphic animal, Super Mario 64 opened the floodgates and the genre dominated from about 1996 onward and breathed it’s final breath in 2005 with the release of Psychonauts (which even though Grand Theft Auto 3 revolutionized mature rated games, people forget that there were still plenty of Platformers in the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox generation, there were so many in fact in 2002 that it was dubbed by many gaming magazines the “year of the Platformer”)

These days the Platformer genre is completely dead, the only exceptions are the Mario games on the Wii, cheap shovelware platformers on the Wii and Platformers made by Indie devs (but those are all 2D, maybe one day those hipper than thou Indie devs will upgrade to 3D)

But back in the days when the Platformer genre dominated it was very easy for a good game to get lost in the shuffle, to get overlooked because it looked too similar to too many other “me too” games, which finally brings me to the subject of this review, the Gex series

I want you to journey back in time with me, back to a mystical era known as the “late 90’s”, it was a strange time, most people did not have cellphones, the only place you could surf the net was at home or libraries (if you even had a computer) and Titanic was the highest grossing movie of all time

It was in this era that in 1998 and 1999 two games were released, Gex 2 Enter The Gecko and Gex 3 Deep Cover Gecko, both developed by Crystal Dynamics

I’ve never played the original, but Gex 2 was the first game in the series I played on the PS1, no too long after the third game came out and I played it

The Gex games follow Gex the Gecko, he’s a wisecracking guy (voiced by comedian Dana Gould, who is a frequent guest on Real Time With Bill Maher) who loves television and becomes a secret agent tasked with taking down a mysterious villain (seriously, what was the deal with that guy?) named Rez who wants to take over the “Media Dimension”, what this basically means is that Gex has to enter a bunch of “TV Channels” that are spoofs of specific genres and collect “remotes” in each level (think like the multiple Stars in each level of Mario 64), I think a lot of people misinterpreted Gex as trying to a ‘tude filled character like Sonic, but he’s more of a wiseass and the games in general are very spoofy and geared towards a slightly older audience than most Platformers, it may seem quaint today, but the humor and wiseass nature of the games was pretty unique at the time

As soon as I started Gex 2, I had a flashback to third grade, I haven’t played Gex 2 since 1999 and I think this is the longest time I’ve gone before replaying a game (about 12 years), there I was back in Mrs. Hill’s classroom, I had an unrequited crush on a pretty blond girl named Victoria (*sigh*) and I had just gotten a Playstation 1 for Christmas, it was my best friend who suggest I check out Gex 2 and I did, I was pleasantly surprised to find a game that I liked so much and I was a bit obsessed with it for a while

However after the initial nostalgia shock of playing a game after so many years wore off, I started to notice the problems of Gex 2, unfortunately Gex 2 is not a game that has aged well or stands the test of time

Basically there are three major problems with the game, the first is that the camera sucks, of course this was a problem that a lot of 3D games from that era had and it was really only solved after the invention of two analog sticks, but Gex 2 also has a lot of levels that are basically “floating islands” over a bottomless pit and if you fall (unless you find a rare checkpoint) you have to go back at the start and the camera never helps

second is that the levels repeat themselves too much, there are only a handful of themes (horror, kung fu, cartoons, science fiction, prehistoric and outer space) and each theme has at least two levels that are just variations, now some of these levels are different enough that it’s not too annoying (like the two prehistoric levels), but other are basically the same level just with a remixed design, it gets old fast when you’re playing yet another outer space or horror level

Third is that most of the levels are not very well designed, it’s easy to get lost and you have no idea where to go to complete specific objectives (the objectives that require you to find several objects throughout the level are annoying as hell)

Lastly the game is very short, I beat it in a single night, it was still fun playing it just for the trip down memory lane, but I was disappointed to find that the game was mostly frustrating and the legitimately fun levels were few, if you’ve never played Gex 2 Enter The Gecko before, then don’t bother, the only reason to revisit it is purely for the nostalgia

Well that brings me to Gex 3 and I’m very happy to say that this one holds up a lot better

Literally every single thing about Gex 3 is improved from Gex 2, the graphics are better for one (and for a PS1 game very good) and the camera is improved (though still a bit annoying by today’s standards)

The levels no longer repeat themes, instead every level has a unique theme and the genres they spoof are a little more creative, the level design is also much, much better, not only are the levels more forgiving, but it’s a lot harder to get lost and you usually have a clear idea of where you need to go to complete specific objectives, even the Hub world is improved, the Hub in Gex 2 was small and boring, the Hub in Gex 3 is pretty large and more like an actual level itself (it also has some cool secrets)

The humor and writing is better, one of the things that sets the Gex games apart is that Gex makes wisecrack comments during the levels (almost a bit like Mystery Science Theater) and there weren’t very many in Gex 2, but in Gex he says a lot more and they’re related to the levels he’s in more, a lot of people found his comments annoying but I always found them funny in the third game, it’s especially fun playing the game as an adult and picking up on references that you missed when playing as a kid (like Gex making fun of singer Morrissey)

So I’m happy to say that if you’re in the mood for an old school style Platformer, Gex 3 is still worth playing even if you’ve never played it before, it’s only slightly longer than Gex 2, but that’s ok

So that was it for Gex, they never made a 4th game unfortunately, supposedly they were working on a 4th game for the PS2 but it was canceled, I can’t help but wish the 4th game wasn’t canceled or that Gex would get a reboot, but maybe Gex 3 took the series as far as it could go, it’s nice that it ended on a high note

Still it would be cool to see Gex resurrected as maybe a PSN/XBLA title (think like Crystal Dynamics’ Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light), but that’s probably pretty unlikely, oh well…

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2 Responses to “Gex 2 and 3”

  1. Ah yes, Gex, I remember that guy. Which game was the one with the war themed level, where he said stuff like “war is cool” while circus music plays in the background? This one caused a minor uproar here in Germany, when it came out, but I guess a new MORTAL KOMBAT came out or something like that and nobody cared anymore.

  2. hey there CJ, that was Gex 3

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