Gimmick Special Edition review - A retro resurgence

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Yumetaro riding a star in Gimmick Special Edition.

It's a relief that games like Gimmick are getting another chance in the sun. This oft-forgotten NES gem from 1992, also known as 'Mr. Gimmick!' in the US, has been inaccessible outside of emulation or its original hardware in the three decades since.

That all changes with the release of Gimmick Special Edition, which ensures the game will live on with full compatibility on modern consoles. It's more than just a port, with some really helpful quality-of-life tweaks that make a notoriously punishing retro platformer more palatable for newcomers.

The overall package may be difficult to justify at its current price point, but if you've been yearning for a way to play Gimmick in the decades since it first released, your prayers have been answered.

A gameplay screenshot from Gimmick Special Edition
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As it stands, Gimmick is a fairly familiar but also brutally difficult 2D side-scroller. The game's green critter, Yumetaro, is reminiscent of Kirby in many ways, a comparison that didn't go unnoticed upon release. Hold down the action button and Yumetaro will gradually conjure up a projectile star, bouncing along the pixelated turf to hit enemies, which range from sword-wielding baddies to automatic turrets.

More than that though, your main task is to prowl through Gimmick's punishingly meticulous platforming sequences. Ranging from jungles to sandy temples, the margin for error is incredibly low in Gimmick, and you'll need to be very good to make your way through all six worlds.

Yes, Gimmick is a product of its time, and despite the charming, child-friendly visual design, it's a really difficult game. Fortunately, this special edition comes with a baked-in rewind mode, where you hold down the left trigger to scrub through the past 30 seconds and go from where you left off. It's a real game-changer for retro remasters of this type, making the grind through tougher levels a lot less frustrating. Given Gimmick's arcade trappings, where you lose tonnes of progress upon dying, having this removed a lot of the anguish from clearing tough sequences.

Of course, this does end up making a playthrough of Gimmick much shorter than it would be regularly. I clocked in at just under an hour while using save states and the rewind feature, on the standard difficulty mode. That length is bound to increase if you don't take the easy way out like I did, as well as if you try some other modes.

Serious Mode is next up, where rewind and save states are gone, but you can unlock achievements as you progress. Hardest of all is Speedrun Mode, where you need to finish the entire game without dying or restarting to claim a time on the global leaderboard. That's no easy feat.

A gameplay image in Gimmick Special Edition.
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Story and visuals

While the gameplay is anything but cosy, the visual design in Gimmick is incredibly endearing. Yumetaro, the playable character, is visually reminiscent of Kirby, which gives Gimmick an instantly familiar aesthetic. Colours pop in the game, especially on Nintendo Switch OLED, and the remastered visuals make things look even better than back in the 1990s.

But like so many games from this era, you can't go into Gimmick expecting much story. It's basically the same level of narrative depth as the early Mario games, with an opening cutscene establishing Yumetaro's quest to find his owner, and little more until the very end. It's much more focused on the variety of levels you explore, and the gruelling bosses and mazes to hop through before getting to that inevitable end.


That said, most people who plan on playing Gimmick Special Edition know exactly what to expect. This isn't the flashiest remaster in the world, but the quality-of-life tweaks and new mechanics make it so much more accessible to a new generation of players. It may be hard to justify purchasing at its current price, but you're bound to have a good time with Gimmick.

Gimmick Special Edition
Gimmick is a delightful retro platformer, brimming with challenge and quality-of-life features to make it worth trying.
Nintendo Switch

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