Details: No, Gex is not the gecko from those Geico commercials. Instead it's a tongue in cheek action game about a television-obsessed gecko. The original 2D game is still one of the strangest platformers ever conceived, with an odd art style and a wicked sense of humor. Best of all, it features the comedy of Dana Gould. Gex went on to release a number of moderately successful 3D games, none of which were as good as the original 2D title.
John: While comparisons of Gex and the Geico Gecko are obvious today, during his inception this wasn't a problem, so get that out of your head before you go on. Gex is a lizard who likes to watch TV. Again, he's not a complicated lizard and his design team wouldn't have had it any other way. He's a go getter; even after getting sucked violently into the TV universe he doesn't get discouraged. He gets straight at trying to find a way back to his home. Being an avid movie fan, Gex spouted many catchphrases over the course of his games, and they were annoying. Despite this, I like Gex. He's simple, but he's not completely flat. His games handled well and as a character his design wasn't completely phoned-in (pulling down your sunglasses slightly and looking over them is the universal sign for "Let's Party"). He's not the Geico Gecko, but honestly I think the two would get along (Gex's uncle is the Izod lizard). Gex is voiced by Dana Gould.
Cyril: As a fan of campy television and movies, I've always had a soft spot for Crystal Dynamics' gecko. Sure he looks like that foreign sounding Geico Gecko, but it's comedian Dana Gould's voice acting that makes character so endearing. I also love the fact that nearly all of his adventures have something to do with pop culture, mainly American television shows. I only wish they could have gone farther with that theme, but who knows, maybe we'll see a resurrection where Gex has to defeat Paula Abdul and run the Amazing Race. A boy can dream, can't he?
Details: Of the mascots on this list, very few of them are still working. But of the ones that are, Rayman is one of the best. Both his traditional platformer games and his mini-game collections are well received, and people around the world still smile when they see those adorable rabbids. Few realize that Rayman got his start on the Atari Jaguar, yet again proving that Atari's 64-bit system had its share of spectacular games.
Cyril: So here's the good news, Rayman isn't the worst mascot character on our list. While the idea nothing any arms or legs does seem odd, at least he's not throwing his head like Chuck D. Head from Decap Attack. I suspect that my opinion of this character has improved thanks to the cuteness of those raving rabbids. But I still can't get over the fact that we're talking about a hero without any arms or legs. Sure that's useful when you need to reach something far away, but I simply don't see the practical use for this ability. And besides, I have never been a big fan of the character's hair. Sorry Rayman, you just don't make the cut.
John: Rayman never really clicked with me, and the main reason was his awkward idle animations. I hate to be overly specific, but the constant orbiting of his limbs always unnerved me, and I sometimes wonder if Ubisoft actually intended that to happen. They created him with at least some depth in mind, but overall it seemed like an overweight lemming with a scarf (which I guess isn't bad if you're gunning for lemmings fanatics or people who like scarves). In the end, Rayman was a bizarre character in a bizarre game universe that I ultimately remember due to the excessive use of color in the level design. I can never fault a developer for going completely nuts with a character's color palette.
Details: The original video game mascot. Pac-Man is one of the most popular video game characters of all time in a game that is impossible to hate. Based on something as random as a pizza, Pac-Man was so popular that it made the cover of weekly magazines at a time when nobody took video games seriously. He spawned multiple spin-offs, had his own TV show, been featured in a Mario Kart game and is still as popular as ever. He's Pac-Man, and he needs no introduction.
John: Mario is a simple design; a guy with overalls. Two colors in the palette and very little handwork required to produce him on paper. Compared to Pac-Man, though, Mario is something out of a King of Fighter's character roster. Straight up, Pac-Man is a circle with a wedge for a mouth. Does this mean that as a character he's dull? Hardly. Pac-Man's design is simple, but as a character Pac has just as much attitude as the next guy. The first game we see him in has him eating pellets in an endless maze filled with ghosts. That's pretty terrifying. He's not intimidated though, Pac realizes that the only way to win is to just keep on trucking. Never stop eating; if you run out of pellets, you're going to run out of time. Run out of power pills and you might find yourself a victim of supernatural assault. So keep going, let nothing stop you in your quest. Pac is a simple being, but his needs are far more primal than others on our list. Simply, Pac needs the pills to survive; he literally cannot defeat his foes without them. Because of this allegory to humanity, and because he was never afraid to bring his wife into the gaming arena with him, I'm giving Pac-Man an A.
