Gish Download (2004 Puzzle Game)

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Bloody physics. They're everywhere. I eat a sandwich? Physics. I go for a crap? Physics. I construct a complex system of weights and pulleys? Physics! And now, as if we don't all have to put up with enough physics in the day-to-day, they've only gone and put them in a platform game.

Yes, Gish is absolutely swimming in the poxy things. Everything he does takes into account a rather nuanced physics system, allowing for convincing interaction with his surroundings. Gish (for it is he) can take on several "states." For example, by becoming sticky he can cling to and climb walls. By making himself solid, he can crush enemies. Lastly, by making himself slick and slippery, he can make his way through tight passages. This is a slim repertoire of actions, but it allows for some surprisingly in-depth logic puzzles.

However, in-depth does not necessarily mean good. Controlling Gish is a constant struggle, his unwieldy form resisting all attempts at progress with a stubborn grimace. Getting the little black ball of tar to do anything efficiently is a chore, with the physics engine never quite behaving the way you think it should. Frustration abounds as the mere traversal of a slope becomes an ordeal, and every situation rapidly devolves into frantically shifting between states, desperately hoping for some sort of consistency that never materializes. Sometimes landing on an enemy will kill it, sometimes it won't. It's quite common to get stuck in a corner by a tiny villainous creature, slowly and helplessly watching your health ebb away.

The frustration of this is compounded by the game's ruthless checkpoint system - there aren't any. You have to beat each level in one go, and some of them are extremely cruel, with large crushing blocks coming out of nowhere and wiping out a life in one fell swoop. To make matters worse, you have limited lives, the loss of all of which means you have to start over from the beginning of the current world. Yes, world - if you were to die on stage 2-3, for example, you'd have to start over from 2-1. Hardcore, yes, but one of the less welcome qualities of retro gaming.

Cosmetically the game isn't up to scratch. The music is unmemorable, though certainly effective at building an atmosphere. Sound effects are uncommon and understated, and could have done with a little juicing up. Graphically it's extremely samey, with almost no variation between levels besides a slightly different shade of grey on the platforms. It's far from immersive and barely stimulating, as if the developers didn't want it to be fun.


Being a blob of tar can't be easy. You'd slip through cracks in the pavement all the time, be constantly laughed at when you went out shopping, and putting on clothes would be a nightmare. On the other hand, you could potentially go on epic underground adventures that other beings could only dream of.

Gish is on such a mission to save his girlfriend, and has brought along with him some clever techniques, perfect for overcoming the many puzzles he will face. The controls can sometimes be a little awkward, but in general there's plenty of challenging fun to be had in his world of sewerage pipes.

The story goes that one day, Gish is walking (rolling?) aimlessly along with his girlfriend Brea when suddenly a cloaked figure emerges, scoops Brea up and carries her down into the underworld. Gish dives down into the sewers to save her, and finds a forgotten city jam-packed with evil traps, mutated creatures and tricky obstacles.

Gish has a number of different moves at his disposal. The first and most useful is his ability to stick to walls, allowing him to roll up ledges and even along ceilings. It's a technique that really opens up a whole new range of tactics - do you navigate a room from the stony floor, or spring up and attach yourself to a low-lying ceiling, then get a bird's eye view of your surroundings? Of course, if there's a pit of acid with no bridge across, the ceiling comes in very handy here, too.

Our heroic blob can also make himself slippery, allowing him to slide through tight cracks and spaces within the physics-based world, or concentrate his mass and become heavy, with any bricks that happen to be in his way reduced to rubble. A combination of these three special moves is the key to beating the baddies and saving the girl.

While Gish is all about taking your time and traversing obstacles with style and agility, it's also very fast-paced. Levels are each over in a matter of minutes, although there are secrets to find and amber to collect along the way. You'll also need to be quick as new evil creatures are introduced, the majority of which hunt you down and chomp on your oily coating. These monstrosities look quite comical, with silly faces and hilarious animations, but at the same time they're quite scary too, relentlessly giving chase until you're no longer in range.

In general, the game is great fun but it can be a little awkward to control at times, especially where the sticking technique is concerned. Gish will sometimes attach himself to two different surfaces, making it impossible to move. To remedy this, you need to quickly release the sticky key, then press it again straight away in the hope that he'll then only stick to the surface you want. Moving around corners on the ceiling can be difficult too, and Gish will fall to the ground plenty of times.

Apart from the main story, there are many more modes to partake in. Community campaigns are included, with over 40 levels to slug your way through. Then there's collection mode - aka grab all the amber in a specific time - and the playroom for having a mess around in. Finally, a competitive local multiplayer option for up to four players seals the deal.

Gish is clever, great fun and downright innovative. You really won't find another game quite like this one, and there's absolutely no excuse to dive into his world.

 

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