By Jonathan Wojcik
What, you don't remember Squisherz?! I suppose it's a bit strange that a controversial multi-billion dollar franchise managed to seemingly disappear one night at the height of its success, but without this genre-defining classic, we might not have even had games as wildly influential in our day-to-day lives as Robopon or Telefang or even Monster Seed. Can you PICTURE a world without Monster Seed? Indeed, despite accusations of having "ripped it off" or merely capitalizing on a fad at the time, Squisherz was the one that came first.
It's surprisingly difficult these days to find anything about this series; there's no second-hand merchandise clogging up ebay, there's no fan wiki, there's no nostalgic youtube reviews, it's almost like Squisherz never existed in our timeline at all - but lucky for you, I've managed to hang on to every piece of character artwork originally featured on the (admittedly incomplete) official website, and that means we can finally give the first 24 infamous Squisherz a proper review.
It feels like a lifetime ago that Squisherz was first previewed in Nintega Power 104, but 0023 (get it? "OOZE!") would be the first Squisher the world ever laid eyes upon, and originally intended as the series mascot. We all know how another, more marketable Squisher quickly took over that role, but I still think this oozing robot makes a more iconic "face" for the franchise, and who can possibly forget 0023's importance to the storyline? Remember, Squisherz was still only a video game even in-universe until it overloaded teenage Sutikki's modified gaming PC, transforming it into 0023 whose infectious slime subsequently brought the other Squishers into reality.
It's easy to forget that this technically means 0023 wouldn't have been Squisher #1, or even an official Squisher at all, in the version of the game Sutikki played...but Sutikki's life is the game we play, and the implication that Squisherz just keep working their way up through the layers of reality is a plot point I'm still sore they seem to have forgotten about.
Given what we just said about 0023, I personally think Archuslop was what Sutikki knew as the first Squisher in the game, the one he would have been given by Dr. Puyo as his starting companion. This is lent some credence by the fact that he considered it the "coolest" (screw you again, 0023) long before he ever managed to befriend the one that so memorably stalked him and ultimately saved his life over the course of that first perfect story arc.
I'm not usually that into the basic wolf or dog monster of a monster franchise, but with its elongated, dripping maw and little round, pale pink eyes (which always reminded me of Baikinman!) so far up its weirdly elongated skull, Archuslop is definitely my kind of canid. The only reason I never used one on my Squisher team is just that the game sets such a high bar for monsters that appeal to me, even this awesome beast gets pushed pretty far down my list by still weirder beasts.
Like, for example, Barfly, which may only be the third Squisher and one of the most common creatures in every single game, but has still been my undisputed #1 favorite from the moment I laid eyes upon it. It is, after all, a satisfyingly worthy representation of my single favorite animal, but with the added twist of a "second head" (true head?!) formed from its own regurgitated sludge. The fact that its "mouth" is actually a hand, like a sock puppet, is an especially whimsical detail that some artwork and even some animated appearances seems to forget completely, though it's hard to blame them considering the poor resolution of its original sprite. The super-cartoony eyes are a detail that always seemed to put some people off, I guess because they don't look "cool" or "menacing" or are even anime-style, but that's just another thing I love about this one. It just doesn't look much like any other Squisher out there.
I must have been one of the only players to ever use your one allotted God Droplet on Barfly, and I know it still doesn't achieve S-Tier stats even then, but I'd rather have a team with an even quasi-viable Barfly and win a little less than just use what everybody else is using. Also, very cute how its name can be taken as either "Barf-fly" or "Bar-fly."
So, venturing into the great outdoors with out first 0023, the first three "wild" Squisherz we ever encountered wound up being a dog, a fly and an eel, showcasing the game's land, air and water mechanics. As our introduction to aquatic Squisherz, Bleel fulfills a necessary purpose and is somewhat "ordinary" by design, at least by Squisher standards. It never did end up with many fans of its own, but I always loved those pupils and that huge, fangly underbite straight out of a deep-sea fish. The color scheme, of course, reflects that Bleel oozes both electroplasm and cryoplasm, a combination of attack elements I've almost never seen in any other game, and was strangely never, ever repeated in another Squisher.
So...our first Dracoid Squisher and necroplasm oozer is more than a little dramatic for only the fifth slot in the Squisherdex, but they were originally numbered in order of in-game appearance, and I guess they wanted the boss of the first Oozone to leave a lasting impression, which it certainly did, having long reigned as one of the most popular Squisherz both for its competitive viability and just KILLER design. I love the withered looking, six-eyed skull, the fact that the whole thing is petty much just a skeleton with a thin layer of goo, and the black bones alternating with radioactive green is such a cool palette, really showing off what you can do with nothing but two colors in a whole design!
Barfly may be my perfect angel, but Garblugh is a very, very, very, very close second, if not practically tied. I wouldn't be surprised if my favorite Pokemon was just an attempt to capitalize on Garblugh's original popularity as the go-to Squisher of the bumbling Scumbag Squad.
