Picture a cross between Dennis the Menace and Freddy Krueger and you'll have some idea of what you're dealing with when you sit down to play the darkly amusing "Vexx."
The star of this new Xbox title, from Acclaim, has a mischievous look in his eyes and a set of amazingly evil slasher claws like the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie monster.
However, Vexx is a videogame do-gooder who has vowed to take out Yabu, an evil sorcerer who killed his family and enslaved his world, Astara. He must battle through nine levels to work that bit of magic, solving puzzles and mashing monsters as he goes.
"Vexx" is a classic platform game, and our hero displays all the platforming tricks needed, including an extra-high jump and the ability to cling to ledges and pull himself up. Vexx can also swim and climb selected walls, digging his lethal little claws into the face and hauling himself up.
As with most games in the genre, you have to collect items for various purposes. To move to the next level, you need to acquire a specific number of Shadowraith Hearts, which are hidden around each level and require exploring, jumping, climbing and fighting.
To make that fighting easier, you can power up your talons with the energy from defeated enemies.
While the game doesn't offer any great platforming innovations and shares one of platforming's biggest problems - inconsistent camera angles - it offers a lot of fun for the buck. Vexx is a cute little demon, but he packs a wallop, especially when the talons are fully charged. That lets you touch off a dramatic Talon Blast or use the lightning-quick Talon Dash.
The creatures you face are not difficult to dispatch, although they frequently come in waves. The bosses are tougher, and appear to have had more thought put into them. The first boss, a sumo wrestler you defeat by forcing him out of the ring three times, gives you a taste of things to come.
There are also some neat puzzles to deal with, including an underwater maze that will drown you a few dozen times.
If you find yourself getting bogged down and don't object to using a guide book for help, take a look at the one produced by Prima Games. It's as complete a package as I've seen, and if you can't beat "Vexx" with this in hand, you need to turn in your controller.
Graphics get a B. There's plenty of color, and the dreamy backgrounds of floating boulders in outdoor scenes are quite unusual. The enemy creatures are usually more amusing than menacing.
Control gets a B, too. Getting Vexx to do your bidding is easy, and the fighting scheme is easy to master and full of interesting techniques. There are - surprise! - some camera problems, even with the right stick dedicated to adjusting it.
Sound gets a C. There's not really much to it, beyond weapons effects, the bleatings and squawks of your foes and some brief musical moments after specific actions.
Give "Vexx" a B. I found it to be an entertaining effort, fun to play and sufficiently varied to keep you jabbing buttons to the end.
"Vexx" is rated T, for ages 13 and up.
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