Gex 64: Enter the Gecko

a game by Crystal Dynamics, Inc.

Platform: Nintendo 64Nintendo 64

Genre: Action

See also: Gex Games

What's small, green and a master of disguise? Enter the Gecko, Gex...

PlayStation owners and anyone unwise enough to have purchased a 3DO will already be familiar with the character of Gex the Gecko. His first lizardly outing in the software industry was in his own 2-D platformer on both the late unlamented 3DO and also the aforementioned PSX.

Having proved incredibly popular on both formats (widely acclaimed as the best game on the 3DO, but then there were only about 12 games released!) it was inevitable that Gex would return, and return he did on the PlayStation in the sequel, Gex: Enter The Gecko.

No 2-D nonsense for our little green friend this time, oh no. This time Gex arrived sporting some rather snazzy 3-D. and again met with incredible success. And what's the best format for 3-D games as yet known to man? You guessed it, the N64! (Shut up, you PC deviants!)

So to cut a long story short, Gex: Enter The Gecko has finally made his way across to the Nintendo. And just to make all those PlayStation owners jealous, the N64 version has had a brand-new, totally original level added!

However, enough posturing. The most important question has to be. what's the game like?

Banjo-Schmanjo!

It's inevitable that coming hot on the heels of the latest Rare blockbuster, Gex: Enter The Gecko is going to be compared with Banjo-Kazooie. so let's get all that business out of the way first. Graphically, it has to be said, Banjo-Kazooie is far superior, with better textures and animation. However, the characters in Gex are just as innovative as Rare's parade of bizarro nutters and the humour level is aimed at a slightly older age group.

The gameplay is structured differently in both games, and so it's not really fair to make a direct comparison. Suffice it to say that while Banjo looks better at first glance, Gex is an extremely innovative and enjoyable game which becomes better and better the more you get into it.

The first thing which should really be mentioned about Gex is the camera implementation. This is extremely important in 3-D games, and can make or break a game depending on how well it is accomplished. The bad news is that the camera in Gex almost ruins the game. Fortunately, the cunning decision to give a choice of three different camera options - Automatic, Manual and Semi-automatic - saves the day.

Jackanory Time...

No platform adventure would be complete without a story, and the plot behind Gex is a little bizarre. Apparently a megalomaniac media baron named Rez has hijacked all the television channels and is showing his own brand of warped programming - kind of like the educational programmes on BBC2 after about 2am - which has Gex, as a professional couch potato, up in arms. Rather than sit on his little green butt and write angry letters to his cable service provider, Gex jumps into the different channels to defeat the evil Rez and restore Neighbours and other such quality programmes to his screen once and for all (is this a good thing?)

This plot goes some way towards explaining the television and film-related themes that proliferate throughout the various worlds which Gex needs to explore as he seeks out his nemesis Rez. Each level in the game is accessed via a huge video screen which gives you some clue as to the kind of perils you should expect to find within. Television and film genres on offer include science fiction, horror, martial arts, prehistoric, cartoons and a variety of more specific programmes and films such as cop shows, Indiana lones and the classic US sitcom that probably no-one over here has heard of, Gilligan's Island.

Remote Access

To find his way to Rez, and thus defeat the evil TV bandit, Gex must collect a number of remote controls which are scattered throughout each themed level. To do this he needs to accomplish various missions, some of which can be as simple as finding his way to the end of a stage, while others are a little more tricky as they involve finding and/or destroying a number of specific creatures or items. Still more remotes are hidden at specific places within the levels, or are obtained by collecting the various other items scattered around each level.

To begin with, only a few of the huge video screen doorways to each level are accessible, so remote controls must be collected from these to open routes to further ones. Because you don't need all the remotes from the first levels to open the next few, it's possible to leave certain tricky missions for later, thus preventing you getting stuck too early on in the game.

