Indie Pack Reviewlet: Gish

Gish is yet another game featuring a 12-lb ball of tar as its hero. Honestly, developers, can’t you come up with something original? Here’s an idea just off the top of my head: there was a conflict around the middle of the 20th century, where most of the World had a War (for the 2nd time, as it goes), surely there’s scope for some kind of shooting-based game there? Anyway, at least there’s a twist to Gish that sets it apart from all the other tarball based games: you have a human ladyfriend who gets kidnapped, and you have to get her back!

You may not think a ball of tar is ideally equipped for such a rescue mission, lacking as it does opposable thumbs (any thumbs, in fact, not to mention hands, arms or limbs in general), but Gish has three rather handy abilities: he can extrude spines, enabling him to stick to surfaces, he can increase his density and he can become slick. This allows a variety of actions, such as sticking to, and climbing, walls and ceilings, smashing blocks and enemies, and sliding through narrow spaces.

Gish is a very kinetic game, there’s a real sense of movement in the character and its interactions; your default jump isn’t very high, but when you land you compress slightly, and if timed correctly and you jump again when compressed you jump a little higher, compressing more on landing, enabling you to build up to more impressive leaps. Gish also has a surprising amount of personality for a ball of tar with yellow eyes and fangs.

After a simple opening level introducing you to the basic control mechanisms and a fairly straightforward squish through some sewers, I started to get a little frustrated as the game got a bit trickier. I’d tend to get past sections with trial, error and random key mashing, die further on in the level, and have to re-do the earlier bits with more trial and error. I suspect I just need a bit more practise to get various techniques down and repeatable; it’s another game I hope to get back to with a bit more time (if only Steam did sales on Time). No technical problems on the laptop at all, it ran very smoothly, and very reasonable at £5.99. It even includes some player vs player modes like “sumo”, and “football” featuring opposing blobs of tar attempting to manoeuvre a football past the other side to score a touchdown, which look like they could be quite fun with a few people. Overall: a blobby tar thumbs up. Just please, developers, no more platform/puzzle games based around balls of tar with structural altering abilities! Here’s a tip: some fellow called Tolkien wrote an obscure book almost nobody’s heard of, I reckon a Game in which you Played a Role in that sort of setting could sell like hot cakes.