Gex: Enter The Gecko (PSOne)

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Look past the painful attempts to make Gex a gecko with ‘attitude’ though, and this is a platformer that’s still worth a look. ~Simon Reed

Gex: Enter The Gecko

I recall in my revisit of  Gex: Enter the Gecko on the Gameboy Color that the titular lizard had precious opportunity to make his abrasive personality come across – and how that was a real blessing. Sadly, in ‘Gex,’ the game in which the gecko was first introduced to the world, he manages to give you a very good idea of his ‘persona and you know what I find even more annoying than Gex himself? The game underneath is actually not half bad – but it’s overshadowed by the green ones constant chatter.

Gex - PSOne

Set up like an old school platformer, Gex sees you travelling around small hubs, each one focusing on a specific location – such as a horror world and a kung-fu universe. So far, so unoriginal. Of course, the game originally came out on 3DO in 1994, so perhaps these old fashioned sensibilities are to be expected. In each stage you have to recover a remote (or two) which then allow you to access new levels. Fortunately each remote can usually be found fairly easily, and are placed in clear view when you’re working your way through a level.

Gex - PSOne

Stages tend to feel a little open, although in actuality they’re quite linear. Gex has an ability to stick to walls you see, and this can make you easily go up, down as well as left and right. Further variety comes about through power ups, which you can either whack with your tail to add to your health bar or eat (by using your extendable tongue) to access short term abilities, such as fireball breath or a super jump. Despite these interesting gameplay mechanics however, the game itself can occasionally feel a little generic – but some credit must go to developer Crystal Dynamics that the game remains playable throughout. Controls are solid, and there are rarely any moments where the game feels broken or unfair.

Gex - PSOne

The only truly annoying design aspect is the password system – which requires you to collect a tape in every other level (and they’re usually hidden away) or beat an end of world boss. Whether the game is worth playing thought, simply comes down to whether you can stand Gex himself.  His wisecracks are just about acceptable – the first time your hear them. They’re repeated so much that they end up getting more than a little irksome though, and he seems to have to comment on something nearly every five seconds. Look past the painful attempts to make Gex a gecko with ‘attitude’ though, and this is a platformer that’s still worth a look.

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Gex: Enter The Gecko (GBC)

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Gex: Enter The Gecko

Yep, there’s a reason why you don’t see ol’ Gexy around anymore. Smart ass characters can work if the game’s any cop – but if not, a title has usually got one step in the forgotten gaming crypt before it has even been played. Gex: Enter The Gecko on GBC is an example of one of those, even though the titular hero has thankfully little opportunity to get his annoying personality across very well in this portable outing. The gameplay does more than enough to annoy you as it is. Expectations shouldn’t be set too high for a handheld version of a home console game that was pretty poor to begin with, but even so the game does little to make any kind of impression.

Gex - Enter The Gecko

Most noticeable is that the game uses ‘B’ to progress through menus and jump, which goes against the unwritten rule that ‘A’ is the main button. The fact that this is one of the most noticeable elements of the game does not bode well. Actually, the controls are generally rubbish (walk more than a few consecutive steps and the green one breaks into a run) and level design is of a labyrinth rather than linear nature, which helps brew up a sense of confusion after playing only for a few minutes. A lack of map doesn’t help either.

Gex - Enter The Gecko

Overall, this is a poorly designed game – the fact it’s a retro title is no excuse. This title signaled the end of Gex and his tail whipping antics, and I very much doubt many will be saddened by that fact. Gex, and this game, are best left forgotten.

