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Gex
Gex: Enter the Gecko

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Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko
Gex: Enter the Gecko (GBC)
Gex: Deep Pocket Gecko

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by Wild Weasel - October 2009

In cinema, there's been a long-standing phenomenon: the B-movie. The classic example of a B-movie includes low production values, rock-bottom budget, and actors who audiences hadn't heard of before (and in many cases, would never hear of again). Games have tried to capture the essence of the B-movie numerous times, to varying degrees of success (see Splatterhouse, Duke Nukem 3D, and to a greater extent, Stubbs the Zombie and Destroy All Humans). It's rare, however, that in attempting to pay tribute to a B-movie, a game ends up practically becoming one in the process.

Such is most certainly the case with Gex.

Gex (PlayStation)

Gex is a talking gecko (not to be confused with his more famous cousin, the Geico gecko) that first saw the light of day in mid-1994 as the mascot for a game company called Crystal Dynamics, during the exit of the now-infamous "animals with 'tude!" era of videogaming. Crystal Dynamics was, near the beginning of its life, a major developer (actually, the first licensed developer) for Panasonic's up-and-coming 3DO console system. They released their first games, Crash 'n' Burn and Total Eclipse (not to be confused with the Freescape-powered first-person game by Incentive Software), for the 3DO Multi-Player in 1993. Both games ended up being commercial failures, much like the rest of the 3DO (though Total Eclipse did get a sequel for the Saturn, called Solar Eclipse).

They tried again with Gex - originally a 3DO exclusive title, it eventually was brought over to the other two consoles that were quickly building steam: the PlayStation and the Saturn.

Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko (PlayStation)


Gex (ゲックス) - 3DO, PlayStation, Saturn, Windows, PSN (1994)

American PlayStation Cover

Gex, like most of us at some point, is utterly obsessed with his television. All he wants to do is sit down and watch the latest horror flick when a being known as Rez (no, not that Rez) beams him into his own TV set and forces him to explore all the different channels and try to find a way out. Each are based on different themes, like an Asian landscape for Kung Fu movies, or South American ruins for Indiana Jones-style action. Each level has a punny title with some kind of silly animation, which adds nicely to the character of the game. It's a premise rather reminiscent of the early-'90s comedy flick, Stay Tuned - and ends up being just as entertaining (for better or for worse).

Naturally, Gex had taken about the same direction as most other animals-with-tude of his day. With the - ahem - success of Bubsy, Gex's developers decided to give him a series of snappy one-liners to be launched off at random during the game. And who better to launch off these tried and true tidbits than stand-up comedian Dana Gould? (Indeed, Gould's success was one of the major selling points of the game.) The advantage of this is that, with the recognizable voice and distinct couch-potato personality, Gex doesn't quite fade away into the background like the silent furries of other games. He also doesn't get terribly annoying - not right off the bat, at least. Some lines do get repeated more often than one would hope, but often times it's the shorter ones that suffer from this, so they don't get annoying very quickly - though I must admit they did start to get old enough that I eventually turned off the voice altogether in the sci-fi levels ("Jane! Stop this crazy thing!"). Kudos to Crystal Dynamics for giving us the option, at least - but the game does feel a little empty without the near-constant movie-quotery of our lizardly protagonist.

The game is actually quite well put together - it's a 2D platformer, featuring some smooth animations, high-color graphics, and plenty of graphical variety to keep players interested. Gex is able to run through levels and basically do what a gecko must; that is, eat bugs, cling to walls, and whip things with his tail. You can also use Gex's tail to bounce by holding down on the directional pad, which can be useful for destroying blocks as well as killing enemies Mario-style. The primary objective of each level is to find a TV remote, which is used on the world map to turn on another TV (a level). Hidden throughout some of the levels are pieces of the Planet X remote, which power up a secret world when all of them are collected.

The side-scrolling gameplay is, as mentioned, pretty competent; there are plenty of neat things you can figure out, hidden secrets, and a good number of different worlds (representing the basic archetypes of B-movies: horror, cartoon, kung fu, space, and others). They all have their unique tilesets, a selection of different themed enemies, and a wide array of different one-liners for Gex to spout off. As mentioned above, these lines are actually quite amusing at times, but there are a few that get pretty old. Thankfully the game changes things up between worlds, so you won't be hearing all of the same lines over and over again (though the generic ones, specifically ones like "It's tail time!" will play everywhere - cue groaning audience sound).

