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The GameCube Gauntlet #019 - Vexx

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BY AllTheTrophies ON April 06, 2024


Completion Time: 17h:22m:00s
Rating: 6/10

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Bringing Peace to Astara

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Now I've been complaining a lot about all the licensed games on the GameCube, which I've been subjecting myself to a lot lately for this series (what am I gonna play, sports games?), so I was excited to get into something like Vexx here. Plus, as I've mentioned many times in the past, I adore 3D platformer games and have advocated for them for some time. I feel that we faded away from that kind of game for quite a long time, and now if you get something like that released it's a take off on a classic title or an inversion of the genre/tropes in some way. So it's always fun to find an earnest attempt at something that has no legacy or real connection to other IPs that are out there. Such is the life of Vexx, a warrior from Astara, trying to take out the rise of Dark Yabu, who has wiped out his family and released the Wraithhearts for him to... yeah, I couldn't fully track the story myself. There's a lot of disjointed lore in this one, and I'll certainly get into what I can shortly.

If they had more sections where Vexx platformed across lore walls, maybe I could track the backstory better

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Dark Yabu's Reign

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The most direct comparison I can make to Vexx's construction and gameplay loop, and perhaps the most obvious one, is Super Mario 64. Each world that you traverse has the Super Star stand-in being these Wraithhearts, which are tied to specific activities that you can perform. Some of these are environmental puzzles, some are just based around platforming across sections, and even still there is a Wraithheart in each world for collecting 100 balls of spirit energy (sort of like coins). It's not a stretch to see, for sure, but it also isn't me crying "plagiarism" as this is just something that the genre has adopted as it's own over time (and I'm sure those more well versed than I can provide examples of certain tropes called out even before Mario 64). But that was most prominent in my mind while playing this, which was unfortunate because even as messy as going back to Mario 64 can be, the style and composition... sort of put Vexx to shame a bit.

What if we took Goombas, and made them hideous and disgusting? Genius!

The same sort of standard worlds that you can expect from games like these are well and alive in Vexx (Ice World, Underwater World, You're-Small-And-Everything-Else-Is-Huge World), but there's also a creepy, grungy sort of feeling that infiltrates all of the worlds that I couldn't ever quite shake. There are things that kinda send chills down my spine when it comes to polygon models, things like horns and spindly, gangly limbs being chief among them. And Vexx has some of those in spades, with creature designs that at many times sickened and disgusted me in the same way Spore monstrosities do. If this was billed as more of a horror game, I'd probably be sold and accept it all with no question. But as it stands, the horned mushroom pillars and floating, tentacled brains are sickening and should've been put down. The final boss, Dark Yabu, even turns into a giant mantis halfway through his fight apropos of nothing, so there's that too.

Those entomophobes among you: look away before it's too late!

There's also this weird, giant goblin you have to kick in the genitals to obtain an item. Sure, why not?

As mentioned before, the Wraithhearts themselves can be obtained in a number of ways. There are some that are scattered about at the end of long platforming sections, which are straight-forward enough. Then there are others which will require you to do more, such as the one where Vexx must platform, fight, and engage fountain statues in a specific order lest you be shocked by a flying drone that you cannot do damage to. How about giving me just 1 mulligan while I decipher what you want me to do, huh? Then, there are the few that are present in each world. Of course I'd already mentioned the "100 energy orb" challenges, not much headache there thankfully. Next chief among them are the jar hunting challenges. There are about 5-6 jars hidden in each level, and finding them all will give you another Wraithheart, but these are usually trickier to find and tend to be based around a specific challenge, such as blowing up ice walls around a lone mountain or tightrope walk across a giant chandelier to obtain them.

Wish you could drop said chandelier on top of this disgusting thing

More Mario similarities come in hear though, as this is where I mention the sundial challenges. In each world, there's a random sundial you have to find. One you locate it, stand on top of it and rotate until it's between the two arrow markers, then you can look for the sundial door, which will be open and take you into another world. These are ultimate platforming challenges, where you jump and climb blocks and wedges floating in a nebulous space to reach the Wraithheart at the end of the path. It's hard for me not to consider Super Mario Sunshine, which also released on the GameCube just a year prior to this game. In Sunshine, there are the sections where Shadow Mario removes your F.L.U.D.D. device, forcing you to jump and climb blocks and wedges floating in a nebulous space to reach the Shine sprite at the end of the path. In Vexx, as expected, these are pretty challenging, as many times you'll need to time jumps before a platform flips upside down, or long jump and then do a stationary air strike at the end of your leap to give you that little extra boost. But much like in Sunshine, these are the sections where Vexx probably shines brightest. You can just focus on the available mechanics to make it through the most difficult version of a simplistic task. Wish there was a bit more of this to latch on to, honestly. Also: less underwater segments in general, please. It almost never works.

Just look at this and try not to feel a sense of joy. I know I can't!

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Completing the Game

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Once again, in a similar fashion to most 3D Mario games, you don't need to collect all of the Wraithhearts (or stars) in order to reach the final boss, only 60 of 81. So there are an extra 21 of these that you can get from the various levels. But these don't amount to any "special tasks" and can be done in most any order, so it's hard to qualify that as a mode of completion. Aside from that, the only other thing to grab would be Reia's Scrolls (Reia being the Guardian of Astara), which detail the backstory of the events leading up to Dark Yabu's rise to power piece by piece. There's a single entry in each world for a total of 9 entries. These don't get you anything or provide an unlocked bonus or completion percentage statistic, just the satisfaction of this little bit of extra added lore if you're that into the world of Vexx.

The entire history of the world in 9 easy installments

Vexx is certainly an interesting snapshot in time, a 3D platformer attempting to take a stand at establishing a new IP in a sea of established properties (and after the heyday of this type of game). And for the most part, it works great and keeps me interested in the gameplay loop without exhausting me with an overabundance of collectables. After all, it isn't like this is a Rareware game after all. However, the core world is a bit bland and with the creatures ranging from uninteresting to disgusting monstrosities, I couldn't personally see this lasting for long past this first installment. And that's without all of the developmental and industry-related issues related to this one. Still, it was nice to step into the world of something not licensed and not apart of a larger franchise for a change. The GameCube is sorely lacking in that department.

This is another entry in a series where I go through and complete every GameCube game, as it is the largest part of my video game collection. GameCube Games: 19/652

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