- Platform: GameCube
- ELSPA Minimum Age: 3
- Media: Video Game
The game is spread over 18 huge levels spanning treetop canopy villages, mysterious caves, desert temples, underwater cities, deadly volcanoes, and more; each level's distinguishing landmark can be viewed from anywhere in the world in real-time. Day and night cycle with real-time lighting; night time changes the landscape and characters, with enemies becoming more aggressive and the environments more hostile. Hidden sundials allow players to change the time of day and gameplay, and hidden multi-player party games are unlocked as players progress through the single player world.
Ultra-responsive player controls react instantly to player inputs: gamers can cancel a move midway through and fire off extensive combo attacks. A free-climbing mode allows players to climb uneven surfaces and dangle beneath overhangs. Advanced environment mapping provides reflections, glows, and highlights on characters, and clothes, hair and trees respond dynamically to the environment. A highly flexible cinematic camera system, epic soundtrack and 3-D surround sound effects complete the package.
Playing as Vexx, you collect Wraith hearts. By gathering their energy, you power up the central hub that in turn opens doors to different worlds--from ice-encrusted wastelands and lush forests to hilly deserts and underwater oases. The graphics and music in each new world, as well as the many miniworlds hidden within, are often breathtaking. At times, you easily become distracted, taking a break from world-saving responsibility to hop into a pool for a swim or perch on top of some pole just to get a good look around.
The controls are fairly straightforward, although occasionally a near-impossible move sequence is needed to propel Vexx up to the next wobbling platform. The puzzles that lead to each heart can be challenging, if not downright frustrating, but there are enough available for you to go and play somewhere else. There are 81 hearts scattered throughout the game, but only 60 are required to battle Dark Yabu. The creatures in each world are easy to slaughter and only a nuisance if they attack at the wrong time or en masse. Those seeking more of a challenge can hop onto the sundial in each level and twist it from day to night, which not only produces cool graphical and musical effects but brings out a meaner breed of creepy-crawly.
The only real defect is the third-person camera, which at times simply refuses to cooperate--but this is more than made up for by the thrill of battling a sumo wrestler about 15 times your size, complete with his jiggling rolls of fat and deep-throated chortle. Nothing beats smacking him in the butt until he looms up on his tippy toes and falls over. --D.J. Morel