Friday, April 7, 2017

Review #380: Vexx

 Halfway fun, halfway vexing.
 If you grew up gaming in the 90s, you ought to be familiar with collectathons. Happy-go-lucky games featuring anthropomorphic animals on their quest to collect dozens of magic mcguffins and the such. Enter Vexx, an attempt to fuse Mario 64 with edginess and hardcoreness and darkness and the such.... and it kinda worked.

 Meet Vexx, apparently the last of his kind, after Yabu enslaved his people, and murdered them and his grandfather, which made this adventure personal. Coming across the Talons, mystical weapons that he can't take off, Vexx ventures into 9 different worlds, in order to collect 81 beating hearts and open up the way to Yabu and avenge his grandfather. The game has a rather conflicting artsyle, since enemies and Vexx himself are rather... cutesy, but the world tries to be dark and bleak, dealing with murder and a female... thing with protruding nipples being kinda there as the narrator... it's like they didn't commit fully to either cuteness or edginess and the end result is a rather unmemorable world and characters.
 Sadly, this seeps into the aesthetics of the levels themselves. Platformers of yore had very memorable level designs, not so is the case with Vexx. Each of the 9 worlds have very few landmarks that stand out or personality, which can be rather disappointing. Every world also has a different amount of hearts hidden inside of it, but there's a short poem as well as guiding arrows helping you discover how to get to them. The game starts off mindnumbingly easy, but the latter stages are just evil, and I'd argue that the last level is very poorly designed as well. Also, a few hearts might be a bit too hard to find. One of the Hearts from level 2 must be obtained in level 1, and nothing hints to that, and later on, you must find the right order to press a few switches around a fountain... with no hints as to what is the order, and pushing the wrong switch results in you losing health! Luckily, you only need 60 hearts out of 81 in order to beat the game, and there's no bonus for 100% to care about.

 That said, if something works well, it's the controls. Vexx moves sorta like Mario or Banjo, he can jump, long jump(By crouching and running) or high jump(By crouching), and it all works rather well! Movement is pretty smooth once you get the hang of it, and it won't be too soon before you'll be using acrobatics in style to even skip certain portions of stages! There's also a needless depth to combat, Vex can perform different combos depending on your timing with the square button, as well as juggle enemies with jump kicks, but it amounts to nothing really, enemies can soak up so many hits that I just started avoiding them altogether. Vexx can also gain access to 2 power ups, the Molten Armor and the Wing Suit, they are in a very few amount of levels, and they only exist in order to gather a few hearts, and if you thought flying with Mario was hard, you ain't seen nothing yet, flying with Vexx is stilted, wonky and unsatisfying.
 There were a a few issues that really hurt the game, like the poor camera that loves getting stuck on objects, it will get in your way at one time or the other. Some levels also feature a few too many loading screens, which can make Hearts like the 'collect 100 shards' objectives a real chore. There's also the archaic Mario 64 mechanic of sending you back into the Hub after every heart you collect, which gets annoying really fast. The last boss... is something else, even after you figure out waits to exploit his AI, it's still hard! Uppercut-to-ground-pound-to-flip-kick his swarm of minions on the first phase, and then you need to figure out that it's better to long jump rather than high jump out of the way.... it's quite the ordeal.

 Vexx tried. The devs' heart was in the right place, and they nailed most of the controls just fine. It's a shame that they couldn't fully commit to this 'we are dark and edgy!' direction, and how forgettable the worlds are. Vexx is fun when it's fun, but when it hits its lows... it can get rather vexing.
 6.0 out of 10

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