Developer(s) – Acclaim Studios Austin
Publisher(s) – Acclaim Entertainment
Being the last original IP published by Acclaim Studios before filing for bankruptcy in late 2004, Vexx was a 3D platformer released to mixed critical success, and low sales figures leading to the cancellation of a planned port to the Game Boy Advance. Personally, I did find that the game had more than it’s fair of issues, but It’s certainly not the worst 3D platformer I’ve played, and not one of the worst 3D platformers released throughout the sixth generation. The game also has it’s finer points that are certainly worth highlighting.
Graphics – 6.5/10
One of these finer points is that the game’s visuals are about as wonderfully varied as many other more successful 3D platformers featuring a wide variety of different locations ranging from forests to volcanoes to dream worlds. The boss and enemy designs were also fairly well executed for the most part, suiting he tableau of each of their respective levels. My biggest concerns about the graphics were focused on the technical side of things. The game looks somewhat outdated for the time compared to a lot of games released prior, such as Luigi’s Mansion and Metroid Prime, and the lighting is also pretty inconsistent which will leave players struggling to navigate through levels when the night comes. It can be an especially annoying problem when players need to climb certain wall surfaces to reach higher ground, as the poor lighting can make it difficult for players to differentiate between walls that are traversable and walls that are not.
Gameplay – 7/10
The object of the game is largely reminiscent of that of some of the best 3D platformers ever developed, such as Super Mario 64 and the original Jak & Daxter; completing specific objectives to collect items needed to advance. In this case, it’s the hearts of dead wraiths, which gives Vexx a much darker undertone than either one of the aforementioned games. There is also an emphasis on combat and stringing combos together, which for the most part keeps things interesting. I did enjoy how tasks to complete in order to collect the hearts were surprisingly varied, and how there are a fair few hearts to collect in each level, giving players plenty to do. Interestingly, some of the hidden locations in the game that can be found relatively early on involve warping into and traversing through wall paintings, which are mechanics extremely reminiscent of the game Contrast, which involve players having to traverse shadow in order to get around. I can’t help but wonder if this game influenced Contrast.
Controls – 8/10
For the most part, the controls are fairly simple to cope with, like most other 3D platformer that require the use if an analogue stick for movement, but I did find a couple of flaws. For example, the swimming mechanics weren’t handled particularly well, handled in a manner reminiscent of the swimming mechanics in Majora’s Mask. I also wished that combat could have been handled a little bit better. I thin that having a targeting system reminiscent of Ocarina of Time or Dark Cloud would have helped to significantly improve the experience and add a lot more fluency to it.
Lifespan – 6.5/10
Vexx can be made to last around 7 to 8 hours, which whilst may be much lower than the average lifespan of a 3D platformer, is still a length of time in which gamers will be kept busy by a lack of cutscenes and a fair abundance in gameplay. There are around ten wraith hearts to collect in each level, and a lot of the objectives required to get some of them are fairly demanding in terms of both time investment and challenge, making it longer than may other games released on the system. Although Luigi’s Mansion is ultimately the superior of the two games, Vexx can be made to seem much longer in comparison.
Storyline – 7.5/10
The story of the game follows a young villager named Vexx, who after being forced into slavery along with his grandfather Vargas by the evil wraith lord Yabu, escapes captivity, and vows revenge against him and his army after Yabu kills Vargas following an attempt by the latter to save Vexx from being killed by Yabu himself. I was surprised by everything about the game’s story, from how the tone is set to how the lot unfolds, and then right up to how it ends. Compared to many of the other games that this game was undoubtedly influenced by, there is a surprisingly dark and gritty aspect to it.
Originality – 7/10
Undoubtedly, the most unique aspect of the game is how mature and sinister the story is compared to many other games in the genre, and how the supposed hero isn’t always triumphant. For how innocent the game looks on the surface, players will inevitably be very surprised when and if they come to pick it up and play it. Better and more unique gameplay mechanics were pioneered in the sixth generation than what was seen within this title, and there are mistakes present that make it stand out for the wrong reasons, but for the most part, I found that it did the things it needed to do fairly well, making it worthy of at least one playthrough.
In summation, Vexx is a pretty enjoyable and wonderfully dark gaming experience. The gameplay is pretty well executed, the story is shocking well told, albeit with a few examples of bad voice acting, and even though the visuals were somewhat outdated for the time, the world of Astara is immersing and varied enough to be enjoyable for the most part.