Liam’s Game Room #19 (Gex Enter The Gecko, Playstation)

Introduction

Gex Enter the Gecko is a 3D platformer developed and published by Crystal Dynamics in 1998 for the Playstation. The game is a sequel to the 1995 2D platform Gex, which was released for the Panasonic 3DO before getting a Playstation port. Gex as a character was intended to be a mascot character for the 3DO, very much like the way Sonic was the mascot for Sega and Nintendo has Mario as their mascot. However, Gex received mixed reviews and didn’t sell very well on the 3DO due to how expensive the console was and the limited support the console received.

Gex Enter the Gecko, also known as Gex 3D Enter the Gecko was developed and released during a very interesting time period in gaming history. During the late 1990 ‘s, with the home consoles available with the new console generation,.the Sega Saturn, The Nintendo 64 and the Sony PlayStation all being much more powerful machines compared to their previous counterparts, there is this drive by game developers and publishers to make 3D based games, rather than 2D games.

There are a few iconic 3D platformers that arose from this early 3D era, including Tomb Raider and Super Mario 64, however this mentality of making 3D games for the sake of 3D meant that there were some infamous games like Bubsy 3D, that make the.conversion from 2D to 3D poorly. The interesting thing also about this era of gaming was the fact that some of the best releases were in fact 2D games. Legendary titles such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Rayman (which will be reviewed very soon, but instead had very detailed 3D backgrounds. The 2D counterparts have aged much better than the 3D platformers because the early 3D platformers used polygons to create the 3D sprites.Gex Enter The Gecko 1.png

Story

The story of Gex Enter The Gecko begins immediately after Gex 1, which is that Rez who took over the Media Dimension has been defeated and Gex is sitting in front of his TV. Gex is addicted to watching TV to the point where he cannot tell the difference between one day and another and they mould together. He is also eating a lot of food and gaining weight and just being extremely lazy. He does this for over 2 years since he became very famous for defeating Rez and freeing TV from Rez’s tyranny.

The TV goes blank and flashes with Rez’s face, which Gex recognises as Rez and is asked by government members to go back into the Media Dimension and defeat Rez again. Gex has no interest in going back to the Media Dimension, so the government members take him away for negotiations. Gex receives a suitcase full of money to cover his expenses for defeating Rez again and is given a secret agent suit. After receiving both of these things, he agrees to go back to defeat Rez once again.

I will definitely say that the story is somewhat weak in the game because the game recycles the same story as the previous game in the series. The fact that Gex is able to negotiate with the government seemly extremely farfetched and unrealistic and it feels cliche and very much like the plot of a B Movie. The problem is because of these factors, it makes the game extremely difficult to take seriously, however the game doesn’t take itself at all seriously, which saves the story from being completely throwaway. The other thing is that due to the B Movie nature of the story, it makes the story completely forgettable and is just there to give the game some form of context.

Gameplay

Gex Enter The Gecko is a 3D platformer, which is split into 2 sections. The first section is a 3D overworld where the player can decide what level to play. The game is then split into 5 sections, which are locked by gates and require the player to either collect a set amount of remotes or defeat the boss of the area.  There are 3 types of remotes thats the player can collect from the levels with certain tiers of remotes being restricted to boss levels and bonus levels.

Gex Enter The Gecko 2.png

The red remotes are collected by completely specific missions within the level by selecting which remote the player wishes to do from the menu when the player steps on a button that leads to the level in question. Most levels have 2 or 3 missions that can be completed, although there are 2 or 3 levels that have only 1 red remote available. There are 2 silver remotes in each of the main levels and can be obtainable by either finding the secret silver remote or collecting 120 of the collectable within the level. The collectables can be found throughout the stage and can also be collected by defeating enemies. For every 3 silver remotes the player collects, a secret bonus level is unlocked. These secret bonus levels can be completed to obtain the highest tier of remote, the gold remote. These golden remotes are obtained by defeating the boss levels in each section and by completing the secret bonus levels. These gold remotes unlock final secret levels, which are required to be completed if the player wishes to beat the game 100%.

This choice of collecting everything or just the red remotes really adds a lot to the depth of the game, as well as offering players a choice of the play they want to play the game. It allows players who wish to just experience the game completely without having to search everywhere for the secret hidden silver remotes, but also allows players who like to complete games 100% a sizeable and a very good challenge.

