Vexx puts the ex in excellent

Acclaim's underrated platformer proves things really WERE better back then

What's the one thing that ties almost all games together? Tetravex. Gex. Elex. CEX. Do you see? It is "EX". Street Fighter EX. Those two letters are the glue that binds our hobby into something coherent. Think of the Vectrex. Without "ex" it'd just be the "Vectr", and nobody wants that. Not even Vector the Crocodile from Knuckles Chaotix. Where am I going with this? Good question. Acclaim's underplayed, underloved and allegedly underwhelming platformer Vexx is eighteen years old. I want to talk about it, because it is a jolly good game. With me so far? Well, that makes one of us.

Hello. Vexx was widely derided at its time of release for being a somewhat edgelordy and painfully generic 3D platformer, and in a sense it would be difficult to consider those criticisms to be without merit. However! Contrary to boring belief, there's actually nothing wrong with being edgelordy, and what was once deemed generic is now AN OASIS in a sea of games that are, quite simply, not 3D platformers.

Vexx is a whacking great rip-off of Super Mario Sunshine, basically, but it's massively superior to that stupid load of bollocks. Don't ask me what the story is, I haven't a clue. You sent the little goblin fella Steven Vexx out into these big, big levels and collect Wraithhearts which are basically Shine Sprites, but metal. The thing that makes it feel really good to play today in the year of our Lord Satan 2021 is that, quite unlike most jumpy-bobs games, this one doesn't hold your hand. That's not say it's (affects duh-idiot face) the Dark Souls of Super Marios or any such tiresomeness, it's just refreshingly hands-off, letting you loose on its big, well-designed, multi-faceted worlds with minimal nudging. You pick your challenge, and if it's too much of an arseache you can go and do another one for a bit. Cracking!

Play control's spot-on, the sense of scale is marvellous and it all just feels tip-top in a way that modern platformers simply don't manage for me. It's easy to lump it in with lesser efforts like the exhausting Dr Muto and the frankly banal Scaler, but Vexx is an unexpected hidden gem - especially unexpected coming from Acclaim, the patron saints of embarrassing trash like BMX XXX.

We really did have it good in the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox era, didn't we? A game as good as Vexx was routinely getting average reviews despite being better than most of the rubbish coming out now. Yes, I realise that's a bit fogeyish, but I'm afraid it's also true. Things were better back then, and this clawed monstrosity is a testament to that. You can shove your Hat in Time, mate, I just want another game like this. A Banjo-Kazooie for the Johnny the Homicidal Maniac crowd, I'd love to see it get another day in the sun. It's a shame it's not widely available anymore, but the original Xbox version runs on a 360 and it's easily emulated on Dolphin, but only if you own the original game or delete the rom within 24 hour-r-r-r-s-s-s-ha ha ha ha, sorry, couldn't keep a straight face.

Also, look at this absurd advert!