Hands-onVexx

Acclaim's original 3D platformer is coming to the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2. Check out our updated impressions of the Xbox version of the game.

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It may seem like platform games have been all the rage with developers recently, and based upon the number of games in the genre that have been announced in the past few weeks, most people would be inclined to agree. It's true that if you're trying to create for your company an indelible image that everyone will remember, developing a platformer featuring a memorable mascot is probably the best way to go about it. Acclaim has decided to do just that and try something new at the same time with Vexx, a free-roaming 3D platformer for the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2.

Vexx is a dark and edgy character who looks like a mutated human of some sort with a large, clawlike apparatus attached to each arm. As the game begins, Vexx's grandfather is killed right in front of his eyes by an evil being called Dark Yabu. Believing he's the last of his kind and looking for revenge, Vexx sets out to track down Dark Yabu and deliver his own brand of justice. Along his journey, Vexx finds that he's not really the last of his race as he adventures across surrealistic lands filled with danger. Acclaim stated that the game draws its aesthetics from comic strips like Calvin and Hobbes, so expect some dark occurrences set against a colorful backdrop.

Vexx has already been in development for three years, so its gameplay is starting to take shape. As with most platforming games, jumping is the crux of the gameplay. Besides the traditional double-jump and butt-stomp mechanics, Vexx will be able to climb on walls of a specific texture and head underwater for some swimming action. While he's underwater, it's possible for Vexx to attack enemies, but you must keep an eye on an air gauge--or he will drown. Vexx's talonlike arm attachments are good for a number of uses, including delivering punishing uppercuts to enemies and charging them up for special electrical attacks. As you progress through the game, the talons will also be upgraded to give Vexx even more abilities.

The puzzles included in Vexx come in a wide variety. Sometimes you'll have to take out an enemy or structure that will initiate a chain reaction, causing portions of the level to be altered and new paths to be opened. There is also a day-and-night system--some enemies are easier to kill during the day, and some objectives are impossible to accomplish unless you attempt them at the proper time. Several of the game's puzzles work around this ideal, and it will be interesting to see Acclaim come up with something that hasn't already been done in other games with a similar system. Puzzles are also built around temporary abilities that Vexx gains by stepping on special pads. He can step on an invincibility pad and will be covered in lava rocks or step on a multiplying pad and multiply so that you control more than one Vexx at once.

Collecting is a big part of most platform games, and Vexx is no different. In the 60-percent-complete build we saw, there were three items to collect: shards, hearts, and flags. Shards seem to be similar to coins in Super Mario 64 in that they're spread all over the place and are in great supply. Hearts, like the stars in Super Mario 64, are awarded for performing especially difficult tasks. Representatives from Acclaim were not sure as to what purpose the flags serve, but we should find out at next month's E3. In addition to the traditional platforming elements, Vexx will reward those who are adventurous by supplying plenty of hidden areas to discover. There will also be a wealth of minigames and sublevels to play through. One of the game's more interesting features is a secret language that is strewn throughout the game's levels. If you manage to crack the code, you'll be rewarded with hidden challenges. The majority of enemies have yet to be added to the game, so we were unable to get a feel for the game's combat system.

Vexx's graphical offerings could best be described as early. The frame rates are quite erratic, and there are still quite a bit of visual bugs to squash. But what was shown is enough to give us a general feeling of how the final game will look. The draw distance in the game is impressive--the horizon literally stretches on for miles. Any object that you can see in the game can be reached with enough patience and internal fortitude. The textures for the game are especially worthy of mention and feature a nice clarity, even when viewed up close. There are six levels included in the game, and they range from underwater affairs with huge, menacing fish to cliff-strewn environments shrouded in clouds with no perceivable floor. The color palate is composed of muted hues that help establish the game's stark settings. Some of the minigames and sublevels take place in quirky environments, like the inside of a piano or in a giant's house, complete with an oversized console and controller sitting on the coffee table. Real-time cinemas are used to move the game's plot forward, and special effects such as real-time lighting, heat blur, and realistic shadows are used to positive effect.

Vexx is shaping up to be a unique take on the platforming genre, and it will be interesting to learn about all its features when Acclaim decides its ready to tell all. Currently in development for the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2, the Xbox version of Vexx we were allowed to see looks extremely early in its development cycle. The game is currently scheduled for simultaneous release on all three platforms in October, which should give Acclaim enough time to straighten out any issues.

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