Within a level, as well as the red remotes and various bonus ones, you'll encounter a lot of different objects. Most of these are specific to the level. For instance, in the cartoon world you'll get cartoon carrots and cans of beans, while in the horror worlds you'll find skulls and tombstones. Collecting certain numbers of these items will grant you an extra life, and collecting all the required number on a specific world (there are three types of item on each) will get you a bonus silver remote, four of which will open a bonus level video screen.

Whilst this method of getting extra lives is useful, particularly at the start, you'll find that after a while, because you need to go through most worlds at least twice and usually three times to complete the various missions, you soon begin to clock up lives at a furious rate. It's not until the later levels that instant death occurs, so this begins to seem a little silly. On the later levels, however, you'll begin to lose lives fairly regularly and be glad you've got them!

Say No To Jumps!

Ordinarily. 3-D adventures involving a lot of jumping can be annoying, as it's often difficult to judge jumps correctly - particularly when the camera is roaming around. Gex has handled this problem fairly well in a number of ways. To begin with on the early levels, 3-D jumps are kept to a minimum, allowing you to get used to the controls and the other aspects of the game. As you progress and more jumping is involved, a number of techniques prevent everything getting too frustrating. These include levels where if you fall off you get whisked back to the start of the jumping area rather than dying, and a rather nifty move whereby if you fall a little short on your jump Gex will whip out his tongue, catch hold of the platform and pull himself up.

A third way that the jumping problem can be overcome is by careful use of the О-pad. Ordinarily, the analogue stick is the weapon of choice, as it moves quickly and smoothly giving you the best control over Gex. However, at certain points in the game, such as where Gex has to climb several rocking girders, using the analogue pad can be tricky as. despite the camera locking itself in place to aid your ascent, it's still far too easy to move the analogue stick just slightly up or down when you want to move it sideways and send Gex plummeting back to the bottom.

However, switch to the D-pad, where left and right are unencumbered by any analogue tomfoolery, and you'll be at the top before you know it! In this way, Gex is unique in that the choice of which control device is best actually changes as the game progresses.

The Verdict...

What you are getting with Gex: Enter The Gecko is a fast-paced, humorous 3-D adventure game which is fairly easy to get into, and becomes better and better the longer you play it. The variety of different worlds (or 'channels' if you prefer), particularly the bonus ones like the Indiana Jones level and the Gexzilla section, provide plenty of satirical laughs and the appropriate theme music in each section really builds the atmosphere.

Although most of the puzzles are fairly simple, the gameplay is fiendishly addictive and you'll find yourself constantly coming back for more. This addictiveness is complemented by the freedom to do many of the levels in any order you like, thus preventing you from becoming bored having to repeat any particular task too often.

Though it can't be said that Gex is better than Banjo, it certainly turns out to be a fine game in its own right and Banjo owners may get a pleasant surprise if they buy this game, too. After the first half-hour or so of play, you won't be sorry!

2nd rating opinion

After Banjo-Kazooie, Gex can't help but seem old hat. All the TV and film references are a laugh, but Gex lacks the smoothness and polish that Rare's standard-raising game has led us all to expect from now on. A good effort, but not brilliant by any means.

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Gex 64: Enter the Gecko Downloads

Nintendo 64 Gex 64: Enter the Gecko download

One of my all time favorite PlayStation characters has made his way onto the N64. Since the original GEX is one of my all time favorite games, I had high hopes for the PSX-to-N64 conversion. If the developers took the time to fix the problems with the PSX version of this game and upped the graphics, I knew I would be in for a treat. As it turns out, they may have accomplished upping the graphics a little but they sure did not fix all of the problems.

One of the biggest issues I face when reviewing games like GEX 64 that is a direct port is whether or not I should re-write the basics of the gameplay that carry through between versions. My consensus has been that unless the gameplay has been altered drastically or the story line has changed, I will just supply a link to the other review so you can read up on what the game is all about and then come back to see what makes this version different from the other. With that in mind, click here for an explanation of the game and the options available. When you finish reading that, come on back and take a look at what makes the two versions different.

