Gex (video game)
Crystal Dynamics |
Beam Software (PS1/Saturn)
BMG Interactive (3DO)|
Crystal Dynamics (PS1/Saturn)
|Artist(s)||Mira F. Ross|
|Platform(s)||3DO, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Microsoft Windows|
Gex is a 1995 platform game developed by Crystal Dynamics. It was originally released for the 3DO, but ports of the game were later released for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Microsoft Windows. It was a pack-in game for Panasonic models of the 3DO later in the console's life. It is the first game in the Gex series and introduces players to the title character, a wisecracking, television-obsessed gecko voiced by comedian Dana Gould, who must venture through the "Media Dimension" and defeat Rez, the overlord of the dimension who wants to make Gex into his new network mascot.
Gex was created by Lyle Hall in 1993 shortly after he had joined Crystal Dynamics, and initially followed a movie stuntman named Gecko X before being retooled at the advisory of Lead Programmer Gregg Travers. The game's lead character was intended as a mascot for the developer who could rival the likes of other immensely popular platformer characters- primarily Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. Initially intended for completion in June 1994, and later in September of that year, development of the game took 21 months, with time constraints and a limited development team leading to numerous production difficulties. Several features were cut because of a necessity to complete the game on time, but some of these features were later re-added by a team of developers who programmed several other "hidden" features into the game. It was eventually released in April 1995 to largely positive reviews from critics. The 3DO version of the game managed to sell over a million copies, making it one of the system's better-selling games. Two sequels were later released, titled Gex 3D: Enter the Gecko and Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko.
Gex is a side-scrolling platformer that follows the title character, an anthropomorphic, television-obsessed gecko named Gex who must travel through the “media dimension” and defeat the game's antagonist, Rez. Gex must traverse through 24 levels contained in 5 different TV channels which act as game worlds (accessed through a world map), each filled with platforming stages and ending with a boss stage. The goal of each stage is to explore and locate hidden television remotes which are used to unlock more levels. The original 3DO version of the game allows players to save their progress and resume from where they left off; all other versions use a password system instead. The player unlocks passwords and accesses the opportunity to save by beating a boss stage, or by finding VHS tapes hidden in certain levels. Every level contains a hidden portal which leads to a bonus level, the perfect completion of which earns the player a piece of the Planet X remote. Collecting every piece of this remote allows them to reach Planet X, an optional secret world.
Many of Gex's default abilities take advantage of his special characteristics as a gecko. In addition to being able to walk, run, and jump through the game’s levels, he can attach himself to walls and ceilings and crawl along them using the suction pads on his feet, allowing him to reach higher areas. Gex primarily attacks by using his tail; he can whip it in a full circle, which can be used to defeat enemies, activate switches and deflect projectiles, and can coil it into the shape of a spring in order to bounce off of enemies and other things. Levels contain assorted collectible power-ups which can provide Gex with several different abilities, such as enhanced speed, invulnerability, and specialized projectiles that can be launched from his mouth. Gex can obtain and utilize these power-ups by lashing his gecko tongue out and consuming them; alternatively, however, these items can also be tail whipped in order to replenish lost health, albeit at the expense of the item's primary effect. Gex's health is represented by three "hit paws", and he loses one whenever he is hit by an enemy or a hazard. If the player loses all of their hit paws, then they lose a life. The number of hit paws can be extended to 6 by finding a certain power-up. The player begins the game with 3 lives, though more can be earned by collecting 100 Golden flies in a level. Running out of lives gives the player a game over, forcing them to begin from the beginning (or from their last save point in the 3DO release).
