Picture Mario with big claws, a spunky attitude and nasty attacks (the shoulder buttons control his arm weapons), and you'll have an idea of what Acclaim's new platformer (due in October) is all about. The developers aren't shy about the similarities. In fact, they likened the action in Vexx to Banjo-Kazooie's item gathering, but they have also taken the genre to the next level with enormous "if you see it, you can get to it" worlds and stunning visuals. The detail is something they can be proud of. Even at this early stage, the intricate inner clock level had more moving gears than a NASCAR race.
Paul (see his review below) didn't like Vexx as much as I did for valid reasons: The camera and controls are problematic, especially on the first stage. You'll also find a lot of trial-and-error areas and some poorly designed trouble spots you'll want to tear your hair out over--also on the first stage. That's not good for a 3D platformer. I can see some of you giving Vexx a shot based on the score you see here, getting frustrated right away, then thinking, "This Shoe is on crack, and I'm never trusting his reviews again." First of all, I'm not on crack (can't speak for Paul, though). Second, and trust me on this one, stick with the game, and you'll start forgetting about its technical pitfalls (although they never truly go away). After I got used to things, Vexx blew me away. Its grand, majestic worlds look like they were born in some fantasy-writer's dreams. Within each stage you'll find such a wide variety of gameplay (though some of it borrows from the book of 3D:plat-forming cliches), you'll want to see Vexx through to the end to see everything it has to offer. Yes, each level has standard "collect X many things" objectives, but the rest are damn innovative and "wow"-inducing. The developers packed so much into this disc, each individual world feels almost like an entire game on its own (some challenging substages of substages have taken me an hour to complete). Don't skip it just because you don't see "Mario" in the title.
Although it's tempting, please don't dismiss Vexx as just another platformer. The game has unusually creative missions with a cool hook--a riddle for each one. When you get stuck, these clever brainteasers are a neat way to get help. Even if some are a tad cheesy, I was motivated to unlock levels just to see the new riddles and figure out what each one meant (and yes, I realize how nerdy that sounds). Overall, it's a fun, complex adventure, and I'd score Vexx higher if not for its weak camera, which often locks you in narrow hallways or corners and unpredictably zooms in or out. Also, the levels are undoubtedly gorgeous and vast, but sometimes it's too easy to get lost.
Vexx is brilliant but deeply flawed. Yes, there are dozens of memorable puzzles and levels. For example, in the giant's house, the piano sounds notes as Vexx runs across the keys and the giant's pet stalks below just waiting for his tiny lunch. On another level, Vexx enters 2D tapestries, becoming part of the picture as he runs and jumps toward some elusive items. But each stylish set piece is matched by two or three (or ten) ignoble deaths from cheap bosses or bottomless pits. Vexx's unrelenting difficulty makes it an ode to frustration. In that poetic spirit, here is a haiku dedicated to Vexx: Magic talons shine/As bright as the brightest star/From this dark abyss.
The first two things I noticed about Vexx were A) how childlike this game is, and B) how absolutely brutal it is. I continually find myself wondering if Acclaim intended to present us with a new Sonic/Mario title, but somehow managed to design it for older kids, or whether this is an extremely dumbed down title meant for adults. Either way, Vexx is comprised of components that you've already played before: adventure/exploration, continual destruction of small creatures, obviously evil, and a character that can fight easily and collect power-ups and other items with great abandon. Vexx is a young kid, a child in the kingdom of Astara, who gets caught up in a terrible conflict. When creatures known as Shadowraiths, let by the evil Dark Yabu, return to Astara and enslave the people therein, Vexx is one of the few who escape imprisonment. When he finds the Astari War Talons, he becomes a tremendous warrior gathering strength to battle Dark Yabu.
Starting right off, this game has problems. From a camera control that's both frustrating and difficult to control, to a combat system that seems cool but ultimately is amazingly tough to get working correctly. Additionally, like most adventure games of this type, there's an abundance of small puzzles, some of which are astoundingly annoying, like the ever-present jumping puzzle.