Gex Enter The Gecko 4.png

The levels that the player will go to have a huge amount of variety in terms of different themes because each TV the player will go into will be themed upon a genre of television. Everything from Scream TV being themed around horror tropes, all the way to Circuit Central being themed around TV shows about what the future, to the Prehistoric Channel being themed around programmes normally seen on the Discovery Channel. Each level has its own unique theme and the levels are designed in such a way to represent the theme very well. Even the names of the levels are based upon this, but are funny because the names are based upon names of films and TV shows but slightly changed to avoid potential copyright problems. A couple of standout examples of this are Honey I Shrunk the Gecko, Thursday the 12th, Pangaea 90210 and No Weddings and a Funeral. These games are clever, but simple enough that anyone who grew up in the time era would get the reference, however modern players who didn’t grow up with the films and TV shows the level names are based upon maybe somewhat confused with the jokes.

Speaking of jokes, Gex talks a lot in this game and mainly makes references based upon the level type and sometimes are quotes which are said in all levels. Once again, this references are all 90’s based culture references and are different based upon which version of the game the player is playing. The UK version has famous voice actor Leslie Phillips and the US version has Dana Gould. The quotes that are mentioned in both of these versions are adapted for the specific region that the game was released in because there could have been confusion, especially with some of the British references and US references alike.

Gex Enter The Gecko 3.png

The graphics in this game stand up relatively well to the stand of time. The main thing of note is how the graphics and enemy design is based around the main theme of the level, which really adds a extra level of detail. The textures still look relatively good, although some of the wall and floor textures do look quite pixelated and can make some written text on walls difficult to read. However, the enemy sprites look clean and well defined, meaning that the player will know exactly what the enemy is, rather than the pixelation causing some potential issues. The fact that the game explores so many genres of TV and the graphics are designing in such a way to reflect this, makes each level feel like it’s own game.

The difficulty of the game is actually quite easy and accessible for players who are new to the platforming genre. There are some levels that are difficult and annoying, the main example being the outer space levels, where the player will need to find oxygen or Gex will run out of air. These levels can be annoying and can be difficult to complete, but overall the other levels and even the bosses are quite simple to figure out and complete. Gex Enter The Gecko 5.png

The only problem that I have had with the game is a problem with the field of view being quite narrow. Sometimes it is quite difficult to see what is ahead of the player, meaning if the player has to make a long jump to reach a distant platform, it can sometimes feel like a leap of faith. This low field of view means that platforms and sometimes enemies are not visible until the player has made a long jump and then collides with the enemy, causing Gex to sometimes be knocked back. This field of view issue can be attributed to the era and some other Playstation games do suffer from this issue, but in games like Tomb Raider the background doesn’t pop out of nowhere, it fades in and looks more natural.

Music and Sound Design

The music in Gex Enter the Gecko is fantastic and covers a wide range of different genres to meet the themes of the different levels. The music was composed by Kurt Harland, who this was his first video game project with Crystal Dynamics. After this game, he would go on to compose music for 2 Legacy of Kain games and for Crimson: Burning Skies. But, Harland is more well known for the amazing compositions in this game. There are no themes which either sound out of place or are weaker than any of the other themes. Each genre of music that is composed sounds fantastic and really shows the huge variety that Harland could compose for.

The sound design in Gex Enter The Gecko really reflects the B Movie nature of the game’s story but also Gex as a character, as he is whimsical and overconfident. The core of the sound effects is designed around cartoon style sound design, with the bounce of Gex tail sounding like it was straight from a Looney Tunes cartoon. When Gex uses this tail whip attack, there is a really heavy feel to the slap sound design, which accentuates the feeling and also the power of the attacks. There is a lot of sound design based upon tropes from the time, so in the Scream TV levels, the groans of the mummies sound hilarious and once again from a B Movie.

Conclusion

Gex Enter The Gecko is still an extremely fun game to play if you can look over the dated references and also the issues with the field of view. The level variety is really impressive and something that I haven’t seen very often in platforming games. The graphics of this game have held up relatively well apart from some of the textures looking somewhat pixelated. The audio department of the game is also really solid, offering a soundtrack with a huge amount of memorable themes. The game also has a good amount of length, with my playthroughs lasting somewhere between 6-8 hours, which for a platformer of this era is very impressive.

Definitely worth playing either for nostalgic 90’s dated references or for a fun and not at all serious platformer.

9/10

Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use

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