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Adv: Gish [by Chronic Logic]

Game Review: Gish
Release: May 04, 2004
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Chronic Logic
System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 1000 mhz+ Processor, 32 MB Video
Players: 1-2
Price: $19.95
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In preparing for the 2004 Independent Games Festival, I had to play a lot of games to get a feel for what was at the festival.  In so doing I had the opportunity to play Gish, and it was at that moment that I realized that 2004 was going to be a banner year for Indie games.  I'll make no secret of it and state it clearly at the front of this review.  Gish is one of the best games to come out in a very long time and instead of reading this review you should be heading over to the Chronic Logic website and plunking down the $20 to buy the game right now.

For those silly enough to keep reading let's talk a little about Gish. 

Gish is a ball of tar.  Normally a ball of tar doesn't pose much threat, but take his girlfriend away and you end up with one bad mother you don't want to mess with.  Gish's basic abilities lead you to being able to do many different things in the game and help to provide the many challenges that are present throughout the levels.  For example, as a ball of tar Gish can be slick or sticky.  By becoming slick, Gish is able to compress his tar into small places and slip his way through the sewer in pursuit of those who have taken his love captive.  Becoming sticky allows you to grab onto walls, ceilings, platforms, enemies and just about anything else that you can think of.  Instead of just jumping onto your enemies and squashing them into a bloody pulp, which is an option, you can become stick, then moving with them through them up into the air towards a block that will lead them to their demise.  Being sticky also allows you to climb walls to new areas, or use the ceiling to avoid enemies.

In and of themselves, those abilities are only a portion of what you will run into while playing the game.  The basis of Gish is the physics and that is where the game play takes a turn that is so fun and different that it is absolutely impossible to describe it in writing.  Objects in the game react of course due to their physical interactions with other objects.  However, in Gish all those interactions are heavily based on physics.  Instead of having having a suspended platform that just tilts and moves based on where you are standing on it, you have a plat form that if you jump too high off of and land too hard on, will actually break away from its support and fall.  That doesn't but start to explain how physics works in the game, but it gives you a little idea of what you are up against.  (the real thing you need to do here is play the game...just do it! :)

Alright so where was I...

Back when I was in junior high and high school there was a big buzz about Super Mario Bros.  During lunch breaks everyone would get together and talk about where the secrets could be found.  Upon finding out about warp zones and invisible bricks that launched vines into hidden cloud bonus levels I knew I was hooked.  It was really at that point that games took a big step beyond games like River Raid and Pac-Man.  Those who knew the secrets and found them were king.  Even after time passed there were still secrets to be found like the so-called negative levels in SMB. 

Times have changed since then and as we've moved to 3D gaming, that feeling of knowing where the hidden treasures in a game are has really vanished with the 2D world.  With Gish set in the 2D world, Chronic Logic has gone a great ways towards reviving that great feeling behind finding things on each level that you wouldn't have expected to be there.

Each level in the game has secrets that can be found.  What's more, at the end of each level during your points wrap-up, you'll be shown how many of the secrets you actually found.  This is really cool as it provides the player a lot of fun in replaying the levels while they try to find each of the hidden areas on each level.  However, as cool as that is, they are nothing compared to the "Warp Zones." 

Each level set has a warp zone hidden somewhere in it.  The knowledge of the Warp Zones is prized information, and even in the forums on the Chronic Logic website only some of the Warp Zones have been discovered.  What is extra cool about these warp zones is that instead of playing through them like a normal Gish level, they actually transport Gish into pseudo-representations of games of yesterday, such as Super Mario Bros. or Pitfall. 

Beyond the ultimate thrill of finding the Warp Zones, Gish also provides end bosses and 'ride' levels in each of the 5 board sets.  The end bosses provide a challenge, but it is the 'ride' levels that really show off how the physics behind Gish make the game so cool.  Using objects like a Mine Cart (which btw is playable in the demo) or moving platforms, you start the level by putting your ride into motion, and then you must use your momentum and good sense to survive the rest of the ride.  Difficult to explain, but truly wonderful to play.