Like any good side-scroller, Gex has an assortment of powerups, each in the form of a colored orb with an insect on it. There are orbs that grant you health (either in single points, complete fills, or bonus health), the ability to spit fire, super speed, or a wind shield that kills anything Gex touches. It's interesting to note that, when strapped for health, any of the powerups can be used as a makeshift healing item, simply by tail-whipping it instead of using your tongue to eat it. Another interesting feature of the powerups, specifically the "permanent" ones like the fireballs, is that they stack - you can hold up to three powerups, each one counting as another extra hitpoint. If Gex takes damage, the powerup is lost in lieu of a hitpoint, and the next one (if there is one) will take effect. With a possible max health of 5, this means that a fully-equipped Gex can take up to 8 hits before dying. Unfortunately, hitpoints and powerups reset at the end of each level, so you can't go revisit a previously-completed level and stock up on health and powerups before fighting a boss. Hitpoints also do you no good against bottomless pits or water. That does prevent things from being too easy, though... but this may be more of an all-around curse, as you'll soon see. Also, annoyingly, the game pauses for about a second each time Gex is injured, which can screw up timed jumps.

The game can tend to be a little on the difficult side at times, which is compounded by the save system - you must collect a VHS tape in specific levels to save the game - but that's not all. You also have to actually complete the level with the tape in your inventory in order for it to take effect. Worse yet, the save feature inexplicably only seems to be present in the 3DO version, leaving PlayStation and Saturn owners to write down passwords (or else use the cheat mode, which breaks the game flow, as the levels you've beaten previously will not be opened up). Even worse than the need for passwords, you still need to find a VHS tape in order to receive one, and they aren't always within easy reach (and not even in very many levels, at that - probably only one level in each world has one). Emulators with save states can get around this, these days, but that really shouldn't be necessary. Oh, and should you die after picking up the tape, but before you reach a checkpoint (a Polaroid camera), you'll need to pick it up again. What a pain!

Interestingly, the original Gex was the only entry in the series to be released in Japan (every version except the Saturn). Nearly all of Gex's spoken dialogue was removed from the game, aside from his speech in the introduction movie (which was re-dubbed into Japanese), and a single line in English on the title screen. After that, he remains completely silent through the rest of the game. All three console versions were also released in Europe.

Gex, originally being a 3DO game, was probably not that hard to port to the arguably more powerful PlayStation and Saturn. There is no discernible difference between the three versions, outside of the fact that only the 3DO version has save support. The game was brought to PC's running Windows 95 a couple of years later, in what appears to be a somewhat lazy port - similar to Earthworm Jim and Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure (released around the same time), the game simply runs in a window which can't be maximized.

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Gex (PlayStation)

Gex (PlayStation)

Gex (PlayStation)

Gex (PlayStation)

Gex (PlayStation)


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Gex: Enter the Gecko / Gex 64: Enter the Gecko / Spin Tail (スピンテール) - PlayStation, N64, Windows, PSN (1998)

American PlayStation Cover

Japanese PlayStation Cover

Nearly three years after the first Gex had hit every 32-bit platform in the known universe, Crystal Dynamics finally released a full-blown sequel. Enter the Gecko brought the series into full 3D gameplay, in a move seemingly directly inspired by Super Mario 64 - indeed, if you've played that before, this game should prove to be all too familiar. With the move to 3D, the levels have been made somewhat more non-linear, but in the face of this, there are more "missions" per level - similar to Mario 64's stars, you can revisit a level and find the other remotes, using the meager clue left for you in the name of the level. However, Gex goes the extra mile of actually showing you where in the level the remote is, instead of sending you blindly to find it. This isn't always helpful, though, and can sometimes even direct you entirely the wrong way.

The levels are exceedingly easy to get lost in, especially those that are divided into rooms like the Scream TV levels. Thankfully, the levels aren't all that big, but the highly restrictive viewing distance presents some navigational headaches. There are two bonus remotes for each level, one Hidden remote which (obviously) must be found in some obscure corner of the level, and one Reward remote, given to you for collecting all 120 collectible items in the level. The layout of the levels doesn't help these either, and it can be downright counter-intuitive which items in a level will give you collectibles and which will not. It essentially boils down to tail-whipping everything several times over, just to make sure you didn't miss a single skull/tin can/Jason mask somewhere. The level types very similar to the original game, but now in 3D. Unfortunately the clever level introductions are gone, but the punny titles remain.

