I was a teen of the 90s and as such I still have memories of some brutally difficult games. Arcade games especially were difficult by design but you don’t remember quite how punishing they were until you’re presented with one in a modern setting. Please note, I’m fully aware that there are tonnes of difficult games out there on the market, we need to keep the “get good,” crowd happy after all. I’m talking about a totally different animal, though. The game we’ll be investigating today is Gimmick Special Edition and I’m absolutely amazed my controller is still in one piece.
On the surface Gimmick Special Edition is a colorful platformer that originally appeared on the Famicom back in 1992. This is the sort of thing that would have been right at home in any amusement arcade of the day and being a Sunsoft product had a pretty good name behind it at the time. For one reason or another, it never made it to us Western folk on the initial release, and having played it I can sort of see why. This title makes “hard,” the understatement of the year.
The Normal mode of the game is granting us rewind functions and save states and I’m basing my review on it because this is the only level my sanity would cope with. If you want a more brutal challenge you can go and play about with the other modes till your heart’s content. Even playing in Normal I absolutely suck at this game and as such I’m not speaking from the standpoint of someone that’s gotten very far. This being said this is a review based on graphics, controls, and the basic feel of the game. If you want an in-depth level-by-level deep dive you’ll need to find someone far more skilled than me. I got to the first boss and got absolutely annihilated so that should give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
Right from the very first screen Gimmick Special Edition feels hard. Your little green dino feels like he’s running on ice most of the time. This makes planning jumps somewhat difficult and you’ll need to do a lot of precision jumping if you’re going to succeed. It’s far easier to miss time a jump and land right in front of an enemy than in quite a lot of other platform games and this means you’ll be getting hit a lot. You’ll also notice straight away that you might have a row of enemies coming toward you with very little space between them. You need to land on them and use them as a bridge, but this is very much easier said than done. This isn’t Mario, where head-stomping is the order of the day. In Gimmick, enemies make good platforms for a short period of time but this is a game that very much encourages you to keep moving so you won’t want to stay put for long.
Aside from everything wanting to kill you, you’ll have those insta-death pitfalls and spikes that we all know and love sprinkled generously about the levels. On account of Gimmick being rather difficult to stop once he gets going you’ll be making yourself acquainted with these rather frequently. What doesn’t help is that skating feeling that I mentioned earlier. I lost count of the number of times I hit a platform and just kept going, before slipping off and becoming impaled in the spike pit I thought I’d avoided.
So is our protagonist defenseless on his journey? No, he isn’t, but just like everything else in this monstrously challenging game, his weapon is very dependent on timing. You can create and throw a star that will bounce about the place, killing anything it touches. This is great but it takes a second or two to appear and then is held until you decide where you want to throw it. Trying to get it to land exactly where you want it to is a feat in and of itself. If you can get good with it you’ll be golden but definitely don’t expect this to happen straight away.
Moaning aside, Gimmick Special Edition is a very colorful platformer that’s a perfect recreation of what we’d expect from arcade romps of the time. I have no complaints whatsoever with the look and feel of this title and the sound is as fitting as you’d expect it to be. The controls are as simple as they can get too, so I don’t have any complaints with the basic functionality either. The only sticking point is going to be the biting difficulty that I’ve just talked about. This is a game that’s clearly been designed to be hard. There isn’t anything artificial about the difficulty being caused by a wonky UI, glitches, or clumsy controls. It’s very much a case of it is what it is.
If you’re a platform fan that’s looking for a new challenge then Gimmick Special Edition is the game for you. Some of you out there are just naturally good at this genre and will be wanting a game that really tests your mettle. If you are one of these people, (and there are a ton of you out there,) then I absolutely recommend adding this game to your library. If on the other hand, you’re like me in that you’re someone who enjoys a bit of platforming from time to time but wouldn’t make this a go-to genre you’ll probably not get very far before things become more frustrating than fun. The rewind function that I mentioned briefly earlier is very useful and I’m glad that this was implemented. The thing is, it’s very easy for this function to become a crutch and something you’ll be using all the time, something I’m pretty sure it wasn’t designed for. If you’re having to lean on something like this as hard as I did then you’re not really playing the game.
As a final point, I’m not scoring this title solely based on my own experience with it. I’m just not built for the skill set required to be good at Gimmick Special Edition and I’m very aware of this. This does not make this a bad game. It’s a very good game for the right type of player. If you think you fall in the same camp as me I’d watch some lets plays before parting with your money. The masochists among you that crave this level of challenge, though, are going to have a whale of a time.
No gimmicks here
Platform novices need not apply
Gimmick Special Edition is a beautifully colorful platformer with a lot of “ifs” attached. This is a game for those of you that have a lot of patience, love platformers, and are up for a challenge. This game isn’t playing when it comes down to difficulty and even with functions designed to level the playing field a bit this isn’t going to be a game for everyone. Gimmick looks great and controls really nicely but the level of skill required to be good at it is going to be daunting for some, myself included.