So for whatever reason you have read the review all the way to this point.  I really don't know why, maybe you needed something to do while downloading the demo and the gameplay trailer.  If that is the case that look forward to a truly singular experience that is the best that gaming has to offer, and that statement doesn't limit this game to just the indie world.  For those who aren't downloading the game at this moment, all I can say is get to it, you won't be sorry, this is the gaming experience of a lifetime.

Graphics 9/10
The graphics of Gish were one of the most notable changes since we played the early beta version that we previewed.  It just goes to show how good a game can look without it even being "3D."  In Gish there are a lot of effects that are used to show off the ball of tar.  There are multiple light sources on the levels which shine off of Gish in a very nice fashion that makes it all the more believable that you are controlling an actually ball of shiny tar.  In addition the different light sources are used in conjunction with the many breakable bricks on levels and moving items to cast light streams across the boards in a way that makes things look more interesting.  The parallax scrolling backgrounds are also a nice piece that add depth to the overall presentation.  Of course all of those things say nothing at all about all the well-drawn characters in the game, first of all being Gish, who with mostly eyes and teeth present one of the memorable characters in recent history.

Sound 9/10
I really didn't get into the first sound track, but that doesn't speak anything about its quality, which was quite high.  In fact all the sound tracks are of stellar quality and in my opinion only get better as the game moves onto levels deeper in the bowels of the sewer.  In addition the sound effects added in will help you feel some of those splats that you make with your ball of tar.

Game Play 9/10
The one area I ran into a little trouble with was in controlling the character.  Gish is controlled using four different buttons on your controller, which can be confusing for those just starting out, and perhaps even a detractor for those who only play the demo.  Controlling Gish is much more art than science.  Since the game is based entirely on physics every action you make has a reaction.  Those who are expected to stop moving when they stop pressing a specific direction or who expect to quickly turn around and shift their momentum in the opposite direction will find that there is definitely a learning curve required to complete these steps accurately.  This is not to say that the Game Control is difficult.  It does take some learning, but how often have you ever had to control a ball of tar in a video game previous to this one?  The reality is that much of the charm in Gish is learning how to put his abilities to their best use.

Concept 10/10
Anyone who has played this game will find themselves trying desperately to explain what the game is like, using other games to try to explain it and realizing that they are failing by so doing.  Gish is a one of a kind game that must be seen and played to be understood and appreciated.  It is quite unlike anything you've ever played before and clearly one of the most original games created in recent history.

Value 10/10
As mentioned previously, Gish, much like Charlie II, has brought back a lot of the fun that we used to have in gaming.  Instead of just having more than 50 different levels to play between several different modes and versus games that honestly are good enough that you could play them for hours all by themselves, Chronic Logic has gone to great lengths to provide players with many hours of fun as they attempt to uncover secrets hidden throughout the game and the ever cooler warp zones.  The number of hours you can spend playing this game and the quality of that time make the price a steal!

Fun 10/10
Working for Game Tunnel I see a lot of games pass through my computer.  However there are precious few that I try to press visitors to my house to play.  Gish has been one that I talk everyone into playing when they come by and I've not yet seen anyone who didn't instantly think it was one of the most fun games they've played.  Who would have ever thought that controlling a bar of tar would be such a cool experience?  Though getting through some of the more difficult levels in the game can be challenging and perhaps even a little frustrating at times, there is so much fun to be had in the game that it turns even failures into a good experience.

Overall 10/10
Without a doubt Gish is one of the best games that has come out in a long time and it easily becomes the first game of 2004 that we award a 10 to.  The award is well earned as Gish is a game that you cannot go wrong with.  In fact the only negative I really see in the game was that the demo doesn't really give you a glimpse of how good the game really is.  I would strongly recommend that you check out the game play video as it shows a better glimpse into the world of Gish...and what a wonderful world it is!

Added: June 5th 2004
Reviewer: Russell Carroll
Related Link: Download Gish Now!
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Language: english

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