Top Five 3DO Games

Top Five 3DO Games

The poor old 3DO was hardly a run away success, was it? It was released during a difficult period. Change was coming, but not quite ready to be embraced by the gaming public. The fact that it cost as much as a car didn’t help matters either, of course! Consequently it doesn’t have the biggest of software libraries. With this in mind, instead of doing a genre-based Top Five for some of its games, I have little choice but to simply select the five best games on the system from all genres. Behold:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Return Fire (1995)

Return Fire

Released somewhat belatedly as a sequel to the popular Amiga strategy shooter, Fire Power, this fiendishly addictive game was among the best the 3DO could offer for two-player thrills. The move from Fire Power’s overhead viewpoint to a slightly angled 3D perspective was slight but Return Fire looks a lot prettier, and it retained and expanded upon its prequel’s enemy-flag-capturing fun. There are four vehicles you can employ to capture your enemy’s flag – tank, jeep, helicopter, and an armoured missile launcher – and each is accompanied by it’s own classical music! There are a good few stages, or ‘maps’, to battle through here, but the game was also later supplemented by a ‘data disc’ called Maps O’ Death which contained 100 new stages too. Return Fire is good fun for the solo-gamer, and I’ve spent a lot of time playing it by myself, but it was always intended as a two-player game, and in this capacity it’s one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played.

4. Gex (1994)

Gex

Poor old Crystal Dynamics. They clearly put a lot of effort into this game but it went virtually ignored by most gamers who were presumably awaiting all the ‘next generation’ games they’d been promised. I suppose most weren’t really looking for yet another 2D platformer after the deluge the MD and SNES received, but if they’d actually played Gex, they’d have discovered a superb game. Starring Gex, a lazy, television-obsessed Gecko who gets sucked into his TV, the game consists of five TV-themed levels, each split into several stages, through which Gex must travel before he can defeat Rez (no, not the Dreamcast game) and escape. Featuring sumptuous, varied graphics, some great music (although the frequent quips uttered by Gex can soon grate), a huge game world, and a perfect difficulty curve, Gex really is one of the most enjoyable 2D platformers around. Forget the fact that there’s no FMV or polygons and give it a go!

3. The Need For Speed (1994)

Need For Speed

There’s a good chance that around 9 out of 10 gamers have played at least one of the Need For Speed games, but how many know that the series started here on the 3DO? Not only that, but many fans still consider this the best game to bear the name too! Most of the many NFS games have been unrealistic, arcade-style games, but this original was designed to be as realistic as possible right down to the vehicles sounds and dashboards, and it worked too. Rarely has a driving game made it so enjoyable to simply drive. Nevermind the racing, the admittedly superb crashes, or anything else, cruising along the coast in a Supra or Ferrari, or any of the other real cars depicted here is a hypnotic experience. The Saturn and PlayStation conversions added more courses and a two-player mode amongst other things, but never has the series matched the enjoyment of the driving in this original.

2. Star Fighter (1996)

Starfighter

The previous three games, whilst all going on to appear on other systems, all debuted on the 3DO. This game did not, but it’s by far the best version of it. Converted to the 3DO after first appearing on the Acorn Archimedes of all systems, it was subsequently ported to the Saturn and PlayStation, but both these versions are horrifying, which is a mystery considering their superior power. So, this version remains the best, and what a game it is! It was my first experience of a free-roaming, 3D game world and still one of my favourites. Set on a variety of planets, and even in space, it’s a mission-based strategic shooter which sees you up against a sizable enemy military, largely on your own! Yes, it looks a bit ropey today, but it’s a game with enormous scope and creativity, not to mention a fantastic soundtrack, which I still love to play today. Just make sure you avoid discovering the atmosphere-destroying story!

1. Star Control 2 (1994)

Star Control 2

The winnah! Could it be anything else? Anyone who knows me would be expecting this – not only is it my favourite 3DO game, but my favourite videogame of all-time! It doesn’t look like much from screenshots, nor from watching someone play it, but this epic space-exploration adventure drew me into its world, captivated me, kept me playing, like nothing else ever had, and it continues to do so. The story really is enthralling, with details revealed, clues released, little by little as you play through the game. With a huge game universe to explore featuring 25+ races, each with their own territory, mannerisms, and hours of speech, this is a game that literally lasts for years. And that’s before you’ve even tried the Super Melee, two-player battle mode! A stunning game that still enjoys a strong following, and it’s free to download now too!

So, that’s my personal 3DO Top Five. It was hard to leave out some other great games such as Road Rash and Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (the best versions of both games in my opinion), but the games I did select are not only superb, but also mostly not so well-known. If you agree or disagree with the list, let me know!