Full Review: No intensive therapy session could ever cure the abysmal anger of this wickedly powerful...miniscule runt.
New types of video game characters, genre alterations, and imaginary locations are being invented each and every day. This year, like last year, and the year before, and the year before that...we've seen companies attempt to make the best out of what they had to work with in introducing their "original" design. For Acclaim, this year their idea of platform innovation has arrived in the small but brave new age hero for the twenty first century that'll take you from one leap to the next in the continuously expanding wide world of Vexx.
Vexx is like a glass bottle. If you push him he may scratch, but if you throw him, he'll burst. When a sinister race of alien-like brutes siege the village of Rockhaven, Vexx's home, and enslave his people, that's when this tiny bottle is going to go critical. It isn't until after Dark Yabu, the head "evil one" (a Shadowraith), murders Vexx's grandfather, that when Vexx's scheme to avenge his untimely grandfather by sneaking aboard Yabu's ship takes effect. Instead of finding Yabu, Vexx discovers something better: a pair of Astani War Talons that have now latched themselves onto Vexx's arms, granting him power beyond his wildest dreams. Now set out on a mission to defeat Yabu and to free his people from their chains, Vexx is determined to learn his new abilities and to save the day.
It's a difficult task to fuse together a gaming experience so unlike anything else that anyone might find thoroughly enjoyable. As the case is with Vexx, as much as it tries to be something else, it ends up feeling too identical to everything else in the platform genre already. Vexx's biggest resemblance has to do with Mario 64 and the sequel, Super Mario Sunshine. Where in the 3D Mario games you had to gather coins, Vexx has you picking up long trails of scattered balls of Shadowraith heart pieces (every 100 equal a heart). Where in the 3D Mario games you needed Stars or Shines to complete a level, Vexx tasks you with transgressing towards the goal of a Shadowraith heart. Yet without these similarities and more, it's still a tough job reinventing an already, in many ways, perfected genre.
That's not to say that Vexx isn't a complete rehash. Like no other platform adventure before it, Vexx is fitted with two very sharp talons allowing this pint-sized hero to perform a wide array of abilities. Some of which consist of allowing Vexx to scale grated walls, leap high into the air, blast enemies with charged energy, and even attack with an assortment of combo maneuvers. Punches, uppercuts, and flip kicks are given to Vexx for the benefit of defeating both ground and air enemy offense for a good defense. The more Vexx completes enemy kills, the more a gauge on the upper right hand side of the screen fills itself up (enemy deaths also prevent Vexx from his own demise, by way of the life balls that drop after any are done away with). This meter relates to the amount of energy Vexx's gloves currently store. One press of the R1 button, and Vexx can let loose a barrage of energy balls towards a foe. But since the talons can output only so much moxie of their own, this puts players in the position where they must fight to well...fight.
To save the world from defeat, there are a number of trials Vexx must complete. Stationed in a startup hub similar to the one found in the second Crash Bandicoot game, Vexx is able to select which stage he wants to visit. Hidden within every stage are a number of Shadowraith hearts to claim. It's the objective presented in every level that's the tricky part. One section may have you climb to the top of a mountain area to win the heart, in another you could be carrying stone objects to place on mantles in order to unlock the heart trapped inside a larger statue, or like in another you may need to win a sumo wrestling tournament. Arrows point the path you must then follow for guidance through the knowing of where to go in any level. Also by lurking around, there's ways of picking up 100 balls of scattered Shadowraith heart or in releasing the fumes of eight Shadowraith skull objects that you'll eventually obtain a complete organ. Really, the selective process is divided amongst the worlds, and it's also a good thing you can proceed in any mission order to win what is to be yours.
Controlling Vexx isn't the most difficult task, however, the game's camera system does have its ups and downs, only adding more to the downer side of things. When beginning a new game in Vexx, the player is almost immediately thrust into a control walkthrough, where it's explained how the character, the "small one," the hero Vexx is able to survive in such a creature clobbering, platform scaling world. Simple enough, Vexx is able to jump with the X button and attack using square. With a combination of the back buttons, where pressing L1 makes Vexx crouch to later perform a super jump or long jumps, and R1 begins operating the energy blast system together with the attack button, the controls aren't really hard at all to get the hang of and more importantly, get used to. Even guiding Vexx is easier said than done via the left analog stick.
