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Review by: Keith Durocher
Published: November 11, 2004
Some of my earliest, and fondest, gaming memories are of side-scrolling coin-op arcade titles from the mid-1980s. Since I’ve gotten into the PC realm of digital escapism, the format of the platformer has fallen by the wayside somewhat, brushed aside and all but forgotten amongst the morass of RTS / RPG / 3D shooters. From time to time, small voices in the wilderness can still be heard however; tiny beacons of hope that the simpler joys of yesteryear might still be enjoyed by old-timers. Some of us are still looking to recapture those feelings of triumph when you could finally beat “that one level with the boss.” One such potential release with “old school” design is ChronicLogic’s woeful tale called Gish. These are the trials and tribulations that beset an intelligent globule of tar on a quest to save his beleaguered girlfriend. Yes, it’s as odd as it sounds.
You’re never told exactly how or why a 12 pound ball of tar is not only self-aware but upwardly mobile; you’re just expected to take it as a given and run with the idea that he has a busty goth bombshell named Brea for a girlfriend. For a gelatinous orb of viscid compound, he’s quite the ladies man. (Then again, his lady is named after soft cheese and has a penchant for sticky relationships. Perhaps the odds were stacked in his favor.) At the outset of the game, Gish’s LivingDead Doll gets kidnapped by a shady figure that looks somewhat like an evil Domo-kun. This malicious creature hauls our hero’s squeeze into the “Sewers of Dross,” compelling our glutinous champion to follow and conquer the perils that lie in wait.
The action is straight up platform; Gish is a 2D side-scrolling puzzle / jumper. There’s no guns, no power-ups, no multi-combo attacks. All you’re trying to do is navigate the labyrinthine sewer tunnels of Dross to unravel the mystery of who kidnapped your girlfriend and why. Along the way you’ll need to master several inherent properties of tar to facilitate your efforts. Knowing when to stick, when to squish, and when to push your weight around is key to success. Of course, no sewer is complete without mutant denizens, and Gish has its share of these as well.
Gish carries with him several skills that you need to master to overcome all obstacles. The first is the ability to stick to walls and ceilings at will. This allows you to travel over spiked floors and such, as well as explore nooks and crannies that might lead to secret rooms. The second maneuver is the ability to liquefy somewhat, making it possible to dribble through tight passages. If you seem a shade too portly to fit down a tube, then perhaps an extra dose of squishing is in order. Lastly, there is the ability to put some real effort into personifying “heavy.” By making a strained face and putting some elbow-grease into it, Gish can jump heavily on some objects and break through them. From a sufficient height, falling on enemies with enough force can crush them as well, so this last skill is the only real offensive expertise our protagonist has, aside from pure wits.
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