July 16, 2009Gex, originally for the 3do, is a side scrolling masterpiece full of television-culture satire and humor. Set in five different genres of television and movies, Gex must wander through each level and each world seeking out TV remotes to allow him to advance to the next stage.
Where Gex truly shines is in it’s criticism of our boob tube culture and the early nineties lack of overall concern for much outside our own personal bubbles. Every reference, bad guy, boss, stage, and map are taken from an old TV show, Movie, or sound bite and spun in a way that satarizes and illuminates. Were it not for these little bits of irony and insight, Gex would simply be just another side scroller.
Gex gets sucked into the TV by Rez, the evil ruler of this digital world and is forced to play though Rez’s choice of bad movies and television shows. Just as many fat kids become funny to combat their awkward situation, Gex constantly cracks jokes and makes timely impersonations while playing through the various levels. Although he can tend to repeat himself here and there, the quips and quotes really help to differentiate this game from any other.
Since the days of The Legend of Zelda, secrets have always been a treasured aspect in video games. Gex does not disappoint in this category. Hidden throughout each world is a secret portal that gives the player the option to complete a challenge for extra lives. If a high enough percentage is completed in each bonus level, the player is rewarded with an enigmatic piece of a remote. Once the player has collected all the missing pieces of the remote, the sci-fi level becomes available. Within this stage, it becomes clear just how much fun the developers were having. The level “The Project” is a seemingly endless maze that holds tons of hidden content. The puking developer who dies by gecko decapitation is just one example of the secrets waiting to be found here.
Although the boss battles in Gex fit in perfectly with the tone and atmosphere of the game (and are often pretty funny and sarcastic in their own right) they are way too easy. The exception lies in the final boss battle with Rez, which as boss fights go, is up there with some of the better ones. For such a long and interesting game, it would have been nice if the boss fights caused a little more anxiety and frustration.
Despite it’s original and unique spin on the genre, beneath the veneer, Gex is a platformer. This is evidenced all to clearly by the collection of golden flies for extra lives. Just as Mario collects coins and Sonic collects rings and Coolspot collect shameless 7-up logo dots – Gex collects flies. Let me guess, 100 = extra life? For a game that was as inventive as it was, we certainly could have done without the flies and expanded on some of the more interesting collectibles like the remotes, vhs tapes, and power-ups.
Gex works. Everything in it is well thought out and well placed. Besides a couple minor grievances, this game is top notch. If you consider yourself a student of film and television culture, put Gex on your list of must-plays – you won’t be disappointed.
Just as Pixar makes films that are simultaneously for both children and adults, Gex is a game that may be visually appealing to children, but the underlying message is definitely aimed at adults. It is obvious through playing this game that the developers had an enormous amount of fun making it and let loose their sardonic side. And although this game follows a formulaic set-up and progression, the content truly stands out as being unique and original.