Shockingly enough, I have apparently never sat down and written anything about every one’s favorite late 90′s failed mascot, Gex. I think I’m going to try to attempt to rectify that right this instant in what will mostly be some sort of long, rambling justification for actually liking most of the Gex games. Yes, I’ve learned to be that damn good at justifying things in my life. Bad game mascots included.
So Gex. I think if you were around or into gaming from the mid-nineties to late nineties, you may remember ol’ Gex. Originally thought up and used for the doomed 3DO as a sort of console mascot, he was quickly moved off that and onto the Playstation as soon as the good ship 3DO began treading water at record pace. His first and only appearance on the 3DO came via a mostly excellent side-scrolling adventure in the same vein as Donkey Kong Country. It had excellent graphics, animation, and even some damn fine music. Oh, it also had Gex: the wise-cracking gecko that would find its way into the lucrative world of mascots long before the Geico gecko. He also had the then-star power of comedian Dana Gould voicing him, giving him a personality that wasn’t immediately mind-rending like so many other failed mascots. And while his many one-liners are repeated far too often, it never detracted from the game itself, which is still one of my favorite side scrolling platformers ever. The game actually did rather well in stores, and Gex seemed like he was on his way to a nice, long career in gaming.
After his first game was ported to the PSX and Saturn, Gex was put to work in his first fully next-gen title; Gex: Enter the Gecko. A 3D platformer that had more than a passing resemblance Mario 64. This would have been fine, except at the time 3D platformers were generally virgin territory, so putting out a first effort for most devs in this new genre was about on par with asking your Uncle Dave to put together a working sump pump from scratch. No one really knew what the fuck to do with this whole “3D” thing, so the best of the bunch were usually terrible monstrosities that could barely be played without a debug unit sitting next to you. Enter the Gecko however, was one of the most promising of the contenders to Mario’s unachievable throne… at least according to Gamefan magazine. The same magazine that was also busy at the time trying to hype Aquanaut’s Holiday as one of the year’s strongest games. A game where the single most exciting thing you could do was to ram into fish with your camera.
Enter the Gecko ended up being Gex’s first stumbling block, as the game was released to average at best reviews. Even Gamefan’s endless hype train was unable to get the masses to believe the game was anything but an average platformer. The game looked great, but the gameplay was so twitchy and the camera one of the worst ever made, it quickly doomed Gex in his next gen debut. I did however manage to play through the entire game, but more than a few F-bombs were tossed at the screen due to terrible jumping mechanics, and a camera being controlled by some malevolent force that I seemingly had no control over.
Amazingly enough, Enter the Gecko seemed to do well enough to warrant a sequel. Thus, a year or so later we were introduced to the ridiculously titled – even for a Gex game- Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko. With a title that strong, one could instantly assume that any sort of improvements that would be made to an already broken game were thrown out the door the minute whatever marketing genius laid that name out on the table. Instead, the game would once again focus on tired pop culture references, and even more shitty one-liners from Dana Gould, who was probably just hoping for a mercy-kill to his career at this point in time. It would turn out that one would certainly be correct in those assumptions.
Deep Cover Gecko was a travesty through and through. Featuring none other than then Baywatch pin-up Marliece Andrada as a sort of love interest/spy/excuse to put her in skin tight clothing for Gex to talk to in awkward FMV cutscenes. The game was basically a very tired parody of the Austin Powers movies, which were already growing more than annoying at the time of this game’s release. So what you ended up with was another terrible 3D platformer laced with terrible double entendre between a CG gecko and some Baywatch girl in black latex. Needless to say, my love affair with Gex ended roughly before the third stage, when even I couldn’t justify liking this pile of dog feces. This just further proves my point that anything that anyone from Baywatch touched was more akin taking a handful of cyanide pills.
With that, the final nail in the Gex series was hammered in, and no more Gex games were even mentioned. Not even a kart racer. The biggest problem being that mascots were going the way of the dodo, and no one cared anymore. Besides, Sony had Crash Bandicoot, and Sega had Nights. No one had room for another half-assed mascot, and gamers simply didn’t give a shit anymore. It’s unfortunate, as Gex was a damn fine platformer in his debut, and Crystal Dynamics really infused him with a ton more personality and style than most mascots at the time. Gex just made the mistake of going after the 3D platform crown, and essentially lost everything that made the original such a great game.
But remember, this whole thing was about justification. So we’ll let all of the above slide, and simply blame Baywatch’s plague-ridden hand for dealing Gex his final blow.
Jeremy is a quiet, steadily mortified man hailing from Indianapolis.
Contact him this way: firstname.lastname@example.org (hint: it’s email)