Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender

1992 Microprose
Designed by Matt Gruson, Jeff Charlesbois, Ted Markey
Reviewed 2008 March 1

Rating +0 Linearity wide
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity high
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned menu Real-time minor

Rex is a thief-for-hire, a smuggler, and a chauvinist pig. He's been commissioned to retrieve a vase from a lost planet of women.

It sure looks like some suit had visions of merging Leisure Suit Larry and Space Quest. The designers, however, didn't seem to have the heart to follow through with it, leaving the game lost between a low-brow romp and a serious, challenge based adventure. There's enough raunchiness, violence, and gore to make the game unsuitable for mid-teens and younger.

While there are some raunchy bits, and considerable chauvinistic dialogue by Rex, it isn't consistent in this, and doesn't go as far as, say, Leisure Suit Larry. Most of the time, Rex is just a regular adventure hero wandering about a strange world solving typical adventuring problems. The game could easily be toned down to PG with only minor changes. If they're going to through away the pre- and teen market by adding the sex and violence, I think they should make it an integral part of the game. Here, it's just a bolt-on.

There's not much plot going on, at least in the present. There's an interesting, humourous back-story about how this world came to be women-only. In the present, it's just Rex jumping through hoops to get the prize.

They're good hoops, though. The challenges are well designed, and nicely integrated into the game world. There are a few problems with required death, where you have to die to learn how to proceed. Fortunately, when you die you get automatically restored to just before your fatal action, so death isn't painful. Also, there is possible dead-end or two, but they are obviously risky actions where an inventory item will clearly be destroyed, so you know you should save.

The challenges are almost all inventory based. Each inventory item has its own attached actions. For example, you can look through binoculars, and disassemble some items. You build text commands from a small verb menu, inventory items, environmental objects, and inventory extra verbs. It's like early LucasArts and later Legend games.

The challenges are nicely integrated. Some even rely on the spatial orientation of different locations, which is in turn well displayed. There are NPCs, but they mostly act like any mechanistic environmental object.

It's old VGA graphics, but the artwork is well done. It displays everything you need clearly, and evokes an appropriate sense of atmosphere in each scene. There's no speech (it's a floppy game), but there are environment sound effects and a MIDI score. One notale drawback is a lack of zip mode: you have to wait for Rex to amble hither and yon; you can't hurry him along.

If all you want are good adventuring challenges, this is a good game. They're not very difficult, but they're well constructed and take advantage of a flexible interface. The story side is not memorable, seemingly torn between a good science fiction story and Larry clone. It's good enough to drive the challenges along, but that's all.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.