The controls don't help matters either. Gex can move around at a decent clip, but his ability to cling to walls has now been inexplicably limited to only certain surfaces. He is now able to climb up ledges using his tongue, but like wall clinging, this only works on some ledges and is wildly inconsistent at times - so you really shouldn't rely on it. Eating bugs is a little easier this time around, though, as the tongue now automatically aims at a bug if it's nearby. Gex is still able to tail-bounce like in the first game, but doing so now requires you to press and hold the Jump button starting at a certain point of the jump, typically about a quarter of a second before he lands. This is much harder than it sounds, and thankfully the tail bounce isn't a required move. But then we find ourselves at the ultimate curse of every 3D platformer: the camera system.

There has been many a potentially good game brought to utter ruin because of an uncooperative (and sometimes even downright malicious) camera. This one is the apex of cruelty as far as cameras are concerned: it's difficult to control, makes annoying sounds when you play with it, and whatever angle you choose ends up being overridden by the game moments later as Gex passes through any of the numerous fixed-camera zones. Lining up your jumps has never been more difficult, as even if you know where you're going, the camera could swing around mid-jump, causing the direction you're pushing to no longer be the correct direction to be jumping. This turns otherwise simple jumps into complete leaps of faith, and pretty much ruin what would be good levels. I consider myself lucky that the game doesn't have that many bottomless pits, because I have to repeat my jumps enough times that it would only be more painful to have to restart the entire level on account of them.

Gex: Enter the Gecko

Of course, the game does let you change between Manual, Semi-Auto, and Auto cameras, but doing so doesn't solve the fixed-camera rooms - it only controls how soon the game will automatically center the camera behind Gex. In Auto mode, the camera swivels back behind you as soon as you stand still - Semi-Auto makes it take a few seconds, and Manual disables this entirely. The camera is a pain regardless of the setting, though, and the option is seemingly only there to taunt you.

Gex's lines, again recorded by Dana Gould, get more amusing and varied, but can also get more annoying at times as well. (I swear, if I hear him mention Boy George's pants again...) But strangely enough, when the game was released in Europe, all of Dana Gould's original lines were thrown out and re-recorded with British actor Leslie Phillips, known for co-starring in British sitcom Honey For Tea, and as Hactar in the radio version of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, among various other roles. The European N64 version uses these re-recorded lines as well. Mr. Philips is far less annoying than Dana Gould is in this installment, that's one thing for certain, but if you ask me, he's too cultured to be playing a slacker like Gex... though his lines can also be pretty funny as well (such as his comment upon entering the Cartoon universe, "Ah, to see the world as Keith Richards does."). It's really up to the player which voice they prefer, but if neither one works out (because even Leslie Philips brings mention to Boy George's pants more often than is socially acceptable), the voices can easily be turned off.

The N64 port was surprising, given that Crystal Dynamics had not previously made a cartridge game - numerous cuts had to be made for the game to fit on the cartridge, though. The full-motion video intro was cut, as was the 3D title menu. Gex's lines suffered the brunt of the casualties, reducing the sound quality of them so that it's not always obvious what he's saying, and also removing so many lines that he only has 5 or 6 to use at a given moment and ends up repeating himself several times per level. Also, a few of the extra secret levels were cut from the N64 release, but in their place has been added a single brand-new mission based on Titanic. As far as I can tell, the Windows 95 release is primarily based on the PlayStation version, and exclusively supported the 3DFX Voodoo video chipset - meaning that unless you have one of those cards (or a good Glide wrapper), they're impossible to run on modern systems.

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  • Midway (PSX & N64)
  • Eidos Interactive (Win)

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Gex: Enter the Gecko (PlayStation)

Gex: Enter the Gecko (PlayStation)

Gex: Enter the Gecko (PlayStation)

Gex: Enter the Gecko (PlayStation)

Gex: Enter the Gecko (PlayStation)


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Additional Screenshots


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Gex
Gex: Enter the Gecko

Page 2:
Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko
Gex: Enter the Gecko (GBC)
Gex: Deep Pocket Gecko

Back to the Index