Gish

Gish is a goth/cartoony 2D platformer starring a sentient ball of tar, a hero that stretches and splats and sticks to things. In some respects it’s very traditional, based around Mario-old conventions like the kidnapped-girlfriend plot 1No, Gish’s girlfriend isn’t a ball of tar. She’s a cartoon goth girl. Don’t ask me for details. , the linear sequence of levels grouped into “worlds”, enemies you kill by jumping on their heads, etc. I think the designers chose to adhere to old and even outmoded conventions as much as they did, not out of lack of imagination, but to give the player something familiar to cling to as they pulled the rug from under you on the mechanics and controls. This is a platformer where jumping is difficult to execute.

Oh, sure, there’s a “jump” button, but it doesn’t do much of a jump by itself. To make Gish do a jump worth jumping, you have to hit the button while he’s compressed — the more compressed, the better. And he’s at his most compressed when he’s in the middle of colliding with a hard surface, such as a floor. So standing jumps are a no-go, but sequences of long bounds are doable, once you’ve attained sufficient facility with the controls to carom about with confidence. Momentum is your friend, and hesitation is your biggest enemy.

It takes a while to become that confident, because, aside from the jump, Gish’s core abilities are not standard platformer fare. The core controls allow you to make Gish stickier than normal (useful for climbing walls), slicker and less viscous (useful for sliding down narrow chutes), or heavier and more resistant to deformation (useful for breaking things or sinking in water). These can be combined arbitrarily: sometimes, for example, the easiest way to shift a pile of loose blocks is to trickle into their midst through slickness and then tense up to resume ball-shape and force the blocks apart. It’s all very physics.

I may not be playing it much, though, because it’s still crashing for me. Not as badly as it was before, but I’m typically getting in about 10-15 minutes of gameplay before it exits to the desktop without so much as an error message. This is, however, long enough to make permanent progress, so I really could just keep playing, as long as I exit the game every once in a while to force it to save. (There is no manual save option.)

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1. No, Gish’s girlfriend isn’t a ball of tar. She’s a cartoon goth girl. Don’t ask me for details.

2 Comments so far

  1. Greg on 25 Dec 2009

    Bummer about the crashing. I really liked this game. It was my introduction to physics games.

  2. malkav11 on 26 Dec 2009

    I wanted to like this one, but I just could not get the hang of the jumping at all and so progress was pretty much impossible.

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