Physics Games and Physics-Based Game Downloads

The Squishiest Damn Starfish Around

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006 by Matthew in Physics Games
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (Rate this game! 68 votes, average: 2.63 out of 5)

Squishy the Starfish is a great student project out of Digipen. Like many student projects, it’s a little rough around the edges, but it manages to pull off a decent implementation of a neat concept. The team describes the game as:

Squishy the Starfish is a 2D side-scrolling environmental puzzle game. Making use of Squishy’s unique ability to extend his five elastic arms, the player must swing, climb, and maneuver throughout the underwater world.

Controls (Old vs. New)

While Squishy the Starfish does bring a nice twist to the genre with the five-armed starfish treatment, a swinging physics game is nothing new. The real test of a swinging game lies in the controls, though. It’s dangerous territory as a designer; the line between “novel” and “frustrating” is awfully thin. Squishy does a good job addressing some of the problems of a multi-rope swinging mechanic with its mouse-only controls.

I actually installed Squishy the Starfish months ago but just didn’t get around to reviewing it. When I sat down to play it today, I was playing that old version (and even produced a video for it). I didn’t realize there was a newer version until I went to get the link for my review. The old controls were frustrating as hell. You moved with WASD, and had to actually highlight the connected tentacle arm to adjust its length. It was touchy at best.

This version of Squishy exclusively uses the mouse, and I think that was a very wise choice. I’m especially impressed by their elegant solution for disconnecting old “ropes”. Right-click disconnects the arm farthest away from the starfish’s body. And since you move towards the mouse cursor, the farthest arm is generally the one you really want to disconnect, particularly if you’re swinging across the ceiling arm-over-arm. It’s great to see that the team was able to recognize problems with the old controls and address them.

Physics Simulation

The simulation component of Squishy the Starfish is a little twitchy. It’s always hard to pin down the “feel” of a physics engine, but something about Squishy feels too jittery. I think if the main character felt heavier, and had more dampening, it wouldn’t be so difficult to keep your momentum up. As is, it’s hard to get into the flow of smoothly navigating through the level.

Squishy the Starfish Screenshot Screenshot of Physics Games
(Squishy the Starfish Game Screenshots)

Free Undersea Adventures

Squishy the Starfish weighs in at three levels, so it’s really more of a portfolio piece than a game. The three levels differ in pacing and style, though. The developers did a good job embellishing their control mechanic with various props and situations. With a bit of love, Squishy could turn into a great physics platformer (well, except for the small fact that Digipen–not the students–owns the project).

Squishy is a solid implementation of a slick concept for a physics game. It’s a little unpolished, probably due to the time constraints of being a student project, but it’s a great student project. Hell, I’d hire them.

Download Squishy the Starfish Game (16.4 MB)

(Link takes you to Digipen’s gallery page, as the school prohibits redistribution).

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23 Responses to 'The Squishiest Damn Starfish Around'

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  1. PoV said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 2:02 am

    Oh shoot. 1 double rope (and rolling) game.

    The use of a starfish as a character is a neat idea.

  2. levi said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 5:35 am

    nice review. i didnt enjoy the game very much butthats just me.

  3. Demetrius said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 6:22 am

    Nice, downloading now. Once again, what music is in the video?

  4. Demetrius said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 6:31 am

    PoV, that Puffbomb game was cool!

  5. mr delmar said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 7:39 am

    lol what mat said about the students cracked me up but, I NEED MORE VIOLENT GAMES feturing the marvolous wonders of physics WITH BLOOD AND GORE

  6. Beakless said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 9:05 am

    Het Matt, did you get my physics game suggestion???

  7. Matthew said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 9:05 am

    Music is: Lackluster – Strateface

  8. Dosou said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 9:31 am

    levi said butthats, lol.

    All joking aside, I really don’t enjoy swinging rope games of the sort.

  9. ToonyMan said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    I think you should add Cortex Command, Voilent and Fun!

    Matt, you tried it yourself anyway.

  10. Boyblunder said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    This one is… lacking… I don’t quite enjoy the swinging games.

    Anyway, Cortex Command is fun, but it’ll be better when they update it and add a new control scheme.

    I need violence.

  11. Dosou said,

    on November 22nd, 2006 at 11:55 pm

    Wow, I just tried Cortex Command and it was great.

    I played for about an hour or two.

    Extremely difficult to control, but I still love it.

    (Especially headshots with the shotgun.)

  12. ToonyMan said,

    on November 23rd, 2006 at 7:37 am

    Yeah if you check the forums, i’m always on it.

    If you look in the Dev Log the newest one is Matt trying out Cortex Command.

  13. ThatGuy said,

    on November 23rd, 2006 at 8:28 am

    Is there anyway to play cortex command on a laptop? Messing around in the folders isn’t working. And so is using the virtual keyboard.

  14. ToonyMan said,

    on November 23rd, 2006 at 9:03 am

    I have a Laptop and the only set back is that you can’t play 2 player on a Laptop yet.

  15. Beakless said,

    on November 23rd, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    I really want cortex command to go online!

  16. Danny Martinez said,

    on November 23rd, 2006 at 4:38 pm


  17. Great_Pretender said,

    on November 24th, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    This starfish thing (while I like the concept) is just like Gish in that it goes way too slow. It’s hard to have an interesting game when you’re travelling so slow there’s no surprises.

    Cortex Command looks awesome, trying it now.

  18. Robminder said,

    on November 27th, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    I agree with Beakless, if Cortex Command could go online, that would be awsome.

  19. Beakless said,

    on November 27th, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    it’s no fun playing against robots, i want blood!

    i can’t wait till someone changes the coding so green clones or blue guys fall instead of boring robots

  20. ToonyMan said,

    on November 27th, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    It’s hard coding. :-(

  21. mr delmar said,

    on November 28th, 2006 at 7:13 am


  22. Beakless said,

    on November 28th, 2006 at 9:42 am

    Is the developer planning on changing it?

  23. Data said,

    on November 28th, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    yeah, the developer is planning to change that. :)

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