Gimmick! Special Edition is a solid port of a game that very much fell between two distinct eras in gaming. It arrived at the tail end of the Famicom era, just as we were all being wooed by the power of the Super Famicom/SNES. Despite having some of the loveliest character design, an utterly wonderful boxart, and being a nice little game, Gimmick! never properly made it out of Japan, apart from a clutch of copies that were given the moniker Mr Gimmick, and made it to market in Scandinavia thanks to legendary Norwegian distribution partners Bergsala.
As you can imagine, this has driven the cost of a PAL version into the realms of the ludicrous. More people should have had the chance to play this one back in the day, but timing is everything: Super Mario World had set the gold standard for the genre, and over the next 18 months HAL Laboratory spawned Kirby into the public consciousness. Thank goodness, then, that Bitwave have done the right thing and ported this charming platformer to modern consoles.
The most striking thing about Gimmick! Special Edition is how good it looks and sounds. The team producing it knew that they were having to compete with the superior graphical capabilities of the newer 16-bit machines, and managed to employ some clever tileset trickery to squeeze every drop of juice out of the ageing console. The art style is an evocative blend of cutesy influences from the era. There are shades of Jaleco’s magical Rod-Land, Taito’s Bub & Bob saga, and even first party Nintendo fare, but somehow it retains its own identity. The soundtrack is an eclectic blend of freewheeling jazz, pop and rock, with Sunsoft’s in-house composer Mashashi Kageyama taking a leaf out of literally nearly every 1980s footballer interviewed by Shoot! magazine in citing jazz-funk legend George Benson as an influence.
You take the role of super cute Yumetaro, a plushy whose child owner has been abducted to an alternate realm by the disgruntled remainder of her toy collection, seemingly borne of their jealousy towards how enamoured the kid is with the little green fella. To rescue his owner, Yumetaro has to adventure through over a half-dozen teak-tough platforming stages, employing use of the magical stars he carries above his head to take out enemies, but also to use as rideable platforms which can be used to reach hitherto unreachable areas.
You can ping the stars off the scenery and employ timing to hop on top of them, a bit like leaping on your own bubbles or rainbows in the aforementioned Taito classics, albeit with trickier physics and timing at play. There are other collectable projectile attacks to be had in the form of potions, and each of the six stages has a super-secret hidden treasure to find, as well as a boss character to defeat. Completing the game by simply acing the six levels and bosses will see your quest to rescue Yumetaro’s owner grind to a Ghouls ‘N Ghosts-esque halt, as you are sent back to the beginning. In order to get the true ending there are conditions to be met, which add a ball-achingly tough extra layer of longevity to what is already a tricky experience.
This is the ultimate remaster of the 1992 lost classic, and as such comes with a variety of extras, including some in-game achievements and art galleries. Best of all is a rewind function which really takes the sting out of some of the hairier platforming moments.
Unlike Cyber Citizen Shockman, which also allowed you to wind back proceedings, the actual physics, collision detection and platform positioning of Gimmick! Special Edition are on-point and, despite the high level of challenge, it never feels unfair and is very satisfying when you manage to ride a magic star all the way to some lovely treasure. It was a tad unfairly maligned at the time of release and stands up very well to some of the other NES and PCE titles of the time. This deserved a wider audience back in the day and is well worth your time if you are a fan of old-school platform hopping fun.
Lovely to look at
Might be too tough for some