Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko

Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko is a 3D platformer collect-a-thon for the Nintendo 64 and the Playstation and is the third installment in the Gex series. I’ve already reviewed the N64 version of the previous installment, Gex 64: Enter the Gecko, so please check that review if you’d like more details on the comparisons I’ll undoubtedly be making. Also keep in mind that this review is based on the N64 version of this title. There’s a bit of a story set up at the start of the game. It appears the the series antagonist, Rez, has kidnapped Agent Xtra, Gex’s partner in espionage. So naturally you want to try and save her… because she’s your partner and definitely not just because she’s hot or anything. Besides, how would a gecko and a human even… erm… nevermind. Thus, the stage is set.

In similar fashion to the previous title, and many other games of the era, you’re thrown into a hub world and must hoof it to the levels you want to play. You’ll probably want to start with the training room to get a handle on the basics. In the levels you will have the option of completing one of three missions, each rewarding you with a remote. You will need a certain number of remotes to enter later levels. These tasks are generally focused on fighting certain enemies, destroying specific objects, or collecting special items. The levels have a starting area but tend to be more open-ended as to how to go about them. Once again they are all themed around stereotypical aspects of certain TV genres. Gex also keeps all of his abilities from the last game. However, there are some new additions and tweaks to this one as well.

In each level, Gex gets an appropriately themed disguise to blend in, even though all the enemies seem to recognize him anyway. Some of these costumes, such as the vampire one found early on, have a glide mechanic built in by holding R while in the air. This allows Gex to glide to far-off platforms and get airborne items. Do note that the functionality of Z and R have been swapped from the last game, meaning crouching and long jumps are also performed with R while Z is used to eat flies. There are some new flies in this one as well, giving Gex the ability to shoot projectiles for a limited time. There are three main collectibles in the levels. Rather than having multiple, varying amounts of different items to fit each level’s theme, this time you always collect 100 bug tokens. You also can no longer exploit them as in the last game due to their numbers resetting to your last checkpoint upon death. There are exactly 100 in each level and collecting them all will award you with a bonus remote for that level. There are also Gex paws for you to collect, which will give you a permanent health increase for every 25 collected up to eight total health. Lastly, there are bonus coins to collect, which tend to be the most well-hidden of these collectibles. These can be used to unlock various bonus levels when you have enough to access them. The bonus levels tend to be timed challenges requiring you to complete a simple task within the time limit. Completing the challenge will award you with a secret code that can be input into the Gex Vault for some interesting rewards. To gain access to the Gex Vault, you’ll need to locate and complete the four secret levels hidden in the game’s hub worlds. The secret levels have you collecting items within a time limit as well. And you heard that right, I said hub worlds. The main hub is known as Mission Control or the Gex Cave. From here you can access some levels and the other three hubs. The other hubs require defeating a boss in previous hubs to enter. Each boss has their own TV. There are also some level-specific things such as the ability to snowboard, hop into sub levels by looking at specific items, change into new disguises with different powers, and even ride on various animals, among other things. Beating a level will often give you a short dialogue with Agent Xtra resulting in some innuendo. Once you get enough remotes and defeat the required bosses, you can take on the final boss, Rez.

It’s probably no surprise that I liked this game quite a bit. I’m obviously a huge fan of 3D platformers with collect-a-thon elements from this era especially. And I enjoyed the previous game. Gex 3 definitely takes some good steps, though. Fixing the collectible exploit so that there are exactly 100 bugs to collect in each level makes it so you have to really do your best to stay alive and explore the entire level. The Gex paws are a little more hidden and tough to get, but they also have quite a nice reward of extra health upgrades if you get enough, which is both good for the sake of progression as well as giving even further incentive for exploration of these worlds. The bonus coins are the fewest in number and the most fiendishly hidden of the objects, made for the most diligent and thorough explorers. These players are rewarded with even more levels via the bonus levels, and if they want the mysterious rewards of them then they’ll need to put their skills to test. I like how these bonus and secret levels add a bit of variety and challenge to the game’s mechanics. I also like the addition of the glide mechanic in certain levels. This may be a bit of a spoiler, but one of the rewards for one of the later bonus levels is a code for invulnerability. This makes you avoid damage, but you’ll still suffer the animation consequences for being hit and bottomless pits are still going to be a big issue, so it’s nice that you really have to earn that with enough bonus coins, skill, and yet still need to play well in order to progress. Plus, you can always turn it off or choose not to use it if it feels too game-breaking for you. The environments are pretty neat as well, sporting some catchy little tunes, very colorful graphics, and a host of level-specific enemies and obstacles to keep each area feeling unique. I also like the connected hub worlds with their own collectibles to find while scoping out level locations. These feel a little more natural and inspired than the main hub of the last game. I also appreciated the leniency, as the game doesn’t require 100% completion to win. Also, there are lots of fun little jokes in the details of the levels, often via signs, which can help keep the humor up and compensate for the THANKFULLY reduced frequency of Gex’s one-liners. Trust me, he’ll bug you less in this game.

There are some issues that come along with this installment, though. A minor gripe I have is that the Z and R functions have been switched. It’s not a huge deal. You can adjust to it, but with so many other popular titles in the genre associating Z with this sort of thing, including the previous installment in this very series, it seems like a strange choice. The framerate is a bit concerning as well. Still a minor gripe, but it’s inconsistent and there are a few times it gets pretty slow, even for a Nintendo 64 game. The bonus levels are nice, but they get repeated multiple times with shorter time limits. This is more challenging, but I would’ve preferred something totally different or similar types of challenges in new levels instead. There’s also a glitch that prevents you from getting 100% completion. I’m not sure if it’s just on my copy or because of something I did or… maybe even just a random fluke. What I THINK happened is that, when I unlocked the vault and started trying out my codes, I entered a code to play as a character you’re supposed to save in one of the levels to then make them a playable character in the bonus levels. So it may have recognized that I had the character and wouldn’t load it into that level anymore, preventing me from getting the final remote. This is a small thing since I still did everything you’re supposed to do in order to do the mission, so I DID it, but it still feels… a little unsatisfying to miss one remote, and so late in the game too. It’s kind of like almost finishing a jigsaw puzzle and then finding out you’re missing one piece. You did it. You know where that piece would go now and everything but… it doesn’t feel the same. And it’s not worth starting all over again right away just to get that last piece in. So… be aware of that. Do not mess with those codes blindly. Then again, with the severe lack of decent documentation on this version of the game, I’m not even able to confirm if you get anything special for 100% completion or not anyway. The ending is just a small clip of Alfred the turtle guy telling you that you saved Agent Xtra. No cool ending cinematic or anything. Credits then roll while they cycle through a collection of panning shots to show you some secrets. There seems to be too few shots since I saw multiple of them repeat multiple times. So I don’t think it counts as spoiling the ending when there’s not much about it that would’ve been all that satisfying to begin with.

What it all comes down to is that Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko is a perfectly serviceable 3D platformer for the time. It’s nothing spectacular, especially considering it’s so similar to the previous one. Still, if you liked the previous one or games of this genre from this era then it’s an easy sell. It’s worth up to 20 bucks, even. You might not call it a classic or love it like one, but it’s a solid game with enough charm to earn the classification of a hidden gem in the N64 library. Get in front of that TV and get your controller ready. It’s tail time!

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