Ever since Christmas, I haven’t been playing that many video games. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a Steam list filled with game that I might get to by the time the nuclear apocalypse rolls around, and I have plenty of retro games to play for this series, but when I find myself with free time I haven’t been spending it with a controller in my hand. I know it’s not because I’m growing apart from video games, I have logged my fair share of hours in ‘Overwatch’ and I’m steadily making my way through ‘Ori and the Blind Forest’, but something is holding me back.
I think I’ve been playing too many games without a hook. Or at the very least, games without a hook I can latch onto. I was able to sit for weeks on end, for over 60 hours at this point, playing ‘Fallout 4’ because it hit every bias I have. Post apocalyptic? Check. Explorable version of my home city? Check. Have my pet dog attack mutants and pretend that they’re townies? Check and check. As good as ‘Ori and the Blind Forest’ is, my preference isn’t to be emotionally curb stomped every time I hit a checkpoint.
It’s time to take a different approach. It’s been too long since I played a 3D platformer and I miss it. I’ve been playing plenty of 2D platformers, and that’s been great since it reminds me of being a kid, but nostalgia comes in waves and sometimes, very rarely, almost never, but sometimes, I like to be reminded of my years in High School.
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
I wasn’t able to play the original ‘Gex’ since I had an N64 at the time, but little did I know, there was a mascot out there that ticked off every box on younger me’s list of “arbitrary items required to enjoy a game”. He was a sassy character that made me laugh, he was able to choose levels and explore open stages like Mario, and each area dealt with a different movie or TV trope, which didn’t come around very often back then. When I was finally introduced to Gex, hours of my life, mostly revolving around homework time, were sunk into this game.
Most platformers were starting to feel “samey” by the time I bought “Gex:Enter the Gecko”. Fire stage, water stage, cold stage, then a couple of token varieties to shake things up like a castle level or a ghost stage (i.e. the greatest of all stages), all of them I’ve seen in dozens of other games. I remember each level feeling fresh since I was tail whipping enemies in a spy or Indiana Jones themed level instead of running through yet another lava pit. Some of my best memories of this game are the sections that best parody the given genre, though maybe “memories” is too strong of a word for it. Flashes of images with happy emotions might be a better descriptor. Incidentally, this is also how I would describe my latter years at college and I’m not sure that’s actually a good thing.
Most of the action was what I expected. Climbing, platforming, tailspinning, and fly eating. Going into this game, this is exactly what I want (though I’m hoping that the fly eating doesn’t give me Vietnam style flashbacks to ‘Battletoads’). I want to relive the period where every new ledge I found made me have to think about where I was supposed to go next. The best platformers mixed up the quick reactions needed to navigate the level with moments of puzzle like inquisitiveness. Was this one of them? I think it was.
Let’s find out.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
Quick disclosure: What I remember is from the N64 version of the game and right now, I don’t have an N64. Yeah, yeah, I know, boo on me, but I’m not a huge collector. I also love movies, but my actual collection of DVDs and Blu rays is pitifully low. What I did in order to play this game is buy a digital copy for my PS Vita.
That’s right. I have a Vita but not an N64. If you’re going to throw things at me in protest, I suggest non-perishable canned goods since it’s rent week and I don’t have grocery money till my next paycheck.
With that aside, let’s get into the game.
What surprised me the most was how well the visuals held up. Well, the PS1 visuals on a 2012 console. I’m assuming the N64 wasn’t that far off visually. Despite some low resolution issues like pixilated flames and flat textures, ‘Gex: Enter the Gecko’ is still pleasing to look at. With it’s simplified character design, bright colors, and use of movement, this game reminded me of all the fun of a Saturday morning cartoon.
I could have done without some of the one liners though. To the game’s credit, each stage has it’s own set of lines which cuts down on certain phrases getting repeated to the point where you’d rather have earplugs made of broken glass. That being said, I’m a little dumbfounded by the choice of references. For a game made in 1998, I get the Austin Powers reference, but Boy George? Rip Taylor? Joe Piscopo? I had to look up Joe Piscopo because I forgot who the fuck he was! And some are a little…well…let’s just say they should have been left in the 90s…
For the most part, I got exactly what I was looking for with this game, though one aspect I forgot about quickly came back to me after struggling with it for a grand total of 45 seconds: the camera. Let’s be real for a moment, the camera in early 3D games weren’t that great, even in classic games like ‘Super Mario 64’. The different between that game and ‘Gex: Enter the Gecko’ is that ‘Super Mario 64’ had a lot of open areas. When the camera has room to maneuver, you’re able to see more of your surroundings and lineup jumps for easier platforming. ‘Gex: Enter the Gecko’ decided to build most of their levels around tight spaces like the indoors, which makes controlling the camera as easy as trying to take a photo of a flower during a bear attack.
Overall, for a game that I felt was going to feel the most dated and stale out of all the ones I played thus far, ‘Gex: Enter the Gecko’ remains fun. Sure, it has it’s issues, and the camera occasionally makes me want to destroy my room like a 90s commercial about heroin, but I’m enjoying my time with it. It has unique levels with multiple goals that provides the right amount of variety in order to keep my interest. It may not be among the platformer greats, but I believe most folk will get some fun out of it.