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Video Game / Vexx

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The fate of Astara rests in his hands.
Vexx is an obscure action-platformer that was released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and Xbox. The game combined run-of-the-mill platforming with with some offbeat powerups and a combo fighting system. While the gameplay was nothing special, the art design and look of the game were truly outstanding, featuring ridiculous amounts of Scenery Porn.

The "plot" of the game, such as it was, was about the world of Astara, which is currently experiencing the effects of After the End. The planet's original inhabitants developed interdimensional technology, and promptly opened a portal that released demonic hordes into their realm. Seven hundred years later, the Astani are gone, and the inhabitable chunks of Astara are populated by little elf/werewolf/pointy eared critters (confirmed in source material as the Valdar), one of which is our eponymous hero. One day these creatures are attacked by one of the aforementioned demons and his underlings, and forced into slavery. Our hero attempts to fight back, only to have the full wrath of the demon lord, named Dark Yabu, turned on him. Vexx's grandfather Vargas attacks Yabu in turn to gain his attention, sacrificing himself to save his grandson.

That night, Vexx sneaks onboard Dark Yabu's airship and finds the magical Astani war talons, big clawed gauntlets that promptly fuse themselves to Vexx's hands and blow up the airship.

Vexx awakens in the land of Timberdale, and he is told by a wizened old coot named Darby that he must collect Wraithearts, the undead hearts of defeated demon lords, to power the ancient Astani portal system and ultimately open a portal to Dark Yabu's fortress and defeat him.

This work provides examples of:

