Gex and The 8th Generation: A Perfect Match

2017 has been a fantastic year for fans of 3D platform games. We’ve gotten Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy, Yooka Laylee, Poi, and A Hat In Time almost one after the other. Perhaps the biggest entry into the genre this year, Super Mario Odyssey is right around the corner. After a serious drought in this genre with the seventh generation of consoles, games like these are a serious breath of fresh area with the market becoming saturated with pixelated sidescrollers, survival-horror and FPS.

Personally, this resurgence of a genre I hold near and dear has been a pleasant escape from the harsh reality outside of my game room. 2017 has also been pretty miserable in terms of world events. It’s hard NOT to joke or rant about some of the things happening in the world outside of gaming right now.

That said, the revival of 3D platformers and sometimes comedic lineup of world events has created what I believe may may possibly be the best time to bring a cult-classic platform series into the eight generation of video games.

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Crystal Dynamics may have picked the wrong horse when developing Gex for a console like the 3DO, but the game received enough attention and acclaim to make the leap to the Playstation a year later.

GEX was a 1994 2D platformer developed by Crystal Dynamics for a new contender in the console arena- the 3DO. The wise-cracking gecko protagonist was to be to the 3DO what Mario was to the NES and SNES, and what Sonic was to the Genesis. Even in a market overflowing with “me too” mascots, GEX managed to stand on its own and received critical acclaim at the time of its release. The game was eventually ported over to several consoles in the following years, most notably the Sony Playstation in 1995.

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Like any mascot that wanted to live past 1996, Gex made the leap into the third dimension. Luckily, he fared better than a certain bobcat wearing a white T-Shirt. (Boxart scan from http://www.emuparadise.com)

With 3D games becoming all the rage, it only made sense to bring the character to the third dimension to keep him relevant. Crystal Dynamics had already pumped out Tomb Raider, which was a huge hit (for more reasons than Lara Croft’s bust size), so there was no reason why they couldn’t make a competent 3D platformer. Gex: Enter The Gecko (PS1, N64, PC) was released in January of 1998, built off the same engine as the original Tomb Raider.

In many ways, I consider Enter the Gecko to be even better than Super Mario 64 (often considered the best 3D platformer ever in a lot of Top 10’s). The level design was more focused, there were small hints at the beginning of each mission to nod players in the right direction (figuring out where to go in Super Mario 64 was one of my biggest problems, and even two decades later, some missions are confusing without a guide). A tiered collectible system incentivized picking up every last doo-dad littered throughout the colorful, pop-culture themed worlds in the form of extra lives and secret remotes (Gex’s equivalent of power stars) that lead to even more areas to explore.

I may be a bit biased as this was one of the first video games I ever played and completed, but having spent some time with it for old time’s sake a few weeks ago, I can still say the game holds up relatively well in comparison to some other platformers of its time. It suffers from the same problems many early 3D games faced, including a temperamental camera and occasionally wonky controls, but it’s still a blast to play thanks to its more structured approach to the genre and solid level design. Even if some of the movie and film references are (obviously) pretty dated and the chuckles they still get out of me remind me that I’m getting old, Enter the Gecko will always be a game I revisit every couple of years.

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Gex managed to get one last hurrah in 1999 with Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko. While still a solid game, I always found it to be the weakest of the trilogy.

Since 1999, Gex hasn’t seen anything more than a few cameo appearances. There was a fourth entry planned for the Playstation 2, but all that remains of it are two pieces of concept art.

Fans, however, haven’t been quiet. Numerous videos about the series have been put out on Youtube, some of which express strong desire to see the series return. One fan account has managed to gain a considerable following, currently standing at 1,719 followers.

In addition, Square Enix, who now holds the rights to the Gex IP, opened up to the possibility of developers creating new games based off some of their pre-existing IPs, including Gex back in 2015. Nothing is concrete as of yet. Even more interesting, Crystal Dynamics has been buzzing about the character on its official Twitter page off and on.

It’s almost maddening how there’s still no word officially on a Gex 4. The 3D platformer is making a rapid comeback, the real world and film/tv shows are providing enough content for a new game to poke fun at (as Enter the Gecko and Deep Cover Gecko did for the 90’s) to assure it could maintain the series’ sense of humor, and fans have been sounding off on the demand for a fourth installment for several years (with one more added to the list right here). Ever since I was a kid, I wanted Gex 4 to happen. I mean, if BUBSY of all characters could get a sequel that nobody asked for out of the blue, I don’t see how a new Gex would be too far-fetched when there’s plenty who would want it. I think the timing would be perfect, all things considered.

What are your thoughts on the possibility of a new Gex title or the franchise itself? Should the tux-donning lizard come back for another round of running, jumping, and making fun of everything going on in the world beyond the TV screen…or is he better left in the 90’s?

 

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