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PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY | GAMERS' CORNER

Gex May Finally Be Getting His Due

March 30, 1998|AARON CURTISS

Move over, Mario. Nintendo's fat little plumber may have enjoyed the undisputed crown of three-dimensional console gaming for the last two years, but a wisenheimer lizard with showbiz aspirations now threatens to knock him off his throne.

At the same time, "Gex: Enter the Gecko" highlights how much juice developers can squeeze from a 32-bit rig like Sony PlayStation. Despite the technical oomph of Nintendo 64, PlayStation handles "Enter the Gecko's" rich three-dimensional environments without a hitch--proof that PlayStation still has at least another year or two left to grow.

Like Mario, Gex is a refugee from the two-dimensional world of side-scrolling adventures. Unlike Mario, Gex never seeped into the public consciousness in any big way. A huge part of the reason: Gex was one of the few truly good games created for the ill-fated 3DO Multiplayer.

Even after Gex was shifted by Crystal Dynamics to PlayStation, he seemed to get lost in a crowd of endearing critters such as Crash Bandicoot and Robbit the robotic rabbit. But with "Enter the Gecko," Gex finally seems on the verge of getting his due.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday April 6, 1998 Home Edition Business Part D Page 3 Financial Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
Gamers Corner--A photo caption with the March 30 Gamers Corner column incorrectly identified a computer game. The correct name is "Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time."

The game starts with a couple of goons sliding a briefcase of cash across a table and asking Gex to save television from Rez, lord of the Media Dimension. Armed with a nasty tail-whip and a wicked tuxedo, Gex dives into wild television-inspired worlds with names like the Pre-History Channel, Scream TV, Kung-Fu Theater and Gilligex Island.

Levels sparkle with vivid color and subtle humor, and Gex's Hollywood insider quips score about half the time. Adults will appreciate the humor, but all the jokes are clean enough to let even a young child play without fear.

Players can send Gex scurrying virtually anywhere in sprawling levels that are crawling with enemies. Control can be tough to get used to and the camera perspectives seem not as smooth as they ought to be. But that's a problem endemic to 3-D gaming in general.

Overall, Gex stands out as one of those rare games where technical grace and imaginative play intersect. Designers were able to wring out PlayStation's graphic potential without sacrificing elements critical to play.

THE JOURNEYMAN PROJECT 3: LEGACY OF TIME: Agent Gage Blackwood of the Temporal Security Agency returns for yet another trip through the ages in this third installment of the popular "Journeyman" role-playing series. It is the best yet.

Blackwood is a kind of time cop who guards against villains who might use time travel to alter history. This time around, he time-trips to El Dorado, Atlantis and Shangri-La to find an alien relic and, of course, save the planet.

With lots of full-motion video and an intuitive interface, "Legacy of Time" is a more-than-competent adventure. Where it excels is in creating worlds with many layers of beauty and trickery. Players have an amazing field of vision as they wander through temples and along city streets.

Fans of the series will recognize a variety of characters reprising their roles, including the traitorous Agent 3--although it's unclear what Agent 3 does after the first portion of the game.

"Legacy of Time" runs on a Pentium 90 or a Macintosh Power PC with 16 megs of RAM. But on a Pentium 90, the game seemed sluggish. As with any newer computer game, more memory and a faster processor significantly boost performance. It ran great on a Pentium II 333. (I'd be worried if it didn't.)

AEROFIGHTERS ASSAULT: This is a game in search of a reason. Fans of flight combat have been ignored by Nintendo 64 developers. Sure, there was "Pilotwings" and "Starfox 64," but no really good combat game to rival a gem like "Namco's Ace Combat 2" on PlayStation.

Despite what its box promises, "Aerofighters Assault" doesn't quite fill the void. Its game engine is superb, allowing tight control and swift maneuverability. But play is a confusing mix of arcade-style shooting and technical flying.

It ends up not doing either very well.

Times staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games every Monday in The Cutting Edge. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send e-mail to aaron.curtiss@latimes.com

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Essentials

Title: Gex: Enter the Gecko

Platform: Sony PlayStation

Publisher: Crystal Dynamics/Midway

ESRB* rating: Kids to adults

Price: $49.95

Bottom line: Wow!

*

Title: Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time

Platform: PC CD-ROM/Mac

Publisher: Red Orb Entertainment

ESRB* rating: Kids to adults

Price: $49.95

Bottom line: Beautiful scenery, tight puzzles

*

Title: Aerofighters Assault

Platform: Nintendo 64

Publisher: Video System

ESRB* rating: Kids to adults

Price: $49.95

Bottom line: Given N64's dearth of flight sims, it'll do.

*

Next week: Deer Hunter, Skullmonkeys and 1080 Snowboarding

*Entertainment Software Ratings Board

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