Gish: Bosses and Bossiness

The final boss in Gish is an interesting one. As hinted by a couple of prior boss speeches, it’s another ball of tar, similar to Gish himself. The chief differences: first of all, in a concession to readability, it’s white. I’ve never heard of white tar, but you need to be able to tell it apart from Gish. Secondly, it doesn’t have quite the same capabilities as Gish: it doesn’t seem to be able to jump, or to turn sticky and climb up walls. It does have the ability to turn heavy and ram you, and when thrown into the air, can zero in on you with all its crushing weight. Beating the level requires hurling a block up onto a platform (so you can use it to weigh down a switch that opens a trap door into a lava pit), and aiming it while being battered by a white tarball is the most difficult thing about the fight.

Thirdly, despite my use of the neuter pronoun above, the end boss is female. (Don’t ask me what distinguishes male tar from female tar.) This is a twist on the usual kidnapped-girlfriend plot that I only recall seeing once before, in Earthworm Jim. Usually the person who kidnaps the hero’s girlfriend is an implied romantic rival, regardless of his ostensible motives. Here, the relationship archetype is instead that of jealous psycho ex. Her motivation for the abduction was that she wanted the girlfriend out of the picture, mistakenly believing that she was the only thing standing in the way of destined love. But even then, her pre-fight rant implies that she really understands underneath it all that she was never anything to Gish, and never will be: she hollers “What do you mean, you don’t even remember me?” and similar disappointments when Gish hasn’t actually said anything of the sort.

In fact, Gish never says anything at all. All the bosses in the game begin their bossing with boasting and taunting and bombast, and Gish’s reply is always the same: “…..” And then the clever, agile hero overcomes his overconfident foe by exploiting the environment. (It may take dozens of lives to accomplish this, but we don’t count these failures as part of the actual story of the game, do we?) It’s often the mark of the difference between hero and villain, isn’t it? The villain is ego-driven. The hero just wants to get the job done. Even when the hero is given to wisecracks, like Spider-Man, the villain has to step up his boasting to compensate, or else the hero just comes off as something of a jerk. And it’s particularly appropriate here, in a game based around cartoonish grotesques, with a strange hero with strange abilities , but notably awkward in the things that other platformer characters find easy. If Escape from Butcher Bay was a game written to appeal to the school bully, this is a game written for the school weirdo. Getting your way without the need for verbal sparring is part of the fantasy. (Although Spider-Man has a similar sort of appeal — heck, he even shares Gish’s wall-climbing abilities — and, as noted, engages in verbal sparring all the time. Maybe there’s something wrong with my analysis.)

At any rate, it’s finally off the Stack, where it would have been back in 2009 if it had been working properly. I may come back to look for secrets, I may not. Just having it on my Macbook makes it more likely that I will.

1 Comment so far

  1. matt w on 17 Feb 2011

    Hm, I’d have definitely said that the school weirdo wants to crush the dumb jocks and bullies with his brilliant verbal sparring before finishing them off. Maybe being the school nerd and being the school weirdo aren’t the same thing.

Leave a reply