Played on the right settings, Gish is a thoroughly enjoyable and legitimately unique game.
Cons: Frequent glitches that result in death; Frustrating checkpoint system (or lack thereof)
Have you ever wanted to play a game as a ball of tar? If so, you should definitely try World of Goo. If that isn't enough, it just so happens that there's another game starring a ball of tar worthy of your time: Gish.
In Gish, you play as Gish (surprise!), a ball of tar whose girlfriend is kidnapped and taken into the sewer. As Gish, you set off to rescue her through 5 worlds of challenging liquid-based platforming. The twist here is that you must use Gish's liquid properties to progress rather than standard movement and jumping.
You see, Gish can't jump very high. Instead if you want to get somewhere high, you should use Gish's stick ability to scale the walls. Or perhaps there's a tiny pit that you need to squeeze through-try Gish's slick property to slide right through. And if you want to kill an enemy you might want to crush them by making Gish denser and heavier.
It's a smart system, although definitely one that takes some getting used to. Once you get the hang of things and make it past the first couple of levels, the brilliance of Gish's unconventional controls shines through. Suddenly you must contend with swaying platforms, falling blocks, water, destructible walls and much more. Strong level design keeps things from getting boring as you constantly find new ways to use your abilities. And a high challenge level ensures that the game never becomes too easy.
Though it sometimes the challenge factor works in the opposite direction to cause great frustration. Unlike Edmund McMillen's later platformer, Super Meat Boy, Gish uses a life system. If you play on any difficulty other than easy (don't), then losing all of your lives sends you back to the beginning of the current world. This can result in losing up to 7 levels of progress. Needless to say this gets old quick.
It's even worse when several deaths can be attributed to glitches. The physics system generally works well, giving the controls a nice feel and making Gish truly appear liquid. But it occasionally stumbles, particularly when checking if Gish should be crushed. At times the system is extremely lenient, allowing Gish to become as flat as a pancake with no repercussion, but other times the slightest snag will kill Gish outright. Back to the beginning of the level/world!
Nonetheless, played on easy mode, these frustrations are easily overcome with otherwise well-executed gameplay and an enjoyably demented/cute art style that never ceases to make you smile. There isn't much content here, what with a 3-5 hour campaign and uninteresting multiplayer modes, but as far as short, rough indie experiences go, Gish oozes fun. Pun completely intended.