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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
7.3
Visuals
8.0
Audio
7.0
Gameplay
7.0
Features
7.5
Replay
7.0
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
GameCube
PUBLISHER:
Acclaim
DEVELOPER:
Acclaim Austin
GENRE: Platformer
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
February 12, 2003
ESRB RATING:
Teen
IN THE SERIES
Vexx

Vexx

 Written by Jeff Milligan  on March 17, 2003

Full Review: Camera problems in a platform game? Don't be ridiculous, that's unheard of!


When you think about platform games, what are often the first things that come to mind? Storming the castle and rescuing the princess? Running through worlds and finding gold hoops? Or maybe crossing the street while trying to avoid being run over by cars? All of these are classic themes in platform games that we have grown to know and love, but now the way you view platformers may forever change. Avenging death, searching for the still-beating hearts of the dead, and destroying all foes that stand in your way may have been foreign to platformers in the past, but they're common ground in Vexx.

You learn right from the opening cinematic what Vexx is all about. Living in the village of Rockhaven, the Astani villagers led difficult, but peaceful lives, until the day the Shadowraith known as "Dark Yabu" ascended upon them. It was on this day that Yabu drove the Astani into slavery, but there was one who resisted. Vexx, a young but fearless boy decided he would take matters into his own hands. Escaping Yabu's clutches only because of his grandfather's attack on Yabu, Vexx snuck aboard Yabu's ship to find the one weapon that could rival the evil master's powers, the Astani War-Talons. Realizing that Vexx had escaped, Yabu kills Vexx's grandfather, the one person that mattered to Vexx. With the War-Talons equipped and nothing to lose, Vexx sets out on his quest to avenge his grandfather's death.

Even though the story may be unfamiliar territory, Vexx is still a platform game at heart. Collecting items is still the main objective in Vexx, but instead of searching for coins and rupees, you search for shadowraith-hearts. These hearts contain the power of the fallen Shadowraiths, and are the only way to power-up the Rift Hub. The Rift Hub is nothing more than a room with numerous doors. Each door has a number on it, which shows how many wraith-hearts are needed to open it. Behind each door is a new world, complete with its own set of objectives and puzzles. Unfortunately, collecting the wraith-hearts is the only real objective in Vexx, and with 70 of them to collect, it gets boring quick. The good thing is that only 50 are needed to finish the game, the rest of which can either be forgotten, or attained later.

Wielding the Astani War-Talons not only gives Vexx the power to defeat Yabu, but it also gives him some pretty mean attacks. Right from the beginning Vexx has a nice repertoire of maneuvers to vanquish his enemies. Besides the basic slash-slash-slash type attack, Vexx can also air-juggle enemies, causing massive amounts of damage, and also builds up his frenzy meter. Once the frenzy meter has been fully charged, players can give Vexx an extra boost of speed and attacks power by pressing the R button. The frenzy only lasts around 10 seconds, so it's best to use it when surrounded by lots of enemies. Vexx can also gain 2 elemental power-ups throughout the course of the game, the Air-suit and the Rock-suit, which give Vexx the ability to fly and to become invincible respectively. Again, these power-ups only last 20 or 30 seconds each, and can also only be used in certain spots. These 2 power-ups were nice additions, but are only used 2-3 times each in the game, and don't serve any real purpose besides being able to collect a few more wraith-hearts.

Although Vexx has the numerous power-ups and attacks, the main focus unfortunately isn't on combat. You would think that with a darker story behind it that Vexx would be all about battling enemies and revenge, but it isn't. Once the game begins, Vexx seems to forget that he's avenging his grandfather's death until the final encounter with Yabu. Instead, the main focus in Vexx is platform jumping, a category which just about every platform game on the planet is based off of. Cliffs and gaping holes in the ground are often what separate Vexx from the wraith-hearts. You're given 2-3 different jumping abilities to use, but because there are so many jumping objectives the game gets very tedious.

The jumping missions can be tolerated by some, but the main problem you'll find in Vexx is the camera issues, a problem which haunts most of the entire platform genre. Although the camera can be moved around with the c-stick, there are many spots where the camera won't move, especially when you're backed up against a wall. This often calls for the player to make a blind jump or maneuver, which can often times get you killed. Some platforms require the greatest of accuracy to land on, and when you can't see where you're jumping it defeats the purpose of the game entirely.

One of the plus sides in Vexx is a nice variety of puzzles and mini-games. After the first 2 or 3 worlds, wraith-hearts are no longer found out in the open, but instead are found deep within side-areas. Some of these areas have tough puzzles to figure out, others have fun mini-games to complete, but all of them will give you the same prize upon completion, a wraith-heart. One of the best mini-games comes early on in the game where Vexx is challenged to a sumo-wrestling match by an enemy 10 times his size. Knocking him out of the ring 3 times is the only way to achieve victory, but your opponent may not be satisfied if he loses.

Throughout his journey Vexx will travel across 9 different worlds, each having a different theme. One door leads to an under-water city similar to that of Jar-Jar Bink's hometown in Star Wars Episode I. Another leads you inside a mansion, complete with a giant attack dog that puts even the Beast from The Sandlot to shame. Each world is beautifully designed and for the most part are all well thought out. Vibrant colors are used to bring each world to life, both in the day time, and at night. The one problem is that during night-time most of the worlds become extremely dark, and it's difficult to tell where you're going. You may think you're doing fine until all of a sudden you've fallen down a pit and have died.

Even with all of these wonderfully done environments, the characters and enemies are a different story. They, for the most part, do feature the same vibrant colors as the environments, but aren't as well designed. Vexx and his foes are blocky and rough in texture, which is a shame when shown against such exuberant worlds. The sound effects and music don't match the greatness of the environments either. There's nothing stunning that will blow you away, yet there's nothing that will force you to hit the mute button either.

Bottom Line
When first announced, Vexx seemed like it was going to be like nothing the platform genre had ever seen. Yet instead of focusing in on its storyline of murder, Vexx jumps right back into collecting items and jumping gaps, a system which has been done numerous times over. Like most platform games, once Vexx has been completed, it will probably either start collecting dust on your shelf or will be headed for the trade-in bin. There are a few notable features worth checking out however, and may merit a buy from the biggest of platform fans. For the rest of you, try Super Mario Sunshine before slapping down the bills to buy Vexx.


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