Gex’s third and final outing plays very much like the previous installment, but Crystal Dynamics has seen fit to try to improve on the shortcomings of Enter The Gecko and create something that is actually somewhat playable. That’s not to say that said shortcomings are entirely absent, but at least an effort has been made to fix them.
Gex is now a member of the TV Terrorism Agency. The game begins as Gex is once again doing what he does best: watching TV. Having already defeated Rez twice, he’s about ready to retire when his suddenly-introduced love interest, Agent Xtra, is kidnapped. So he must once again travel into the media dimension and kick some… uh… (don’t say tail, don’t say tail!)…
Before you’re even allowed to enter any of the channels, though, Gex must undergo training. If you’ve played Gex: Enter the Gecko, then you probably already know how to do everything – which makes it more annoying that you’re forced to go through the training course. The training is also a little inconsistent at times, as the first few rooms will activate automatically, but in the next several, you’ll need to tail-whip Gex’s turtle butler to get him to tell you what to do (and activate whatever it is you need to use to progress – raise platforms, etc). The reward for this training course is one remote, so there is no way to get around doing this. Grr.
A lot has changed for the better, including the camera system, which now is somewhat more consistent in how it follows Gex (though it’s still a pain more often than not – even when set in “Expert” mode instead of Novice). Tail-bouncing is now much easier, since you can press and hold the Jump button at any time on the way down, making it effortless to pull the move off when needed (and repeat it endlessly, bouncing throughout the levels like some sort of Bizarro Tigger). Karate kicks, which are now necessary due to some levels requiring longer jumps, are a little tricky to pull off. Since Gex doesn’t start off running right away (unless you’re using the analog controller), you have to let him get a bit of a running start first to pick up speed. Then actually doing the kick is just like Super Mario 64‘s Long Jump – hold Crouch, press Jump. Unfortunately, if you’re too quick on the draw and press Crouch before Gex is running fast enough, he’ll stop on a dime and start ducking. Oh, and should you have played an N64 version in the past, crouching is now handled with the right hand instead of the left – in Gex 64, the Z button was used to crouch. In Gex 3, this is now the R button, while Z is now the tongue button. The button placement hasn’t changed between the PlayStation games, though, being R1 to crouch in both games. It’s still more than a little disorienting after being used to Super Mario 64. I seriously can’t stop comparing this to Mario. Well, they’re asking for it…
The game’s graphics have certainly improved since Gex: Enter the Gecko, although many assets have been reused. Gex now has a unique costume for every level (instead of only dressing him up for novelty purposes like the bunny suit on Toon TV), viewing distance has increased without too much of a hit on performance… though there is occasional slowdown, it’s not really that much more than Gex: Enter the Gecko‘s. The powerup items are much, much better to look at, and considering how many of them there are, that’s a good thing. Upon completing some levels, though, you’re treated to a mandatory cutscene exchange between Gex and Agent Xtra, where Xtra mentions how good you’re doing, and Gex ignores her completely in lieu of hitting on her. Thankfully these scenes are short, because the idea of our reptilian hero having that kind of relationship with a human female is pretty creepy. (On that note: please, dear God, don’t tell me somebody has already written slash fiction about these two. I’d prefer to remain uninformed about such things. Especially if said slash fiction has pictures to go with it.)
Gex 3‘s level sets are even more varied than the last couple, sending the hero through holiday TV specials, Agatha Christie mysteries, war films, and even pay-per-view wrestling. They’re all fleshed out pretty well, although each channel only has one level associated with it (despite several remotes being hidden within each).
Voice acting is once again handled by Dana Gould in the US version. In the European release, however, he is replaced with Danny John-Jules, best known for playing The Cat from the classic BBC sci-fi series Red Dwarf. And he fails to disappoint – given the choice between the two, I would pick Danny’s performance over Dana’s any day, as he makes even the most mundane lines sound silly (“Somebody throw me a blanket!”), whereas Gould’s lines are mostly just the same stuff as the last games (“It’s tail time!” makes a disappointing return, but thankfully no more references to Boy George’s pants). The music has also very much improved from Gex: Enter the Gecko, actually sounding like music and not simply providing ambiance.
The N64 port once again suffered many casualties – while most of the voice acting is surprisingly intact, the entire intro sequence had to be redone (and rendered in real-time 3D as opposed to the PlayStation’s FMV version), and a few objects such as powerups that previously were models are now 2D sprites. A few special effects had to be nuked as well for whatever reason. While Agent Xtra is still represented in photo-realism (by an actual woman, wow! [/sarcasm]), her image is now displayed on a wall texture instead of as full-screen video. And given the N64’s limitations, this wall texture couldn’t be very large, so it looks really blurry and grainy. Methinks the effort and cartridge space could have been better used for other things – like improving the graphics, frame-rate, and camera system.
Harebrained Schemes once again helms this shovelware tie-in to the console sequel, but somehow does a lot better this time around. It’s still a 2D platformer like before, but the controls have been tightened up quite a bit (Gex gains momentum much faster, notably), the hub level made less confusing, and the animations smoothed out quite a bit. On the other hand, Gex sometimes doesn’t pick things up (I had to repeatedly tail whip and jump at the very first remote for it to register), leaps of faith are still a common occurrence, and platforming in itself is more frustrating. There are two kinds of platforms in Gex 3: those that you can jump on, and those that are actually part of the background but look exactly the same. It seems like they were deliberately trying to mess with the player, similar to modern creations Syobon Action and I Wanna Be The Guy. The only thing that Deep Pocket Gecko doesn’t do is instant deaths ad nauseum.