Reviewed: July 27, 2004
Released: May 4, 2004
Trial Version Download
Chances are that I would never have looked seriously at Gish were it not for my previous experience with its developer, Chronic Logic and their Bridge Construction Set. I am not a fan of platformers and have not so much as touched one created in 2D for years. However, anyone who read my review of BCS knows that I found an unbelievably good game where I least expected it, so “why not?” logic has lead down the same path.
Chronic Logic has once again bowled me over with a game that is at once simple yet deep and involving. A challenging platformer, a clever puzzler, and physics toy box, Gish is a singular game both in content and in quality.
You assume the role of Gish, a (cute) glob of oil trying to rescue his girlfriend from a horde a Nightmare Before Christmas-esque creatures. Armed with only your innate abilities, you must slip, hop, and stick your way through a labyrinth of lava, spikes, and evil, plush bears.
From my point of view, Gish is about how the player interacts with its brilliant physics engine. While Gish contains all of the grueling standards of a platformer and does its genre justice, it is the freedom that the physics engine provides that makes Gish so entertaining.
You are armed only with a few tools. As Gish, you are an unwieldy blob capable of performing a sad little hop and becoming heavy, slippery, or sticky. Hardly a formidable hero it would seem. However, when mixed with the playgrounds that are Gish’s expertly designed levels and physics engine, these few tools become powerful allies.
For instance, a larger enemy who would normally be invincible can be beaten if Gish drops on top of him. He could accomplish this by hopping at a nearby wall, turning sticky, working his way up to the ceiling, unsticking himself, and going heavy while dropping on top of the enemy.
Other enemies can be crushed simply by rolling over them or sticking on to them, rolling, and then releasing them so that they go flying. The whole ordeal is very cute, surreal and immensely fun. It is also this uncouth manner of fighting that gives players room to improvise and decide their own approach of attack or avoidance.
Regarding puzzles and platform elements, they also take excellent advantage of Gish’s abilities. The game employs a number of swinging platforms that, in a more standard game, would have the player scrabbling to stay vertical. However, since Gish himself is sticky, he can actually stay in the same spot for their entire rotation to gain momentum and fling himself to the next platform.
Another example would be crates. Again, using his sticking abilities, Gish can awkwardly drag these boxes around to position them on top of switches or to hurl them (in his own odd manner) at breakable walls. As with the combat, this odd approach to puzzle solving also lends itself to improvisation on the player’s part, which in turn lends itself to boundless replay value.
Beyond the single-player mode, Gish is also rife with gaming classics-inspired secret levels and a coin collection mode (feel free to yawn on that count). Also added to the mix are some bizarre but unmistakably fun multiplayer modes such as a sumo mode that finds two Gishes trying to throw one another out of the ring.
As a package, Gish is simply a brilliant game. With ingenious gameplay mechanics, a twisted sense of humor, and a take on the platforming genre that it is all its own, Gish is a smart and funny game that came entirely out of left field.
Do not look at the screenshots. If you already have then forget what you saw. Gish is that unique-but-cute looking girl you dated who always turned out so awful in pictures.
Gish’s graphics are all about smooth or cartoon-ish animations and cool lighting effects. From wobbling, plush puppies dogs, to the perpetually undulating goo that is Gish himself, all the animations in Gish are well thought-out and attractive. They also serve to completely hide the low polygon-count seen in the screen shots.
The lighting is also a plus as shadows not only look flashy, but also help to show off the physics engine and give you some extra sense of your surroundings. That is not to say that Gish is overly attractive, rather that it is pleasant on the eye and polished enough that you will never feel “cheated” in this department.
There really isn’t a great deal to report here. Gish’s catchy music adds nicely to the game’s dark humor, and the sound effects are scant but workable. My only real critique would be that Gish could really benefit from some atmospheric sounds.
The PC game market is odd. Put Gish on the GameCube, add a little extra polish, and you have a $50 killer-app. Yet, on the PC, a paltry $19 is the cost for admittance and that might even scare some people away. However, if you’ve read everything above though, you know not to be fooled by the price tag – Gish is unique and in no way mainstream, but has virtually no shareware “feel” to it, and the gameplay is first-class.
This is a well-rounded package with a strong single-player mode, a host of multiplayer options, and a throwaway collection feature. Add to this the fact that Gish is one of those games that is fun to pick up every once awhile for a quick, twenty minute fix and you have a game that is worth far more than its price tag.
Chronic Logic has done it again. Once again, this little company has kicked out another brilliant and vastly entertaining game. Chronic Logic is quickly becoming one of my favorite developers and hopefully one that the industry will take close notice.
Without a doubt, Gish is one of the better games I’ve played in the fast few years; an unexpected delight and instant classic in my book. Gish is an inspired and ingenious platformer that, with any luck, should influence future additions to the genre. Clever design, brilliant gameplay, and a good sense of humor (not to mention its $19 price tag) make Gish a must buy.