All is fun in games however until the time comes down to tangling with the camera. Vexx's camera is that of a free roaming nature. When moving the right analog stick, you can pretty much shift the camera anywhere to either gain a better view from peering at Vexx from overhead, or if that's no good, then underneath him. Yet, the camera struggles in most areas where if you were to spin it to the left or right for example in order to benefit from the entire view all around, it'll lock up in spots that it shouldn't. Another example leads to the fact that the camera will at times spin around on its own. Say Vexx is running along one platform and hopping onto the next -- the camera then won't decide to sit still, and ends up revolving to the side, making the leap ahead a little hard to determine if it's safe or not. Sometimes this mess can be fixed by either pressing down on the R3 button to maintain a zoomed in view, or tapping the circle or triangle buttons which center the camera and brings Vexx into a first person perspective. Though it isn't always a joy playing around with a very tricky camera, to say the least.
Many people think that if a game looks good, it must play good too. That message isn't true, or at least some of the time. But for Vexx, that sentence doesn't deal with either, or at least not to the full level of its effectiveness. Vexx is a game that isn't too shabby looking, although, its mediocrity continues to run deep. In his travels, Vexx visits many worlds -- some made of fiery mountain sides, others of rocky desert trails, and even in one area of icy escapades. Texturally, there isn't that much of anything exciting to see. Across mountain walls, enemies, water, and other objects, the attention to texture detail is thin. Character and worldly models aren't much of anything themselves. One after another, the enemies appear in simple structure amongst bland environments with stiff grass blades, moving platforms, falling rocks, uninteresting river beds, or on top of temple steps that say "could be better" all over them.
Saving the game's apparatus is Vexx. He's the one with all the looks, all the moves, and the one who is to rescue his world from further devastation. Coming equipped with an overhaul of animations, Vexx does it all. He punches forward, to the sides, and spins around smoothly. He flips forward and backward, swims and slides, and blasts the baddies away with his talon powers. Climbing upward on scalable walls is always a nice touch, as Vexx clings to it like a real, uh...whatever he is...would, only to be able to slide down it as easily making the sparks that fly follow in his path. Shadow and light affect Vexx as well in a cool way. If generating the energy stored within his two claws, Vexx's body will illuminate along with it. Under the sun or night, a shadow clings to the hero in a realistic manner. Enemies, sadly, carry the same redundant pattern of movement throughout the game. There are those who wobble around toward Vexx, and those who soar above...but even though the enemy animations entirely intolerable, they don't take on the characteristic life of Vexx's own.
Generally no great shakes come out of the sound work done in Vexx. Music for one thing is churned out barrenly with only a few tracks to hear. Since the themes are adventuresome and actually fit in with Vexx's journey, they aren't all that bad to have around. Still, the music isn't too great and does get repetitive after some time. Audio in the game is of better quality, but like most aspects of Vexx doesn't act with regard for higher standards. It's in the swimming under water you can hear the whooshing sounds; in the running over ground you can hear Vexx's footsteps differ in variables; in the scaling and sliding down of walls, you'll hear the noises of claws doing their work; and in the assault on enemy hordes the talons slicing and dicing up a death count.
But the enemies act indifferent to Vexx's sound arena, and are without the same measure of goodness. They'll wriggle and jiggle, and emanate all sorts of alien noises that actually aren't too pleasing to hear the first or any time. While there isn't much of a story fitted into the game of Vexx, there is variety of voice acting strewn throughout both cut scenes and the gameplay. During the cut scenes (which are very few) the quality of the work is rather poor. Most likely because of the limited storyline, Vexx is without a voice cast that could really make the story that could've been shine. In other parts of the game, Vexx will pass by gravestones of fallen Shadowraiths. Now, I don't know if it was meant to be intentional or not, but these gravestones really freak me out. Think back to the movie Poltergeist, and the voices used to bring these floating sparkles of light surrounding the graves to life are a mix of creepy supernatural collections...leaving me no choice but to run and hide when I listen to them repeat the lines of wanting Vexx to hurry onward.
You guessed it -- Vexx is the result of a sinking genre looking to reclaim its throne. In the past the platform genre was new and still in its stages of innovations. Too often had ideas followed that were used too quickly, and Vexx is stuck in the middle of a tug-of-war between what was the best of times, what was the worst times, and what has never had the chance to happen. While Vexx is like a rewrite of other genre releases, the game does play out in a style somewhat of its own that's interesting, albeit not very innovative. But if you're one of the many platform lovers out there, and don't mind receiving bonus material of trailers for a few of Acclaim's "other" recent titles, then I'd say give Vexx a good long rent, and find out how much like you'll get out of rescuing the world one more time.