Right on the tail (HA) of the last Gex game, Crystal Dynamics were busy crafting a sequel that would push the boundaries of the PlayStation console while opening new ground with their reptilian mascot.
It's arguable if they succeeded with their first objective, but it is clear that they failed with their second and more important objective. Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko was the last game featuring the obnoxious lizard, selling less than its predecessor and perhaps convincing its developers to drop the character.
Ironically, I think that caused Gex to end in a high note, because Gex 3 is the best game in the admittedly average series.
98(S): Gex: Enter the Gecko:
Genre: 3D Platformer.
Publisher: Eidos Interactive.
Developer: Crystal Dynamics.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10 point system. Games that get above a 7 I fully recommend, and those that get below that are mostly a waste of time. That leaves the score of 7 to depend on your taste.
"Let's get it on!"
Not being content with his obnoxiousness simply being expressed in ludicrous number one-liners, the developers actually wanted to craft an actual storyline that reinforces that trait. Enter the abduction of Agent Xtra, a Baywatch actress with a prodigious cleavage. This very human agent was kidnapped by the evil and genric Rez, which is why Gex must go back into the Media Dimension to save the girl.
Being a kid at the time, I didn't actually understand the not-so-subtle hormonal angle being pushed by the game. However, hearing the way Gex fawns over the girl coupled with her suggestive tunes is horrific in a uniquely 90s way.
Of course, this extra "plot" has little bearing in the gameplay but is interesting in a historical sense.
I didn't get these undertones as a kid
What actually builds on the world of Gex is a much-improved level and world design. Starting with a hub area that looks like Gex's secret layer, levels are accessed through TVs as usual. This time though, each level has its own unique theme, reinforced by a different costume for Gex every time (Which thankfully hides his naked lizard body).
Like the past game, each theme is a pop-culture parody of sorts, but the improved level design allows that parody to hit home in a more entertaining way. Also, it allows the world to speak for the game without relying on Gex's one-liners as an ultimate crutch.
"I want to lick it, but my tongue will get stuck"
With an improved world comes a slightly improved gameplay. In reality, the mechanics are virtually unchanged from the first 3D Gex game, but a much-improved camera is a clear advancement. True, the camera still throws things off more than occasionally, but it a greater degree of control and a more forgiving layout means that it isn't as frustrating.
Each level has three remotes to collect, with one extra remote requiring that you find all 100 "Fly" tokens in the level. Half the time, the three remotes justify the repeated visits to each level. However, in the other half, all three remotes demand you redo the same actions and basically replay the level three times in the same manner, since you can only get one main remote at a time. The worst offender is the "Mythical Station" level which was just a terrible waste of time, which is not something the game shies away from.
Sometimes you wish you can just erase a level from existence
This obvious in the way you get the secret fourth remote for each level. Since there are only 100 tokens in a level, getting the fourth remote means you must do all the activities to get the three remotes, which gets you all the tokens. Then, you must choose only one of the remotes before you go back into the level and get the other two remotes. This could have been avoided if the game saves the tokens you get every tie you attempt the level.
Thankfully, the game can be completed with only 30 remotes, which means you can skip the more obnoxious levels and not get the fourth remote in each level. Yet, it is always a bad sign when you are thankful for playing "less" of the game.
"There is my big, strong, Transformer"
To its credit, Gex 3 does try and shake things up quite a bit. Every level is truly different from the others. Some have quirky minigames to shake things up, snowboarding, and tank battles for example.
Others rely on a unique level structure. For example, one level parodying the famous "Jack and the Beanstalk" fable is very vertically focused. Another has three remotes each in a different linear path (Which makes getting the fourth remote a nightmare).
Do I need to search EVERYWHERE
Outside of the main levels, there are bonus stages you can unlock by finding bonus coins, which are fun but not in any major way. Most recycle the basic mini-games from the main levels, while others introduce a small level with a time-collection challenge.
What's disappointing is that none of the bosses come close to match the great Gexzilla boss fight from Gex 2, as all of them were as boring to fight as they are to look at.
"The Pentagon spent 25 million dollars on this one level??!!"
As I said earlier, I am not sure if Gex 3 actually stretches the PlayStation to its limits. Visually, the game pales in comparison to the best looking 3D platformers on the N64, and its N64 port suffers accordingly.
Still, the game is a marked improvement on Gex 2, but that's mostly attributed to better and more consistent art design. This, for me, indicates how art is often more important than raw power in preserving the visual flourish of a game.
We are not in Kansas anymore
One element manifesting that improved direction is the costumes in each stage, which were included in the last game but have much better design and personality here.
Another area of great improvement is in the game's soundtrack, which is actually solid and suitable. Of course, that's not a big achievement considering the very poor soundtrack of Gex 2, and I won't include any tunes in my videogames playlist. Thankfully, the soundtrack is not as frequently interrupted by Gex's one-liners or the game's obnoxious sound effects.
When compared to the first 3D Gex game, this game is highly laudable. However, those two games do not exist in a vacuum. In hindsight, I was too generous on Gex 2, because even after many improvements, the game doesn't compare to the best 3D platformers of the day.
Simply, even when it is fun at times, it doesn't maintain that state for longe, eventually becoming as tired and repetitive as Gex's signature zingers.
1-Collect 100 Fly tokens in each level for one extra remote.
2-You will need to learn how to use the karate kick jump to cross long-distance pits.
3-Use the triangle button to activate the first-person view, which you will rarely need at some levels.
4-for example, you can use it to stare into a vampire picture and turn into a vampire.
5-Collect Gecko Paws to increase your life meter.
6-Costumes with capes (or jets) allow you to hover when you jump by using the crouch button.
Time to snowboard
For those reading one of my PS1 review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed both major Generation 4 consoles, and am now to review Generation 5 consoles. I already finished reviewing the Sega Saturn, so I am now reviewing the PS1. In these reviews, I take a top 100 games list and review the games that interest me in that list.
This time, my review series is based on this list from Retro Sanctuary along with other sources, since the PS1 can handle a list bigger than a top 100.
Also, note the following:
-If you have any suggestions for a game that is not in the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Gex was once Crystal Dynamic's mascot
Obviously, the Retro Sanctuary list is mistaken by putting Gex 2 instead of Gex 3 on its list, even if it's at only #98. This is a much better game and a marked improvement in every way.
Next in my reviews will be Vanark at #97, which is slightly worrying as I have heard nothing about before and it doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. Here is hoping for some fun.
For Previous PS1 Game Reviews: