Played on: Mac, via itch.io
Tight arcade action dressed up in a Gameboy costume. Ride the bubble!
Gum Girl is an old-school platformer, created for a GBJam event, in which the main mechanic is all about blowing gum bubbles and standing on them. This concept might not be the most realistic, but it makes for an entertaining — and often frustrating — platformer.
In the early stages you have two pieces of gum, which allows you to blow two bubbles before needing to ‘recall’ the first. This is a novel tactic because it requires you to think not only about placement, but order — on several occasions, I thought I’d done everything right and pressed the button to recall a bubble, only to realise the one I was standing on was the oldest!
I found the controls slightly awkward at times — often mixing up ‘jump’ with ‘blow’ with inevitable and hilarious results. Probably this was mostly due to playing on keyboard. Fortunately, time is not much of a factor in the early levels, so you can take time to plan exactly where you should be spitting those bubbles next.
Apart from the main mechanic, we’re in familiar platforming territory — spikes as hazards, actual enemies that shoot things later on, stars and life-replenishing hearts to collect. Some sections have gusts of wind (?) which move the bubbles on a path and these set up small puzzles to overcome. On occasion, though, I felt I was bypassing the intended route all too easily.
The final stage is an auto-scroller, thankfully with unlimited gum. This really changes the gameplay quite significantly, from a ‘platformer with thinking’ to a ‘run! run! master those controls!!’ kind of deal. I had to replay this level quite a few times before really getting to grips with it, but it certainly demonstrates a great deal of potential for varying the play. Again, though, I found myself taking a few shortcuts here which certainly didn’t look designed intentionally.
Bubble-blowing is a great technique to allow players to create their own highly-volatile temporary platforms. But unlike those bubbles, Gum Girl is solid. The graphics are crisp and clear, especially for just a 4-color palette. The music is cute and catchy, and the levels are well-designed enough to be taxing, but not overly frustrating. For a jam game, it’s a great achievement, and it’s unsurprising that this will be the basis for a future full release, currently in progress.
Gum Girl was created by Case Portman, with Music by Joel C, for GBJam 7. It was awarded a 2nd place position overall.