The prologue to Gex is outlined within the game's instruction manual; according to the booklet, Gex, a young gecko, was born to a family of geckos on the Hawaiian island of Maui as the oldest of 3-and-a-half other siblings. His father, who worked as a researcher at NASA, is killed in a rocket ship explosion during a zero-gravity mission. In the wake of this tragedy, Gex turns to the comfort of watching television in order to provide an outlet for his grief, eventually becoming addicted. After several fruitless attempts to get Gex to leave his TV set (including moving the family away from Hawaii to Encino, California), Gex's mom eventually gives the TV away to a band of gypsies in order to get him to live his life. Gex, frustrated with his mother, runs away and vows to never return to her house again, living in a friend's garage and making petty money by doing errands for other people. One day, when Gex is riding his skateboard through the streets of California, he happens upon his mother, driving a black limousine, who informs him that his great uncle Charlie, a rich entrepreneur and the creator of a famous T-shirt brand logo, had died three days after Gex's departure, leaving them with over $20 billion. The entire family goes on a massive spending spree, whilst Gex takes a small sum of the inherited money and opts to leave the family and retreat back to Hawaii in order to pursue his lifelong dream; using his riches, he buys a large mansion in Maui and fills it with a massive television set, vowing to spend the remainder of his life secluded from the rest of the world only watching TV.
After a few days, Gex has fully achieved his desire, sitting solitary in the confines of his mansion and watching TV and eating snacks. One day, while looking for a good show to watch, he consumes a passing house fly. This insect turns out to be a small undercover drone being controlled by Rez, the overlord of the Media Dimension. Rez uses the droid to "bug" Gex, and pulls him into the Media Dimension through the TV set, intending to use him as the network's new mascot character. In order to escape, Gex needs to traverse the Media Dimension and find remote controls which he could use to destroy the TV sets blockading his exit back to the outside world.
Gex fights his way through the Media Dimension, finding remotes and defeating Rez' accomplices along the way, before eventually defeating Rez himself using some of the tyrant's own drones against him. Gex, upon returning home, resumes watching his TV, wondering what was on HBO.
The concept for Gex was created by Lyle Hall, who began work on the project shortly after joining the newly-created Crystal Dynamics in 1993. Hall wanted the game to "take advantage of both the graphics prowess and the CD audio capabilities" of Panasonic's 3DO Interactive Multiplayer console, intending to create a 2D platform game starring "the coolest character I could come up with." It was created with the intention of a new mascot in mind, with Crystal Dynamics pushing for a character who could rival the likes of other gaming icons such as Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. Initially, the development team consisted of 4 people; Hall, who served as the game's producer, Mira Ross and Susanne Dougherty as artists, and Gregg Travers as the lead programmer (later on, Justin Knorr was hired as the game's Lead Designer). The game initially centered around a Hollywood stunt performer named "Gecko X" who needed to help save his contracted film studio from going bankrupt at the volition of the antagonist, Karl Chameleon. Each stage was to be themed around a certain genre of film (i.e. a level inspired by Western films) and would begin by showing stock footage from a vintage film of that genre. The player would then traverse the level and perform "stunts" along the way, with the player's performance dictating the amount of money the film would earn at the box office and how well the studio would do. The concept was eventually nixed at the suggestion of Travers, who argued that placing the levels in such realistic settings would lead to a lack of sensible design structure, and a new concept was brainstormed following a character named Rezull who would be brought into a "TV Land" and have to fight against the antagonist with an armada of "video warriors". Gex's voice was provided by comedian Dana Gould, who also wrote all of the character's dialogue.
During its production, Gex went through various development challenges due to schedule issues. Work on the game began in late 1993, with a development deadline of June 1994. The development team initially came up with 6 different worlds themed around varying TV channels, including a horror world and a science fiction world. Each world was given 3 distinct sets of art design that could be used to create unique levels; for instance, the horror world had a haunted house set, a graveyard set, and a "mode 2" set for a vertically scrolling level. While working on the game, they found that developing game art for 32-bit hardware was far harder than it was with 16-bit hardware, as the expanded memory and storage capabilities of a compact disc meant that far more art could be made; with 2 artists working on the game's assets, a single in-game level took around 2 months to complete. Panasonic was also hesitant in hiring additional artists to the game's development team, as their two other 3DO games being developed at the time, Crash N Burn and Total Eclipse, contained simpler art styles and thus required a small number of artists, convincing them that Gex only needed a small team as well.  Because of this limited development team, the game took longer to produce than anticipated. Eventually, the company began bringing other designers in to work on characters, including Steve Kongsle (who had been working on Crash N Burn and designed Gex). By June 1994, very little progress had been made on Gex, with less than 50% of the game complete. The multiple art sets were reduced to only one-per-level, and the Mode 2 section and the sci-fi world in its entirety were scrapped. At this point, the team hoped to have the game finished by September so that it could be released for the holiday season in December. However, by that point, the game was still vastly incomplete, with unfinished level designs and absolutely no in-game audio, and by Winter it was clear that the game would still need extra time to be finished. The game was eventually released for the 3DO in April 1995 after around 21 months of development.