  • After the End: Astara has basically been reduced to an asteroid field. All the worlds you visit feature floating rocks in the sky.
  • All There in the Manual: The eighth heart in "The Below" requires a three-button sequence to open a chest. If you happened to take a look in the game manual, it gives that combination to you outright. The hint even tells you this.
    Short's chest deserves a look
    The key to its release
    Is hidden in the book
  • Backtracking: Sand Castle requires you to go back to Timberdale in order to get a Wraitheart in Dragonreach.
  • Band Land: The mini-level inside the piano in Tempest Peak Manor.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Justified considering the tech they had available at that time. Some entrances to other parts of every level are unbelievably small.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The game itself has a series of symbols called Astarian that actually translate into English symbols and numbers when examined. A careful player can actually translate some of the random occurrences of the symbols in many levels.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Unable to get back through the portal, Vexx throws the staff through, successfully closing the rift and thus saving Astara, but also trapping himself in the shadow realm. He is last seen roaming the desolate, wraith-infested lands, fighting a massive hoard of Shadowcreeps surrounding him.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: Guess what happens if you get every wraithheart, journal entry and beat the game: NOTHING!
  • Bubblegloop Swamp: The Neverglades, mixed with a little bit of Jungle Japes.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: It's implied that the Astani War Talons are these. However, Vexx never feels the need to try taking them off, so we don't know for sure.
  • Clockworks Area: The Citadel of Shadows is basically a gritty, non-linear version of Tick Tock Clock.
  • Crosshair Aware: The second fight against the sumo boss equips him with a pair of bracelets that can... control flying rocks, for some reason. (Just run with it.) When he's about to summon from stones from the sky to hit you, a crosshair appears on the ground, telling you to get away.
    • Also used during the fight against the Mummy in Daggercrag. Every time he leaps while in ball form, a crosshair will appear on the ground warning you to get away.
    • And once again used in Yabu's fight during the first stage, as crosshairs will show you where the bursts of fire will land.
  • Death Mountain: Both Dragonreach and the later level Daggercrag, which uses the same visual style and assets as the former. Then again, they were originally conceived as being one world, until a last-minute decision split them into two worlds.
  • Double Entendre: When you talk to Short (the head pirate) while inside of the Leviathan, he talks about how "if you can't open the chest, you'll get thrown out of the back hole." Upon failing to open the chest, the screen fades to black with the sounds of Vexx getting damaged before it reveals that he was tossed out through the blow hole.
  • Double X: Vexx's name of course.
  • Easter Egg: The Astani text, which can be translated to English perfectly.
    • During the final fight against Yabu, Vexx has a 1/1000 chance of flipping Yabu off.
    • During Yabu's death animation after you defeat him, he briefly gives a thumbs up as his hand sinks.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Astani War Talons, sort of. They talk to you during the game's tutorial, but once that's over, they shut up for the remainder of the game.
    • It could be theorized that the instruction-orbs you find scattered in many worlds could be the War Talons instructing you on how or what to do.
  • Empty Room Psych/Missing Secret: In one area of the ring of land surrounding the main bubble in The Below, there's a strange pipe that hangs above you. You can wall jump a little ways into it, but usually, you'll just fall. There's nothing up there, you.
  • Enemy Without: The minigames that pit you against your "inner demons," who are blue-black versions of Vexx with reddish-orange eyes.
  • Evil Plan: Darby is actually Big Bad Dark Yabu in disguise, and Vexx has actually been helping him by collecting Wraithearts, opening portals to other worlds so HE can access them and take them over. Might also qualify as Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Flipping the Bird: Very rarely, instead of striking a Bring It pose just before the final fight with Yabu, Vexx will do this instead.
    • Sumo-Kun will also did this towards Vexx when you knock him out of the ring for the first time during the first match against him.
  • Flunky Boss: Dark Yabu's first phase.
  • Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: Vexx punches the camera (presumably a shadow wraith) in the face at the end, leaving us with just the title logo.
  • Foreshadowing: Darby inadvertently hints this when he warns Vexx, "Be careful! Wraiths are shape changers. Trust no one along your journey!"
  • Giant Spider: Dark Yabu's second phase.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: If you attempt to bypass the opening animation featured in the Soul Jar mission located in the Summit of the Sages (where the heart is absorbed by the giant's cube) and grab the heart before it disappears, the game can softlock Vexx in his heart-grab animation, with the only thing you can do being controling the camera. You have to exit out of the game to fix it.
    • In The Neverglades, if you get Vexx down to one life and one unit of health, do the mission where you fire Talon Blasts into the statue's eyes and then jump to the heart. The fall will kill Vexx, but he will still collect the heart. When he respawns in the Rift Hub, he will be glitched at zero lives. Going to specific worlds with the bug causes glitched cameras and Vexx will instantly die if he goes through a doorway in the level.
  • Groin Attack: Getting one of the Soul Jars in the fifth world requires you to give one good uppercut in the crotch of a strange goblin holding it out of your reach.
  • Ground Pound: Rather than smashing into the ground himself, Vexx fires a blast of energy directly below him instead.
  • Guide Dang It!: The Sand Castle Wraitheart. Honestly, who would figure out how to get there without a guide?
  • Heroic Mime: Vexx. He has a voice (he growls, grunts, and yells throughout cutscenes and gameplay), but he never actually talks.
    • In the intro cutscene detailing Vexx's enslavement, he can be briefly heard yelling what sounds like "no" when Yabu kills Vargas.
  • 100% Completion: Getting every Wraithheart in the game, which will take your soul.
  • Interface Screw: One of the earliest Wraithearts in The Below requires you to do a simple platform jumping puzzle... while the screen is upside down.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: The game cycles from day to night, though you only really see this when outside. At night, the enemies get stronger. You can also change the time of day using a sundial, and putting it at the right time unlocks a sundial portal, which you can use to get a Wraitheart. The sundial had a bonus mission in the beta in the form of setting it to a specific time to cause a shadowy Vexx to show up, which Vexx would then have to race to get a Wraithheart