Cyril: The brilliance of Pac-Man's design is that it only works in 2D. While there are plenty of characters that look better in 2D (Sonic, Bubsy, etc.), Pac-Man is a character that simply cannot be done in 3D without having a drastic makeover. Perhaps that's why Namco decided to give Pac-Man an extreme makeover when they started to churn out all of those terrible Mario 64 rip-offs. This 2D character's design is so simple that he didn't even need arms and legs; he was just a big yellow blob chowing down on anything and everything he could get his lips on. And it's not just him, either. There's Ms. Pac-Man, who is exactly the same as Pac-Man, except that she has a bow in her hair. Do Pac-People even have hair? The reason I'm giving Pac-Man such a high score is due to the fact that he was able to conceive a child despite not having any Pac-Parts to Pac-Do-It with.
ZOOL [Gremlin Graphics]
Details: Zool is an alien from the Nth dimension. He's not an ant. Don't let them tell you that he's an ant. He's not an ant. But he looks like an ant. And everybody thinks that he's an ant. But he's not an ant. No matter what the people below try to tell you, it's not an ant. Seriously. I'm telling you the truth. He's not an ant. Just look at him, does he look like an ant? Okay, fine, he is an ant.
Cyril: More proof that video game ideas are born from pulling random words out of a hat. Zool is, I'm not joking, an ant from the nth dimension. Oh, and did I mention that he's a ninja? Well, he is. And I guess that's important for whatever reason. Again, it's as if they picked random words, it's really quite embarrassing. To be fair, Zool's look isn't outright terrible. He does retain the ant-like look, while adding green horns and a fashionable belt. When it comes right down to it my problem with Zool isn't the character himself, but rather the contrived story he's stuck in. When it comes right down to it, my big issue is that Zool just feels very average.
John: Let's see, it's the nineties and you need a mascot. Better make him dark, and quiet, and I guess a ninja. That will compete with Mario and Sonic, right? Proof positive that hype alone can't fuel a successful game, Zool is a ninja from the Nth dimension with possible color blindness and I suppose neon green limbs. He has a huge belt as well, which I guess can be a good thing if you need room for lots of pouches, which you did if you were into that kind of thing in the nineties. Anyway, Zool actually handled surprisingly well, and despite how unkind time has been to the franchise (complete oblivion) he could have been interesting if some of his story was fleshed out more than just "I want to be the ninja" (though this has worked for a certain orange clad ninja with blonde spiky hair). Maybe he was ahead of his time, but I it's more likely he was just a poorly colored in Xerox who now bears a superficial resemblance to a certain one of the brothers Strong.
Details: The first name you think of when you hear the name "TurboGrafx-16," it's Bonk the dinosaur hating caveman. Bonk was one of Hudson's biggest releases, spawning two sequels and a spin-off series (Air Zonk). But Bonk was on more than just NEC consoles, he also found himself on the Game Boy, Super NES and even the PlayStation 2. With a huge head and a short fuse, Bonk is primed for a comeback.
John: There are only two mascots that you can't stop. Mr. Domino cannot be stopped. His game says so. Bonk is the other. A simple caveman, much like Chuck above, but at least generous enough to cover his shame with a leopard print toga. Leopard print means that he knows style. He has a freakishly large head, and with it he becomes the destroyer of worlds. Dinosaurs don't stand a chance, and neither does anything else. Bonk is a force of nature, and he's uncompromising in his quest to do rescue a tiny dinosaur princess. When you see someone whose first instinct when confronted with danger is to smash their way through, you should be wary. When their first instinct is to smash their way through with their forehead, you should be in awe.
Cyril: You know what they say about cavemen with big heads. Bonk is a likeable enough character, even if he doesn't have a lot to say and is limited to banging things with enormous head. Then again, I'm not sure I would even want to hold a conversation with a guy like Bonk. My day to day life would seem somewhat boring to a guy who is fighting dinosaurs and forced to hunt for food each and every day just to live. And don't think that just because he has a big head that he has a big brain, the only reason it's so damn big is because it's swollen. Get some Tylenol and take a break little buddy.