Vexx has always touted itself as a non-princess saving game and that is certainly true. Vexx’s job here is to free his father from the limbo the bad guys sent him to at the beginning. What Acclaim neglected to advertise is how similar Vexx is to the recently released Super Mario Sunshine and its precursor Super Mario 64. Does this make Vexx a bad game? Not really, but it makes it hard for Vexx to stand apart from the two games I just talked about and stand out on its own as a great platform game.

The key to Vexx is collecting Wraith hearts. In each world (9 in all with a final 10th stage for the last boss battle) Vexx has a variety of missions to go through to get those Wraith hearts. The missions are set up much like Super Mario Sunshine’s where you have a task to complete to get the heart for that mission. Heck, for the most part they even have arrows pointing you toward where you have to go, much like Super Mario Sunshine. The last 2 missions on each world you are releasing 6 soul jars in one mission and getting 100 shattered pieces on the other. Sounds a lot like the red coin and 100 coin missions from the Mario series, right? The big difference here is that the words explaining the mission is in a riddle format. It makes you think a little, but then again there are arrows pointing the way out for you.

Vexx does bring some interesting weapons to the table though. Some ancient gloved talons fuse themselves to Vexx at the beginning of the game. He is able to use these talons to walk up specially marked walls and when his talon bar fills up in the upper right corner you can hit the R button to unleash their power. Vexx is then able to run faster and shoots out energy bolts from the talon gloves. This power does not last long and you refill the bar by defeating enemies. In normal mode, Vexx is able to do a number of things: jump (A), attack (X), view mode (X), crouch (L) and general camera behind him (B…although this does not always work). You can combine some of these buttons to do some special moves. For instance you can hold L and hit A to do a super jump. You can run, hit L and A to do a long jump. There are different attacks you can do with the X button and other buttons. The manual does a good job of explaining how to pull off each move. It was definitely helpful to read the manual beforehand. The only thing that kind of sucks about this game (and Super Mario Sunshine was guilty of this too) is that no new weapons are brought to the table in this game. Maybe I have been spoiled by Ratchet and Clank too much, but sometimes I would like my characters to at least have some sort of power level with their weapons.

One of Vexx’s greatest problems is the camera. Remember all those people that did not like Super Mario Sunshine’s camera? That type of camera makes an appearance here, but it is not as robust. You do not have any zoom capabilities and there is no way to go 360 degrees around Vexx thanks to walls blocking you. In Super Mario Sunshine the things behind you usually became transparent. No such thing is here. In fact the camera can give you fits in this game, especially when traversing thin routes where a slight move in the wrong direction means going through the whole level again. There are also times when you are in an enclosed area and you want a better camera view, but you just cannot get it. For the most part, Vexx’s stages happen in a wide open area though.

The other thing I will comment on is the difficulty. The first stage itself is very difficult and I feel many people will be turned off by how difficult the first area is. I will tell you now, the other areas can be quite a bit easier than the first one. I am not sure why Acclaim decided to attempt a “trial by fire” right at the beginning. Not smart in my opinion, but once you get past it you will start to probably enjoy the game. After the first stage the game seemed pretty average in difficulty, not nearly as difficult as Super Mario Sunshine. Much like the shrines in that game, if you get a certain number of hearts (60 in this case) you can go on to the final stage and the final boss battle. I must say that Acclaim Austin has made a good game, it is just too bad it is too similar to another.

The graphics on the X-Box version are very pretty. There is a hint of slowdown every so often, usually when you are fighting multiple enemies and the talons are going through a bunch of animation. The worlds for the most part are very large and very pretty. This is where the game excels in the graphics section. There are definite advantages over the GameCube version in the graphics department. Bump mapping and some cool effects (such as waves in the dreamlike tutorial section at the beginning). Not the best platform graphics I have ever seen, but they are pretty good. The music seemed to almost be missing in this game and the sounds were just ok. As I was going through one mission in the first area time and time again I got to hear some of the music. There is a piece of it that begins to sound a lot like the Terminator 2 theme song and I just wait for it to continue. This is not a cutesy-type game, so I certainly did not expect music to necessarily take center stage. The voice work in the game is pretty good, except Vexx never says anything and only makes the usual noises as he is running around. Overall not top notch sound work, could use some work.

Controls for the most part are nice, although they are not necessarily responsive when you need them to be. There was quite a few times where I tried to pull a long jump and Vexx just did not want to do it. The walk/run was a bit touchy. There was a few times I had to travel along small, thin areas where I would try to walk and Vexx would end up running. Luckily Acclaim made it so that Vexx generally grabs onto the side of a platform if he falls. It does not always work, but it can also get very frustrating as you are trying to get through levels and keep falling off. The camera could use a bit of work obviously.

This game is fun, but it just contains way too much of the Super Mario Sunshine blueprint inside of it. The worlds are nice and big, but there are arrows pointing out the way you need to go, making the riddles at the beginning almost moot. This game can get very frustrating even though it is less difficult than Super Mario Sunshine. I found myself wanting to throw my controller more often in this game. It was hard to feel anything for Vexx. He was trying to save his father, but to be honest I really could not give a crap as I just felt I was collecting hearts and there was no incentive to keep collecting them.

Unless you plan on going and collecting all the hearts like you did the shines in Super Mario Sunshine, then this game will be a simple once through. I found the last two missions on each world infinitely more difficult than the 6 red coins and 100 coins missions. You will probably enjoy your one time through, although you may get very frustrated by the camera and the ability to fall and have to start the whole level over again. Fact is many of the missions take you to the vertical plane and if you get way up there and fall back down you have to do it all over again. Fun!