January 19, 2019
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Quick and dirty: being a ball of tar just totally rocks. This game is beautifully made, and addictively fun.

Download the demo here.

Actual review:

Perhaps I have a soft spot for games that are different, strange, and basically just totally unlike anything else. It's certainly true that these types of games are the ones that I am almost guaranteed to fall for, and to the list of wacky games that I absolutely love I must add Gish, a crazily cool sidescroller whose main character is a ball of tar, brought to you by Chronic Logic and the twisted mind of Edmund McMillen.

First, the story: Gish's girlfriend Brea is grabbed one day while they are out walking and dragged down into the sewers. Gish follows her down to rescue her. Not exactly the next War and Peace, but it's a platformer for goodness sake. And the story does get more interesting as you go...

As for the actual game, Gish just has everything going for it: first off, you control a ball of tar, which is so incredibly weird yet works so well that it may well be genius. Gish is capable of clinging to almost any surface, which allows him to move along walls, ceilings, and many other surfaces (shades of Aliens vs. Predator, but without all the sharp edges). He can also become slick enough to slide down incredibly small cracks, or bounce up and down by expanding at strategic moments, and then become heavy to crush foes.

While these abilities are intriguing on their own, combined with the incredible physics engine that drives Gish they become truly awe inspiring. The gameplay created by the physics engine and Gish's interesting talents make playing this game really fun. When Gish jumps, moves side to side, or clings to a spinning ledge his body flows and changes shape as if he were...well, a blob of tar. It makes the game truly a joy to play.

The physics system is also supplemented by things like dynamic lighting; not something that you would normally expect in a platformer, but the shadows cast by swaying platforms and tossed blocks--yes, you can throw bits of the environment around on occasion--work out well.

Even better, the game's graphics and audio combine to really bring Gish's world to life. McMillen has designed a rather gothic world, full of bouncing round piles of little more than flesh and teeth and giant Frankenstein-esque dolls whose button eyes turn into x's when they die. The levels Gish travels through are filled with traps, villains, and assorted dangerous situations, and each level has its own look and music. Hellish lava-filled levels, green-tinted underwater passages, and more secret areas than you can shake a stick at make the game continually interesting. Each set of levels (usually around 5-6, with a boss level at the end) has it's own unique character, and the traps and challenges are constantly changing.

If the single player game doesn't give you enough to do, there are also versus modes for two players on the same computer, most of which are very well implemented, and a collection mode in which you try for the best time gathering coins, complete with high scores. The only difficulty with the two player implementation is that having both players on one keyboard can be slightly awkward given the nature of the controls, but this is a minor quibble. Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed the two player game types (sumo and football in particular stand out), and collection games are a good practice controlling Gish if a story level becomes frustrating, or if you just want something a little different.

You really have to try this game if you enjoy platformers at all. This is the best platformer I've seen since the old Earthworm Jim days, and has enough character for two games. If you haven't already, download the demo.

Why the rating: Gish definitely deserves a solid score of 9, since while it is one of the best shareware games I've played in a long time it isn't perfect. I have been playing Gish regularly since I purchased it, and it never fails to be a good time. Additionally, it passes the 20 minute purchase test for me: it was only about 20 minutes after I had first downloaded and played the game that I purchased it. Gish is a breath of fresh, tarry air for anyone who likes a good platformer.

Edit: I have adjusted my rating to more accurately represent this game's worth. It remains as high as it does because Gish is honestly the best shareware game I have played in a years; priced as it is at $20, this game has a very high enjoyment-to-cost ratio. If you haven't tried it yet, you really should.

Posted on August 26, 2004 at 11:22 pm
Games Playing:
Star Chamber
Kill Monty
Feeding Frenzy 2/16/2005
Gish 8/26/2004
tranquility 7/15/2004
Creepy Mines 2.5 6/11/2004
iConquer 5/27/2004
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