Remember Gex? If you don’t, I can’t really blame you. The cringe-inducing lizard was a platforming mascot for only a few short years before vanishing into obscurity. Since then, he’s aged worse than the references he endlessly spouted back on the original PlayStation. However, this was a series of games I grew up with, and with a more self-aware viewpoint, Gex is a character who could potentially make a comeback in 2021.
Developed by Crystal Dynamics, which is more recently known for Marvel’s Avengers and the Tomb Raider reboot trilogy, humble platforming ventures with a wise-cracking gecko were once the studio’s main dealings. The first entry was a 2D platformer with levels inspired by different television shows, movies, and genres. Crystal Dynamics would take this nucleus with it and expand it across an entire trilogy, leading to some wonderfully inventive levels and an approach to hub world design I still remember fondly.
My first encounter with Gex was at a car boot sale in Peterborough. The disc didn’t have a case or manual, it was simply being sold on its lonesome for £1. As a kid, I didn’t really care about the state a game was in, so I took it home, threw it into my PS1, and was immediately drawn in. To be more specific, I’m talking about the second game – Gex: Enter The Gecko, which surprisingly did not star Bruce Lee.
Our titular lizard is pitched as a suave secret agent who must infiltrate a selection of digital environments to overthrow the infamous Rez. The narrative semantics aren’t worth discussing, since the further you delve into the inner workings of Gex, the more disgusted you will feel. The third game revolves around his hunt for Playboy model Marliece Andrada, who was sexualised to no end both in marketing materials and in the game itself.
It was gross, and cements the original trilogy of games as an artefact of the time they were released, making them much harder to stomach for first-time players today. Seriously, how did Crystal Dynamics not realise that a lizard trying to rescue and do the nasty with a human woman wasn’t the slightest bit weird? Putting this debauchery aside, the actual act of playing Gex remains enjoyable, if somewhat hamstrung by platforming controls and design conventions that are undeniably dated by today’s standards. But the sheer variety of levels inspired by Looney Tunes, Gundam, Saving Private Ryan, and countless other classics meant each new stage was filled with surprises.
They also revelled in parody, a genre that is rarely explored in the medium nowadays. If Gex emerged now in the form of a crowdfunded darling or a more conservative indie effort, it would have a whole new generation of popular culture to dissect and make fun of. It would likely take a few obvious hits at the likes of Donald Trump and Elon Musk, but I’d much rather see it delve into making fun of modern films, shows, and games alongside a smattering of original ideas.
I’d like to think the writing would be somewhat more nuanced and engaging than 20 years ago, and less reliant on sexually active lizards. I’m probably not doing a good job at selling you on Gex, but I promise the platforming at its core is still decent fun, and could be adapted into a modern landscape with the right set of hands at the wheel. Perhaps throw the license to Playtonic, which has already done a fantastic job with Yooka-Laylee. If it ever happens, just please make him a little less of a creeper.
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Jade King is one of the Features Editors for TheGamer. Previously head of gaming content over at Trusted Reviews, she can be found talking about games, anime and retweeting Catradora fanart @KonaYMA6.
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