Vexx Review

Vexx is a platform game that draws heavily on another famous platform game for inspiration (hint: the game's box reads "To hell with a princess - Save the world").  Instead of your standard, sugary platform fare, Vexx serves up a darker and more violent world with plenty of attitude.  Not the cute attitude that so many platform heroes possess and that would make them a hit at a junior high dance, but a take no prisoners, I'll let my razor sharp talons do the talking kind of attitude.

Vexx powers up his claws.

The title character is a small wingless bat kind of looking thing that lives on the world of Astara.  A dark lord named Yabu has taken over Astara and enslaved all of its people.  One day while working in the mines, Vexx decides he can't take it any more and attacks a guard.  Only intervention by Vexx's grandfather saves Vexx's life, but costs his grandfather his.  In the confusion Vexx is able to slip out of the mine and stumble across an ancient artifact, the Astani War Talons.  The talons bind themselves to his hands, and Vexx is given the weapon he needs to fight for his people's freedom.

Astara is divided into nine different worlds.  An ancient portal system accessed through the Rift Hub allows travel between these worlds, but the system is broken.  Vexx must collect the Shadowraith hearts found in each world to power the system and gain access to other worlds.  The entrance to each world appears as a doorway in the Rift Hub and is numbered to indicate the number of Shadowraith hearts that must be collected to gain access to that world.  Only by completely powering the portal system will you be able to reach the plane where you can find and defeat Yabu.

Each world has ten hearts which must be collected in a variety of ways.  Two of the hearts can always be collected by the standard mechanism of collecting 100 shards or six soul jars hidden in each level.  Others require you to find secret areas, defeat bosses, solve puzzles, and navigate platform sequences.  Clues on how to find the other hearts are provided through short snippets of really bad poetry that would make a Vogon proud.  The worlds are pretty large and you're free to explore them and pursue the hearts in any order that you wish.  Overall the game does not push the Xbox's graphics hardware, but it certainly looks good enough for a platformer set in a fantasy realm.  The worlds themselves look pretty good, with good water and other effects.  The game has full day and night cycles that not only show of some nice dynamic lighting effects, but also figure into some of the puzzles and affect the behavior of some of the enemies. 

It is in the dispatch of these enemies that Vexx really departs from other platform games.  Vexx uses a combo-based fighting system inspired by fighting games.  Your talons are your weapon, and by rapidly slashing with them you can unleash three and four hit combos.  You also have an attack which can be directed upwards at flying enemies or to juggle enemies you've flipped into the air, and you can execute a ground-smashing attack when you come back down.  While the enemies can be dispatched by the basic attack, using the combos and other special attacks will charge a Frenzy meter.  When this meter is filled, you can use special attacks like the ability to fire energy balls from your talons.  There are a variety of strange and unusual enemies in the game, but they are not too hard to handle with all of the attacks at your disposal.  The combo system certainly makes it more fun to fight in Vexx than in standard platform games which rely on attacks like the more politically correct squashing.