The platform genre is incredibly oversubscribed with substandard and below par games. With the likes of Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank leading the way Vexx has a lot to live up to, and it falls well below par.
Now, stop me if you’ve heard this one before. In order to stop some evil guy doing generally evil things, involving the world turning all nasty. You must find and collect the missing wraith hearts (or gold coins or power orbs or cogs ect ect) that have been hidden around a number of very similar looking levels. In order to find them Vexx must climb, jump, play dull mini-games change into different costumes ect. Get the idea? originality is not this games strong point.
However, as Rayman 3 proved so beautifully - just because something is unoriginal doesn’t mean it cannot be presented in a very enjoyable and funky way. Not in this case however. Graphically, Vexx looks dull, using a combination of dull brown, off brown, dark brown and the odd bit of green and blue to fill its levels with. Though there are a fair few levels available, all accessed from a central hub. They all more or less look exactly the same. Now surely an Amazon type temple area should look an awful lot different from a dessert landscape?
Unfortunately the game play is as uninspiring as the graphics. Apart from the odd flash of originality the game really lacks anything new. In fact the first level of the game heavily ‘borrows’ ideas from the first level of Mario 64. Capturing the first wraith heart involves you making your way up a tree, which sort of snakes round. While doing this you must avoid falling boulders and finally once the summit is reached, fight a boss creature. All you need are a few Kooper turtles and you would be back in the days of the Nintendo 64.
Furthermore, every task you have to perform feels more like a chore than a fun gaming experience. Most involve doing things done a thousand times before in a thousand other platform games. For example - walking across a rotating log, or taking an item back to a certain point, to name just a few of the repeated ideas. As the levels progress nothing new seems to happen. Making it to the next stage of a game should open up something that makes the player want to explore and push on continually to the next area. Vexx is content to keep all the levels looking similar, playing similar and even keeping the difficulty level similar.
Difficulty wise this game is not easy. From the moment you start things can get tough pretty quickly. This would not be a problem if the content of the game made you want to keep trying the levels until you eventually succeed. But it doesn’t, all it does is make you more and more frustrated and leave you with the feeling that really you can’t be bothered to go on.
The frustrating elements of the game are not helped by the camera. Far too often the camera will get jammed somewhere meaning you can’t see in front of you. Or it will pan behind you completely obscuring where that tiny gap you just fell down was. Also it can be incredibly difficult to work out where the edges of ledges are at times, even if you are stood right next to them. One too many times the camera tried my patience by moving so far back that it made Vexx seem like a tiny dot in the distance. So much so that I lost all depth perception of where I was trying to go. I’ve never really realised how hard it would be to play a 3d game without any depth perception before. All this makes what should be simple tasks very difficulty. I am all for difficult challenges but not when the dodgy camera is the cause.
To sum up, its fair to say that Vexx is by nowhere near the worst game I have ever played. Every now and then it does throw up the odd moment of gaming fun. But most of the time it’s dull and uninspiring. It’s a shame as if the camera had been sorted out it would have helped a lot. Removing an awful lot of the frustration. There are just to many occasions when you have to make a leap of faith or fall down a near invisible hole. This coupled with the general lack of ideas and gaming flair mean it lags well behind in the PS2 platform pecking order.