The characters themselves are rather bizarre, and while they'll obviously appeal to someone, my aesthetic found them far too severe in distortion. The main character looks like a furry version of some sort of bizarre Ralph Bakshi creation. Also, the 3D effects itself aren't really that great, with a numerous amount of static objects in the game, like wall hangings that can be walked behind, only to reveal that they're just large rectangular pictures, hanging in space, that you can't interact with.
While Vexx is simple enough to provide a little enjoyment on a rental, I'd never suggest renting this title. None of the game's gimmicks, of which there are few, seem to work, in my opinion.
Ready for the next platform game that recharges this stale genre? Well keep waiting. The good news is it's a step above the majority of platform games released in the last year. Unfortunately, it still fails to break the mold however and get this genre out of the gutter. Vexx toes the party line for platform games but at least adds more style then most.
The story line of Vexx, similar to other platform games, revolves around an unlikely hero out to destroy an evil enemy. Vexx, is actually a slave that revolts against his demon masters and ends up getting his grandfather killed in the process. Out to save the soul of his grandfather captured by the demon, Vexx runs into the power talons that attach to his arms. As he heads out to complete his mission, Vexx must collect Wraithhearts to open portals leading to his grandfather.
As Vexx collects these Wraithhearts, you'll notice the game focuses more on platform gameplay elements than fighting ability. There are ample puzzles to solve and large worlds to explore, but fighting techniques or weapons upgrades are limited. Although Vexx does perform some interesting moves like juggling enemies in the air, his overall abilities don't have much variety and get old as the game progresses.
The graphics are more of a mixed bag with aspects that look decent and others that could have been better. Enemy variation for instance is limited but extra effort was obviously spend detailing out the different worlds. The audio doesn't fare as well, with the main issue being a lack of sound effects. It's not a big deal, but well designed sound effects do help bring you more into the game.
Vexx should please hardcore platform fans, but others should be cautious. The Wraithhearts were also a bit much as they resembled actual human hearts, in addition to collecting other items like soul jars. With the entire game having more of a dark feel to it, the Teen rating is well deserved and may not be suitable for the younger audience platform games generally target. Overall however, Vexx puts together a classic platform experience that at least out performs most similar games released recently.
Are you a fan of platform games, but just can't stomach the thought of your friends catch you playing Mario Sunshine? Acclaim's latest platform game, Vexx, just might be for you then. It's definitely darker than Mario and earns its Teen rating. For Xbox platform gamers who've had little to cheer about, Vexx may be what you need. It doesn't star some pansy plumber or mutant talking animal. Vexx stars a young boy whose planet has been enslaved by the evil Dark Yabu. He and his people were enslaved and the life of his grandfather taken from him. Now our young hero has only one thing on his mind' revenge. He plans on dishing it out with his razor sharp war talons and a whole lot of attitude (picture a young Wolverine).
The game is easy to start playing. Like so many other platform games, your goal is to collect all of a specific type of item on each level. In this case, the items are wraithhearts. To collect these you must complete specific tasks, solve puzzles, beat boss creatures and free the 5 souls trapped on each level. Between you and your wraithhearts are an assortment of enemies and a lot jumping and climbing. One of the things you notice about each level is the vastness of it. The game really takes advantage of vertical space with many trails and ledges leading up to the top of mountains or floating islands, as well as down into the depths of lakes, rivers and underwater caverns. The diversity of environments is very cool and you can choose which hearts to go for as the levels are non-linear, giving you the freedom to explore them at will. Although the graphics are decent, they aren't great, but occasionally you will find yourself impressed with the backdrops or the droplets of water that drip from your screen whenever you surface from under water.
I did experience one glitch that left me in a bad mood. After completing three water-based tasks, a heart materialized near a stargate looking portal. Every time I approached the heart, I was transported back to the beginning of the level. I eventually abandoned that heart and continued on with the next level. Other than that one moment, I have enjoyed playing Vexx.
The game play is solid, diverse and fun, but there just isn't much original content in Vexx. While this prevents me from giving it a Recommended Buy, the Xbox platform gamer, considering what else is available, would find Vexx to be one of their better options. The character is likable and easy to control, the levels are rich with detail, and completing each task on each level will require a lot more skill than finishing off a level of Mario. So for the platform gamer, there is enough depth and solid game play to keep you occupied for some time. Go ahead and pick this up, but everyone else should rent first.