Title: Vexx
Developer: Acclaim
Publisher: Acclaim
Date Published: February 11, 2003
Platforms: XBox, Playstation 2, Gamecube
ESRB Rating: Teen

"VEXX illustrates our ongoing commitment to creating new intellectual properties that set industry benchmarks and deliver captivating game play experiences for consumers. With incredible graphics, non-stop combat action and immense levels with puzzles and exploration, VEXX is the premier platform game of 2003." --Even Stein, VP of Marketing for Acclaim

Vexx is a game that, while a solid creation, isn't really anything to stand up and shout about. This game was supposed to "revolutionize" and "breath new life" into the platformer genre, but while it takes a tried-and-true genre and doesn't embarrass it any further than it already has been, it certainly doesn't live up to its claims of being a killer app among platformers.

Plot

If you're looking for an engaging plot, let me go ahead and let you know that you're in the wrong place. But, if you insist...

The story begins with the Astani race, who's pinnacle of power was the creation of the Landspire, a device meant to draw power in order to create portals to other dimensions. They open the portal, and, of course, it opens into a dark realm, and from the portal pours the legions of evil, who immediately attack the Astani. The battle continues with these Shadowwraiths, until the Astani race is wiped out by the appearance of the Dark Yabu. The battle falls to a lone Guardian Astani named Treyvn, who holds the one weapon dangerous to the wraiths: The Astani War Talons!

BUMM-BUMM-BUUUUUMMMMM!

He is defeated. (Treyvn, that is.) The War Talons are taken by the Dark Yabu. 700 years later, the war against the wraiths falls to a lesser race, the Valdar.

Vexx (a Valdar youth), along with his grandfather, Vargas, are slaves to the wraiths, forced to mine wraithhearts for their energy needs. A guard pushes Vexx too far, and he attacks one of them. His grandfather saves his life defending him from the Dark Yabu, however he forfeits his own. Vexx, vowing revenge, sneaks onto the wraiths Windship. There, he finds walls lined in Wraithhearts, along with Soul Jars, captured Astani souls the wraiths use for refreshment. And... The Astani War Talons.

BUMM-BUMM-BUUUUUMMMMM!

The Talons bind themselves to Vexx, and he sets out on his quest for freedom and revenge.

In short, there is no plot of importance, and you can commence to kicking ass now.

Gameplay

Let's go ahead and get one misconception out of the way.

This game does not suck. It's actually quite fun.

Now, let's move on.

The entire point of the game is to collect the aforementioned wraithhearts so that you can unlock the Landspire and kick Dark Yabu's ass. Again, this is nothing that isn't familiar already.

The application of this goal should also be imminently familiar to anyone who's played a platformer.

"Don't fall into the big yawning chasm, k? I know that a simple fucking staircase seems like it wouldn't be too much to ask for, but you'll have to contend with the spinning, occasionally disappearing, moving platform. And while you're at it, don't get eaten by our strange and biologically impossible creatures who seem to have no other purpose than getting in your way."

Vexx's abilities to do this are, needless to say, impressive, if not particularly groundbreaking. You've got your standard jump, your high jump, long jump, hang from the wall, jump from the wall, etc. Basic platforming control scheme. Vexx responds to the controls very well, turning, jumping, and stopping at a tap of the controller. No problems here.

Vexx's attacking abilities are pretty standard as well. A couple of 3-4 button combos, and the ability to use juggling attacks like an uppercut, or a jumping flip kick. He can shoot fireballs downward while in the air, or by powering up his talons by getting points from juggling attacks, may temporarily shoot a few fireballs horizontally at enemies. The combat system could be much better done, but I'll talk more on that soon.

The levels are large and well designed. They are well built, graphically, which may be in part due to the game being based on the Quake engine. The sense of heights is pervasive, and realistic. This aspect was colourfully described by my fiance as being "clit-clenchingly realistic." I believe the use of this phrase may be the most rewarding thing I took from this game. There are a few boss creatures that will prove fun, and the gameplay is solid, if not exactly anything we all haven't seen before. You're looking at a standard, if well-done, platformer.

One problem is that the enemies are uninspired, and largely arbitrary. There aren't many variations of them, they aren't impressive, and most of them attack by running into you. This is a major weak point in the design of this game.

The biggest problem that I encountered with this game, however, is the camera. There are moments in the game where you would swear that they intentionally made the camera do what it's doing, just to make it more challenging. This is not good.

Controversy

THIS was supposed to revolutionize the platforming genre?

That's so ludicrous, it's not even really amusing.

The thing is, I weep for the game that this one might have been. If they only could have instituted some kind of system to build up Vexx's powers, using basically what he starts with to build upon. Then they could set up a set of enemies that can deal with Vexx's growing power. Also, his rage attack is fucking weak. Five or six fireballs? Gee, thanks. Think I'll pass. Vexx *IS* a likeable character, and if they could have just set up a combat system on par with Double Dragon (and fixed the camera), then this game might have actually been great, rather than a sadly forgettable good.

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