Physics Games and Physics-Based Game Downloads

Gish, The Father of Physics Platformers

Friday, July 14th, 2006 by Matthew in Physics Games
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (Rate this game! 367 votes, average: 4.08 out of 5)

Chronic Logic’s Gish is probably the most well-known physics game on PC. It was an Independent Games Festival 2004 finalist, the grand prize winner in 2005, and has received a remarkable amount of gaming and mainstream press attention. In fact, I’d be surprised if Fun-Motion’s readers haven’t heard of Gish, so I won’t cover the basics of the game in too much detail.

Gish’s Physical States

Much of the gameplay in Gish revolves around changing the blob’s state (slick, sticky, and heavy). It’s a brilliantly elegant mechanic. Slick will allow Gish to worm his way through cracks, heavy is primarily used to smash enemies, and sticky allows him to climb walls and ceilings. The brilliance of it is using the states in combination, though.

For instance, you can throw loose blocks by grabbing them in sticky mode, rolling them on top and then hitting heavy and jumping. Slick and heavy combined allow Gish to slide down slopes at speed. Sticky and heavy can be used to hang on the underside of objects, such as levers, to pull them down. It takes awhile to learn to intuitively change between states, but this is where the meat of the interaction lies.


Gish feels a little rough around the edges. It’s not very polished. It’s like development stopped just as soon as everything was working, rather than continuing with the express purpose of improving usability. There are a lot of small annoyances that pile up. It’s possible to accidentally fold Gish in on himself merely by jumping, which triggers instant death. Some small passages don’t have slopes leading into them, so it’s a pain in the ass to squeeze into them. The open-ended nature of the physics level design means it is possible to get into an unsolvable situation, even when simple precautions could prevent it. Jumping is frustrating. The list goes on.

Physics-Based Level Design

Where Gish absolutely excels is physics-based level design. Chronic Logic did a good job of incorporating physics contraptions into the levels. There are a large variety of obstacles including rope bridges, falling domino blocks, elevators, wrecking balls, and a host of variations. The highly physical nature of the levels makes playing the game a very dynamic experience.

The game includes a level editor, too, although unfortunately it’s very difficult to use. It’s a barebones tool the developers themselves used to create the levels. There is no UI for placing pieces; everything is driven by obscure keyboard shortcuts. It’s a damn shame the level editor was never redone with end-users in mind. There are some excellent user-made campaigns and single levels out there, but with proper tools the community would be able to create so much more. Most of the play time with Gish is actually spent learning, which involves a lot of replaying. Once you become skilled, the out-of-the-box game content can be burned through in an hour.


My main beef with Gish is that the game feels too sluggish. Not the controls, mind you. Rather, the entire game feels slow-moving. I think they could get away with increasing the timescale of everything by 30% and it would still be playable. Even this Gish speed run feels a bit slow (although it’s an amazing video in its own right, and well worth watching).

Gish Screenshot Screenshot of Physics Games
(Gish Game Screenshots)

Classic Physics Game

Despite its faults, Gish absolutely deserves its accolades. It easily ranks among my favorite games. It’s a milestone in physics game design, and stands on its own merits alongside other classic platform games. A true console version would be amazing. Unfortunately, though, I doubt we’ll ever see Gish on something like Xbox 360 Live Arcade or a handheld. Alex and Edmund are still working on physics games with Alex’s new company, Cryptic Sea, so hopefully a spiritual successor to Gish will see the light of day.

In the meantime, play some Gish! If you’ve never tried the game you owe it to yourself to check it out. It can be frustrating at first, so make sure you set aside some time to really give it a fair shake. If you already own Gish, dust it off, grab some friends, and try out the multiplayer modes (they’ve added a few since the early versions of the game).

Download Gish Demo (11.4 MB)

The full version of Gish is $19.95 and available from Chronic Logic’s website.

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11 Responses to 'Gish, The Father of Physics Platformers'

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  1. c--b said,

    on July 15th, 2006 at 12:07 am

    I love GISH, It’s a game I’ve never regretted purchasing as well as one of the few games that I keep installed at all times; Somtimes you just get the urge to be a ball of tar.

  2. mik said,

    on July 15th, 2006 at 1:11 am

    man, i love gish. i really got into the level editor aswell.

  3. Calle said,

    on July 15th, 2006 at 3:35 am

    That looks cool! Got to try out the demo, maybe I’ll purchase it.


  4. Beakless said,

    on July 15th, 2006 at 7:27 am

    wow, this game is really fun ;-)

    i saw it floating around the internet for a while but i couldn’t be bothered to try it.

    anyway COOL!

  5. Dosou said,

    on July 15th, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    It is a great game. Every physics gamer must try it. :D

  6. Verners said,

    on July 16th, 2006 at 12:22 am

    This game is great. Have played it from the first versien.

    Multiplayer is the best part of it, but there is hovever one big veekness with it. Most of my friends cant controll gish and they just give up after a few tryes…

    Hey Matthew, have you herd something about the ski stunt level editor? I was really looking forward to it, hope the author hasnt lost interrest in it…

  7. Bluebery_pie said,

    on July 16th, 2006 at 2:36 am

    I was hoping to see Gish reviewed here soon… excellent game. I’ve owned it for quite some time now and I still play it every now and then, if only to mess around in the level editor.

    The editor is actually pretty simple to use once you get the hang of it. There’s also a couple of (high rated :) levels by me on… look for the ones by Wouter Pleizier :)

    Great game. Definately worth the buy.

  8. Alex said,

    on July 17th, 2006 at 9:03 am

    I completely agree with all your criticisms. Gish feels sluggish, but despite that it can be quite fun. In addition, I felt that there were not enough enemy types.

  9. Beakless said,

    on August 1st, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Actually, since i like gish SO much…

    i splashed out and bought the whole thing, and it’s completely worth it


  10. isador21 said,

    on December 23rd, 2006 at 1:54 am

    This game got me into physics games o_O
    Me and my friend used to be hyper-competitive in multiplay :P
    Had never laughed that much playing a multiplayer game with someone else on the same comp tho.

  11. WhiteRabbit aka Stephen said,

    on January 21st, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Gish grabbed me the first time i played the demo. the kids got a hold of it and loved it too. Bought the full version and downloaded all the extra’s. i’m working on a re vamped manual for the level editor as the one you get is appalling. However as i have many projects going, the manual will be a while. I’m hoping to make some new renders for the game as well soas to add more back grounds and possibly new blocks. We shall see.

    It’s got to be in everyones library

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