Gameplay

After playing the first few levels of this game, I was hard-pressed to notice any difference in the outward appearance of the two games. This version did look a little bit crisper due to the high resolution mode, and the textures did look smoother. Other than that, the graphics were pretty much the same. One thing that did seem to happen more often on this version was that when you would get too close to the edges of the screen, the walls would just disappear. You know what I am talking about. It was a very common problem with racing games on the PSX, but now seems to have crept into some N64 games. I think that the fact that the graphics are not much better on the N64 version is more of a testament to the PSX developers than a knock against the N64 team. They did such a great job that they really did not need much in the way of improvements.

This version includes a new N64-only level that has you swimming. All of the other levels are identical, right down to the placement of the items and location of the enemies. The new swimming level is pretty neat at first, but quickly starts to feel like the other levels.

Unfortunately, the game did make some changes that adversely affected the game. Most notable were the crappy camera angles and control. Okay, this was one of my complaints with the PSX version, but they actually seem to have gotten worse. The developers had a prime opportunity to fix the major flaw in the PSX version, but just seemed to make things worse. I was constantly fighting the camera and there were numerous occasions that I gave up trying to get a good angle and just made do. I just don't get it; the N64 has some great 3D-platform games and they have done a great job with the camera control, but somehow the developers missed it on this game.

The second thing that seemed to change for the worse was the control. I can't tell you how many times I ran around circling an item unable to pick it up. I had to force myself to stop, step back and then go forward to the item. If you tried to do it quickly you would end up spinning around. Also, things felt very sluggish. A platform game requires precise timing and accurate controls and there were times were I felt let down by the controls in this version.

Finally, the N64 version really limited Gex's vocabulary to the point where it was annoying. The PSX version was supposed to have over 500 one-liners and it got repetitive after a short time. This version does not advertise the exact number of voiceovers, but the number has to be at least half that because of the lack of storage on the N64. This means that you will hear the same comments over and over again. Sure, they are funny at first and even a second time, but when you start hearing the same thing for the 10th time while you are battling the camera, it starts to get a bit frustrating.

One other item of note. I had a terrible problem with this game and the memory Paks. I tried three different types and every time I got a message about the data being corrupt and needing repair. I would try to repair it and I would lose my saved game. Talk about pissing me off. I finally started to use the passwords because I did not trust the memory Pak. It was strange because the game would save to the Pak just fine, but once you turned the game off and then back on, you were screwed. It could have just been my memory Paks, but it happened with three different Paks by three different manufacturers.

Graphics

Since I thought the graphics were incredible on the PSX version, I guess they would still have to be considered incredible. You will notice a slight improvement in this version, but I think they could have really spruced up the graphics if they had wanted to spend the time. My guess is that the developers were content with the graphics of the PSX version and decided that it would be better to get the game to market quicker instead of spending too much time upgrading the already great graphics.

Bottom Line

I guess I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the final product. I was very excited about the possibilities that this game had, if they just fixed the nagging problems from the PSX version. Instead of fixing them, they seem to have gotten worse. Throw in the poor control and what you have is a game that is not quite as good as the PSX version. Still, GEX is a great character and there is some fun to be had in this game. The level design was a blast and you will find yourself laughing more than once. If you only own a N64, the game is worth a weekend rental, but if you own both systems I would pick up the PSX version instead.

reggie posted a review

Film-spoofing platformer starring a mouthy lizard. Amusing and well done, but not up to the standards of Banjo-Kazooie.

reggie posted a review

This rough-around-the-edges 3D platformer isn't so much dreadful as painfully average. Good enough in parts but never outstanding.

reggie posted a review

We'd hoped for so much more. We were sorely disappointed.

reggie posted a review

Ultimate Password

Another game wrecker this one For 99 lives and all the remotes, enter M758FQRW3J58FQRW4! as a password. Remember to include the exclamation mark at the end.

reggie posted a review
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