Dan Marshall’s long awaited and much-hyped Gibbage has finally hit the streets, but was it worth the wait?
Around two years in development, Gibbage is a relatively simple concept with clearly high aspirations – playability over technological complexity, and thus a true “indie” experience in every way.
A two-dimensional platformer in the style of the 16-bit glory days, Gibbage takes frenetic platform-based item collection and adds a somewhat more modern one-on-one death-match feel to the proceedings, resulting in all the multiplayer madness of a game of Counterstrike but all the yesteryear charm of Bonanza Brothers or Chuckie Egg. Gibbage has no support for networks, so look forward to the added retro-styled bonus of being within poking distance of your friend who, just like in the good old days, is being forced to share your keyboard as well as your screen!
Each player is represented by a pod-like chamber on their respective side of the screen, from which, one at a time, emerge an unlimited supply of controllable gun-toting “clones” whose mission is to gather randomly dropped power crystals from around the level. These crystals are then carried back to the pod, and added to the amount of power the player has at their disposal. A tug of war ensues as each player increases their power by securing crystals, but at the same time risking power loss by being killed (and using power to spawn another clone) or losing crystals to the opposition. All the while, each player’s power level is steadily counting down, and the first player to reach zero is declared the loser.
Weaponry can be improved beyond the supplied popgun by the occasional presence of power-up bonus crystals, and these are generally typical upgrades such as homing rockets, land mines or lasers. However, the bonus crystals are also capable of enacting “negative” status changes upon the enemy, often with hilarious consequences. These include such gems as an “armless” state in which your luckless chum will spend several minutes running around unable to fire, with blood pumping from their limbless upper torso, or “cryo” in which the opposing player will be frozen on the spot for a length of time.
The gore, in fact, is another “feature” worthy of discussion, as this game is absolutely loaded with the red stuff. Death will generally result in a shower of gibs (hence the titular choice) and a comically rolling skull, and, as battle ensues, these scattered remains will pile up until stages begin to resemble warzones of the highest order – not for children (or, presumably, Daily Mail readers), this one.
With over 24 maps available, there is plenty here to keep both the casual or more serious gamer occupied, and the developer has sensibly integrated an unlocking system to control the availability of each stage, adding further to the “just one more go” feeling that Gibbage seems designed around.
But for how long will you actually want to play Gibbage? For a start, as a single player game, Gibbage is bordering on useless. The AI opponent begins to become unstuck the moment levels with any form of dangerous obstacle are introduced – cheerfully hurling itself into lava pits in an attempt to recover power crystals randomly dropped onto the deadly surface. If you have no friends, stay away from Gibbage! Multiplayer (clearly the real aim of this game), however, is an experience that, once one acclimatises to the tiny sprites and often rather unpredictable physics, can become a real time waster. A full round, either of long or short duration, will generally play out in a fairly balanced fashion, with a generally steady array of power and bonus crystals coming in regular supply. Perhaps the only criticism here is the tendency for something of a rush of crystals earlier in a game (often three or four falling in quick succession), with rather a dearth later on as players will find nothing left to do but turn their attentions to each other, often causing the rich to become richer in terms of power levels.
Attention too should also be drawn to the cryo bonus, which freezes the opponent for an almost unbearably long time; providing a real table-turner in game fortune and a massive frustration if a large lead was in hand before being crushed by this one swift move.
In conclusion, Gibbage is a bold, humorous and immensely playable title which, at only a £6 price tag, can be forgiven for its niggling playability issues by offering a lasting, entertaining and surprisingly deep (multiplayer!) gaming experience which should out live its asking price by quite a while. Roll on the next Dan Marshall release!
Originally posted on Retro 247 Games at http://www.retro247.co.uk
Copyright © 2006 Peter Michael Gothard
About the Reviewer:
Peter Gothard is a lifelong gamer, collector of rare and unusual Sega stuff, and eagerly anticipating the Nintendo Wii! He is just graduating in English Literature and Linguistics at the University of Manchester if you’d like to give him a job so as he can buy DarXside.