It’s easy enough to check off the ‘platformer’ category, but sitting here and actually classifying Go Gimbal Go (240 MSP) is a bit more involved. I’ve seen it compared to SNES racer Uniracers. They have speed and some course designs in common, but I don’t see that as much as a ‘Sonic’ with sticky fingers. I can guarantee Uniracers never put forward the crazy-saccharine Rainbow Island and its fun-loving populace, invaded and thus occupied by King Commandroid, nor does it star a purple ball with an affinity for hats and a giant grabber hand.
Though in opposition to the Saturday morning cartoon story and vibe, Gimbal is anything but a kid’s game. Sure, it’s up to Gimbal to rescue the kids and right the wrongs across some seriously vibrant landscapes that Nintendo would be proud of, but the challenge on tap in this game will reduce most grown men to tears.
As far as the ‘Sonic’ comparison, you do grind various rails (the rainbow-colored ones boost your speed) and leap to and from rotating platforms / wheels, dodging enemies that will (initially) only slow you down when hit, while a timer ticks off. The goal is straightforward. You must reach the exit before zero. Checkpoints, as well as rescuing children and / or performing ‘tricks’ mid-air (spinning your grabber hand), put seconds back on the clock. Medals are awarded at the end of each stage, pursuant to how much time you had left.
It’s a fun setup. Unfortunately, the difficulty I mentioned previously is a double-edged sword, promoting patience and achievement, while at the same showing its ugly side directly with World 2 and the levels beyond. With some of the spiked layouts and rotating sawblades (all of which mean death upon touch), slower reflexes and room for launch error make it quite literally a sliver above humane. The developer should have been mindful of such and added an extra life (or two) to the starting counter of three (EDIT 8/20: Developer Gimbal Lock Studios has updated the game to include an ‘unlimited lives’ option in the menu).
To its credit, Go Gimbal Go drops helpful tips for each tricky jump or area. Its controls and sense of weight / gravity feel right, and it does train your reflexes to match the challenge— via constant death. Whether it’s the drive to succeed or to avoid shame at having been bested by a place called Rainbow Island, you won’t be permanently discouraged (probably).
It kept me at it for most of the way, building up a tolerance to the tougher spots or returning to earlier levels to seek out new hats (I feel the developers missed out on a top-tier ‘hat’ in turning down my Dr. Richard Gimbal design). A highly-polished first effort that hits the mark in almost every category, Go Gimbal Go is exactly the kind of off-kilter stuff XBLIG needs more of. Just maybe not as many spikes next time, guys.