  • Invincible Minor Minion: Rex in Tempest Peak Manor. The manual even says "if you think you can defeat him, here's a hint: you can't."
  • Jerkass: One of the Soul Jars in The Below is being held by some strange creature, who will hold it out of reach and laugh at you if you try to grab it. The only way to get him to drop it is to hit him in the crotch.
  • Justified Tutorial: In a dream sequence at the start of the game, where the Astani War Talons themselves teach Vexx how to do various moves.
  • Kamehame Hadoken: Talon Blasts, which are only available when the Charged Talons have been activated.
  • Large Ham: Dark Yabu.
  • Last of His Kind: Reia, and probably Vexx.
  • Law of 100: The Wraitheart shards, which, as you might have guessed, give you a Wraitheart when you collect 100 of them. You have to do this in every world.
  • Limit Break: The Charged Talons, which has a meter you fill by pounding the crap out of enemies.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: Each song for the inner-demon minigames is longer than the 30 second round limit.
    • There's a hidden song in one challenge on Citadel of Shadows that's almost 4 minutes long, but it only takes about a minute at most to get the wraithheart.
  • Macro Zone: Tempest Peak Manor. It's explicitly stated to be the inside of a giant's house.
  • Marathon Boss: Dark Yabu. He has three stages with very minimal health drops and if you die at all in the fight, you have to start all over at the beginning.
  • Meaningful Name: The three pirates you meet in The Below have this:
    • Short, the leader of the crew, is just a little taller than Vexx.
    • Nasty, the tallest, is rather grotesque in appearance.
    • Brutish, the largest, is the most muscular looking.
  • Mini-Game: The fact that the minigames pit you against three other Vexxes kind of suggests that maybe the game featured multiplayer at some point in development. Shame it never made it to the final product...
  • Mirror Match: The minigames have you competing against three other Vexxes, described as being your "inner demons".
  • Nintendo Hard: Like you would not BELIEVE. Anyone who got 100% on this game without breaking at least one controller is a gaming god.
  • Offscreen Start Bonus: While most of the stages have their entry and exit portals plopped in a corner, The Neverglades has an extra little area with some lives and the entrance to a Wraithheart chamber hidden behind its gateway. The Citadel of Shadows has this too, featuring two possible wraithhearts hidden behind the Rift Hub door.
  • Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles: There are bubbles in The Below (and a side-area in Dragonreach) that refill your air. Vexx can hold his breath a long time without them, though.
  • Palatial Sandcastle: The game has a sandcastle pseudo-Palette Swap of an earlier area called the Waterfall Castle. It's implied that the Sand Castle might not actually be that big; Vexx might just have gotten smaller.
  • Pickup Hierarchy:
    • Primary: Wraithhearts
    • Secondary: SoulJars (literally called that, actually)
    • Tertiary: Heart Shards, 1-Ups
  • Platform Hell: Yeah...
  • Playing Tennis with the Boss: Dark Yabu's third stage.
  • Proud Warrior Race / Proud Scholar Race: With what little is revealed of the Astani, they are hinted to be something like this.
  • Punny Name: The Neverglades might be one of the real-life Everglades.
    • Rex is not only an alien dog with a stereotypical name, but he's also an alien T-Rex.
  • Recurring Boss: Sumo Guy. You fight him once in Timberdale and then a rematch in The Below.
  • Ribcage Ridge: Dragonreach, in which a good portion of the level is spent clambering over the eponymous dragon's bones.
  • Ring-Out Boss: Again, Sumo Guy.
  • Scare Chord: Happens in the night themes of the main parts of each world at sporadic times due to a Variable Mix.
  • Scenery Porn: Like nobody's business.
  • Scrapbook Story: Backstory is provided by finding fragments of Reia's journal, floating around the world.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Done once in the Hydro-Charger of The Below, where a hint node reads spouts a bunch of borderline Techno Babble before finally saying "In other words, find the button to turn off the beam."
  • Stillborn Franchise / Sequel Hook: Some concept art by former developers, along with the unclear status of Vexx in the ending cutscene shows that a sequel was apparently in development, most likely ending up cancelled due to Acclaim's bankruptcy in 2005.
  • Shattered World: Astara, somehow habitable despite being transformed into a cluster of asteroids floating in space with gravity that also somehow can pull anyone who falls off these rocks into the void.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Frostblight Mill, which makes one wonder who would build a windmill in a desolate icy wasteland.
    • It's been hinted that Frostblight Mill wasn't originally a wasteland but had the energy drained out of it by the Citadel of Shadows.
  • Shockwave Stomp: Vexx's Ground Pound, and also a charged move in one of his Combos.
  • Shout-Out
    If you play it clean
    Despite your lack of size
    You'll break out of the screen
  • Smashing Survival: Wiggling the joystick left and right will allow you to break free from the Hobbletrods' electric leashes. The game even indicates on screen that you should do this. Also, when Sumo-Kun grabs you during the first fight against him, you have to wiggle the joystick to break free or risk being thrown out of the ring.
  • Subtitles Are Superfluous: Which makes you wish Reia would talk louder, particularly in the opening.
  • Temple of Doom: This game loves this trope. Most of the worlds have a temple-esque structure to explore, ranging from actual temples to abandoned mills, to ancient factories. Some of the worlds give up the pretext entirely and just have the world BE the temple.
  • That One Boss: Dark Yabu.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Vexx
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Enemies aren't destroyed until they hit the ground, meaning you can beat the ever-living crap out of them for as long as you want if you can just keep them in the air while you do so. The game actually encourages you to do this, as it helps charge up your War Talons for their Limit Break.
  • Wall Jump: It's there. What else needs to be said? A bit clunky, but it's there.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In The Neverglades, there's a special cloud that completely fills your combo meter and allows you to access your "special" form, mostly so you can shoot energy blasts for a puzzle. However, after said puzzle is complete, the "energy cloud" completely disappears. There's also only one area with a minimap, and as to why it would get one, it's not completely clear.
    • Plot-wise, it's never mentioned what happens to the Valdar (Vexx's people) after Yabu is defeated, nor is the essence of Vexx's grandfather Vargas ever mentioned. Of course, time constraints could be the reasoning behind both issues.
  • Wolverine Claws: The Astani War Claws allow Vexx to produce these to various degrees, depending on the situation.
  • Womb Level: The Citadel of Shadows is actually a gigantic living creature as revealed in Reia's scrolls.