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The GoodImagine yourself as a living, intelligent ball of tar. You could slip and slide all over the world, stick to walls, or even crush objects with your incredible weight. That is the premise behind Chronic Logic's Gish, a platformer for PC that never quite achieves greatness, but is still enjoyable nonetheless.
All great platform characters have one main feature to make them stand out from the rest: Mario has his jumping ability, Sonic his speed, Mega Man his blaster, etc. Gish definitely has the strangest power of them all, for he is a stretchable, stickable, and squeezable blob of tar.
Gish is a standard platform game, but with an original physics twist. Not many games, if any, can claim to have blob physics simulations, but Gish is definitely one of them. Using the arrow keys, you can accelerate left and right or stretch and shrink Gish. Jumping is very unique in Gish. Rather than pushing the spacebar to jump one, you have to keep pressing the jump button over and over again to gain enough momentum from Gish's compression and decompression. It's difficult to explain, but easy to pick up once you see it in action.
Gish also has three other abilities. First, he can stick to walls. When you hold down the stick key, you use the arrow keys to direct where Gish should climb. He can also become slippery. This allows Gish to wedge himself into tight spaces or slide down hills at high speed. Finally, Gish can become heavy, which is the only way Gish can kill enemies and break blocks..
What's really interesting is that Gish can use all three of these abilities in conjunction with each other, creating a wide variety of both mental puzzles and platform challenges. The physics of the game affect not only just Gish himself but the environment as well, creating some very unique puzzles. For example, you might have to heavily slam down on a block of wood connected to a rope so that you can stick to it and use the momentum to swing yourself across a chasm. Or, you can use your stick ability to pick up objects, then make yourself heavy to "throw" them. Or, you can become slippery and heavy and use the momentum to slam into a ton of breakable blocks. Or you can stick yourself to a ceiling and break a block to send the boulders above down upon your enemies. You're constantly being challenged to use your abilities in fresh new ways, making Gish more of a puzzle game rather than just a platformer.
The BadAs entertaining as the gameplay is, the game's lack of polish really lets it down as a whole. The physics are simultaneously the best and worst element of the game, because while you really do feel like you're controlling a ball of tar, there are many frustrations and bugs you have to put up with. It can be difficult to climb around corners because Gish will stick to two surfaces rather than just one, forcing you to rapidly tap the stick key and the arrow keys before you can stick to the right direction. In addition, there are many times where they physics simply don't do what you would expect of them. For instance, it's possible to slam into an enemy going at full speed and STILL not crush it. It's also possible to fall hard enough that you completely implode in on yourself, which just shouldn't happen to a ball of goo. The switches also provide a constant source of frustration, as they can be very difficult to set right. Even you you do some of the physics puzzles in the way that the developers intended for you to do, you can still end up getting yourself killed due to the sketchy nature of the physics.
The boss fights are also frustrating because of the physics as well. Some of them are difficult beyond belief, and feel like a tacked on, last-minute addition to the game.
The game's presentation as a whole feels lazy and subpar. The graphics of the game only take up a little over half of the screen, with the rest being relegated to an ugly tar border that's incredibly unappealing to look at for long periods of time. Not that the graphics in the game are really much better. While there are several different worlds, they just don't look or feel sufficiently different from one another to really impress. After a while, everything blends into a brown and grey pile of dullness. Admittedly, there are some interesting lighting effects as well as parallax scrolling, but Gish just looks BAD alongside modern platformers. The developers were obviously going for a cute but macabre style of artwork, but I don't think they really pulled it off. The sound is virtually non-existent, with only the faintest of squishing and crunching sounds accompanying your actions. The music is just a mess. Quirky soundtracks rarely seem to rub me the right way in platformers, and Gish's repetitive, obnoxious "music" is certainly no exception.
The Bottom LineProfessional critics like to point out that indie games, due to their smaller, more personal nature to their developers, have a lot of "heart" put into them that makes them feel just as polished as larger games. With Gish, I never got the sense that enough love was really put into the making of the title, resulting in blobs of missed potential.It seems like the developers put all of their stock in making the physics for Gish without really building a strong game around them.
Nevertheless, Gish is one of the most interesting games I've ever played. I absolutely love gimmick games such as Gish, because they prove that developers are still trying to come up with new and original ideas for games, even if they are not entirely successful.In spite of the game's numerous shortcomings, the game's unique controls and fun puzzles are what make this game memorable. Gish a flawed, dark gem that is worth investigating for platformer and physics fans.