In the middle of the game's strenuous development, a number of Gex's developers- among whom were programmer Danny Chan and Evan Wells, as well as various people from outside of development- joined together to secretly program several features into the game. The unused sci-fi art from the game was used to make a series of secret levels. A small 2D shooting game programmed by Wells as his Senior project at Stanford University was added in to the game, as was a small minigame made by scriptor Susan Michelle. These additions were kept in unbeknownst to the company until they eventually had to be play-tested, at which point it was finally found out, though it was ultimately kept in the game. The "secret team" also programmed a hidden extended end credit sequence which featured photos of all of the game's developers, as well as a wide array of concept art, sketches and storyboards, which came to last a total of 18 minutes after being completed, and that could be accessed by completing all of the sci-fi levels as well as the shooter level. At one point in development, one of the stages designed by Knorr was edited without his permission. The level had several parts with bugs that Knorr requested to be fixed. Since the game was 8-9 months late of its initial completion deadline, rather than working around the bugs, the company removed these parts in order to ship the game sooner. Knorr was infuriated by this, and in response, he left a hidden message in one of the levels teaching the player a cheat code to get to the game's stage select (which contained over 80 level slots despite only 28 levels being in the game) and telling them to pick a specific stage, which contained the original version of this level. There, he hid three more messages, including one which disclosed the personal phone number of head of product development Madeline Canepa and telling the players to call her and "give her a piece of your mind and my mind too". This addition was ultimately found by playtesters, leading to the immediate firing of Knorr.
On aggregating review website GameRankings, the 3DO version of Gex holds a score of 79.58%, whereas the PC version holds a score of71.00%, the Sega Saturn version 69.35% and the PlayStation version 63.33%. The game was awarded best 3DO game at the 1994 Consumer Electronics Show by GamePro and "Best 3DO Game of 1995" by Electronic Gaming Monthly.
Tommy Glide of GamePro wrote that "Gex is destined to become the 3DO equivalent of Sonic or Mario, as this cool little lizard sets high standards for all future 3DO platform-hoppers." Next Generation called it "one of the most solid and enjoyable side-scrolling action games in a while." Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it an 8.675 out of 10 and their "Game of the Month" award. Critics focused praise on the game's numerous secrets, detailed graphics, witty one-liners, and the player character's ability to climb walls.
The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave both the PlayStation and Saturn versions a 7.875 out of 10, commenting that the audio and cinemas in both versions were cleaned up compared to the 3DO original. They especially praised the game's humor and solid platforming action. Tommy Glide likewise stated in GamePro, "We marveled at Gex on the 3DO. Now this platform-hopping lizard debuts on the PlayStation and earns even more affection with cleaner graphics and smoother gameplay." He again applauded Gex's unique wall climbing ability, the vast size and numerous secrets of the levels, and Dana Gould's numerous one-liners. He remarked the Saturn version has "the same graphics, sound, and control that earned acclaim in the PlayStation version", and that "Gex eats Bug for lunch". A reviewer for Next Generation contested that Gex's wall climbing ability is "not completely unique" but that it nonetheless adds an interesting dimension to the gameplay, and also praised Gould's one-liners and the "unique and humorous" area themes. He concluded, "In a world of polygons, we're not sure one last side-scroller is what the 32-bit universe needs, but you could do worse." Next Generation's review of the Saturn version game remarked that Gex was nowhere near as fresh as it was when it debuted on the 3DO, though still witty and fun. In a rare negative review of the game, Rob Allsetter commented in Sega Saturn Magazine, "I suppose I should point out that the graphics and animation are polished, that the game moves at a decent pace and that it's certainly playable, but ... none of these things make up for the utter predictability of it all." Maximum gave the PlayStation version a mixed review, saying that the player character has a remarkable variety of abilities, but that the level design is often dull and frustrating.
Sequels and legacy
The moderate success of Gex produced a short-lived series of platform games, with the eponymous character becoming the recurring mascot for Crystal Dynamics. In 1998, Crystal Dynamics released a sequel to Gex called Gex 3D: Enter the Gecko for the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, following Gex once again as he travels to defeat Rez. Unlike the first game, a 2D side-scrolling title, this game is a 3D platformer, playing in a vein similar to games such as Super Mario 64. A year later, Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko was released, featuring Playboy model and Baywatch actress Marliece Andrada as a new character named Agent XTra who is captured by Rez. Since the release of Gex, the series has collectively sold 15 million units.
Although Gex 3 was the last game in the Gex series to date, in 2013, developer Square Enix, who currently holds the rights to the franchise, announced that they would be holding a "Square Enix Collective" program in which they would give budding game developers their own opportunities to develop a new game in one of three different series – among which was Gex, alongside Fear Effect and Anachronox. The program began in 2015, with Square opening itself up to pitches from independent developers.
- Sales figures for Gex remain unclear; in an apparent contradiction of the cited GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly articles, an article in Next Generation also cover-dated November 1995 says that the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (the only platform Gex had been released for at the time) had sold only 750,000 units worldwide.
- Frequently Asked Questions, rec.games.video.
- "Price Slashed on 3DO". GamePro. IDG (85): 170–172. October 1995.
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- Gex instruction booklet (3DO). Crystal Dynamics. 1995. p. 20.
- Gex instruction booklet (3DO). Crystal Dynamics. 1995. p. 21.
- Gex instruction booklet (3DO). Crystal Dynamics. 1995. p. 15.
- Gex instruction booklet (3DO). Crystal Dynamics. 1995. p. 14.
- Gex instruction booklet (Sega Saturn). Crystal Dynamics. 1995. p. 12.
- Gex instruction booklet (3DO). Crystal Dynamics. 1995. p. 17.
- Gex instruction booklet (3DO). Crystal Dynamics. 1995. p. 16.
- Gex instruction booklet. Crystal Dynamics. 1995. p. 4-9.
- Travers, Gregg (April 3, 1997). "GEX – games.greggman.com". Retrieved May 14, 2017.
- "Gex (3DO) reviews at". GameRankings. 2011-10-24. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
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- "Review Crew: Gex". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 71. Sendai Publishing. June 1995. p. 34.
- "Review Crew: Gex". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 78. Sendai Publishing. January 1996. p. 42.
- "Review Crew: Gex". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 79. Sendai Publishing. February 1996. p. 32.
- "Ultimate Review Archive." Game Informer. Issue 100. August, 2001. Page 57. Original review published March 1998.
- "Maximum Reviews: Gex". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. No. 5. Emap International Limited. April 1996. p. 155.
- "Gripping". Next Generation. No. 7. Imagine Media. July 1995. p. 68.
- "Gex". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. pp. 78, 81.
- "Every Sega Saturn Game Played, Reviewed, and Rated". Next Generation. No. 25. Imagine Media. January 1997. p. 64.
- Allsetter, Rob (April 1996). "Review: Gex". Sega Saturn Magazine. No. 6. Emap International Limited. pp. 84–85.
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- "ProReview: Gex". GamePro. No. 89. IDG. February 1996. p. 48.
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- "At the Deadline". GamePro. No. 85. IDG. October 1995. p. 174.
- "Tidbits...". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 76. Sendai Publishing. November 1995. p. 19.
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Global sales stand at around 750,000, with 300,000 sold in the US.
- "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z: Mascot". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 36.
- Harradence, Michael (2011-06-23). "Inside PlayStation Network - Gex". PlayStation Universe. Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2015-08-12.