As much as I'd have loved basically any dripping trash-monster by default, Garblugh might not be half the design without the vaguely skull-shaped smear of ooze serving as its face. I'm especially fond of how one eye always looks like it's "crying," and that the eyes are never portrayed as level with one another.
Of course, the third coolest thing about Garblugh after being garbage with a skull face is that it uses its accompanying flies as its primary means of attack, and wild Garblugh are even encountered with accompanying Barfly it can trade slime (and therefore HP) with!
As a "digital hologram" Squisher, Glopoly remains one of the only pure electroplasm oozers in the series, and it was always interesting to me that its slime manifests exclusively as its eyeballs. We even see everything except the eyeballs flickering in and out of reality, and I always took that to mean that the eyeballs may in fact be the true Glopoly, projecting the rest of the hologram body.
This is another one that I don't think existed in the game as Sutikki originally knew it, since it's first created in a fluke accident when the neighbor kids own Squisherz game absorbs him and spits him back out as the original Gloyo, which would be pretty disturbing if the two weren't so easily separated by the end of the episode, and subsequently became regular partners.
Gloyo remained one-of-a-kind in the anime, but still treated as an entire "species" for game purposes and said to be a Squisher merely "imitating" a human. I do like how the slime hair ends up covering the face completely, but it presumably doesn't have any facial features anyway. Gloyo just has one eye in its hat and the other on its yoyo, a fun design quirk that also gives it an interesting abilities to peek around corners!
The first non-boss instance of necroplasm, Goost feels like an obvious reference to Slimer, which is more than welcome (and tragically uncommon) in any monster game. I always liked Goost's joined, black eyesockets, little pink eye-lights and the matching pink goo that it spews from its mouth, which we know from the anime can actually melt almost anything down into liquid Goost slurps back up, growing proportionally larger and larger. This was one of those things they only really made any use of in a monster's focal, debut episode and never really showed again, possibly because the implications were too gruesome for a Squisher described in-game as "a maneater."
The token snake monster of Squisherz is about what you would expect, but there's nothing wrong with that; I like Hissslime's delightfully goofy nose, how dang happy it always looks, and the fun way it's typically shown moving more like a cartoon "inchworm" than an actual serpent, straightening and un-straightening with that weird slide-whistle sound from apparently nowhere. There's also the fact that, if you look closely, its forked tongue is just a tinier, simpler cartoon snake itself!
Hissslime is probably best remembered as the trademark Squisher of fan favorite villain Nurunuru, wearing her Hissslime like a feather boa before wielding it like one big, living whip.
Ickygoo is another Squisher that was sort of pushed as a series mascot, featured prominently in the series intro and on a whole lot of early merchandise, but ultimately never that important in the show itself and not especially powerful in-game, either. That's too bad, because I think it has a lot of fun personality. It's got some of the typical cuteness of other Mons game mascots, but its face is more reminiscent of a giant salamander than a fuzzy mammaloid, which suits Squisherz well. It's almost more like a bipedal Axolotl than anything else, and I think the protruding tongue is really important to complete the whole thing.
If there's one thing anyone did remember about Ickygoo, it's that it was one of the first two psychoplasmics the player ever encountered, active only during the day. Its trademark is its "hypnotic stare," the same blank expression it always has, which renders its opponents as oblivious and contented as Ickygoo itself!
The nocturnal option for your first psychic squisher, Leaka originated in the anime from an obvious Furby knockoff infected by 0023, which subsequently sought out and infected the entire factory producing the toys. None of this is mentioned in the game, but we can still presume it's canon, especially with mention of Leaka stalking and frightening children. Like Ickygoo, its eyes can transfix victims, but in this case they're said to be transfixed with terror. The mechanical difference is that Ickygoo's hypnosis works on works on everything but its fellow psychics, while Leaka can hypnotize anything but the undead.
Definitely one of my favorites for its creepy, possessed toy theme, which is why it also wields electroplasmic attacks, but even removed from that context, I just really like the look of this little, waddling goblin head with huge, weird owl-eyes.
NO single Squisher ever had more fan-art than Mermurk, the third psychic in a row, though if you ever caught a glimpse of said fandom you know there weren't a lot of people drawing Mermurk entirely on-model. The twin Logo Skulls are, presumably, supposed to evoke a mermaid's seashell bra, but despite nothing visibly filling them out or how low they sag on its body, well, you can guess how people "reimagined" it.
That's certainly a lot more words than I wanted to devote to a Squisher'z (Squisherz's? Squisherz'? What's even the proper grammar there?) hypothetical bosom, so I'll move on to the fact that Mermurk is really a lot cooler than anyone gave it credit for. I mean, it's a siren made of slime, which is rad to begin with, but it's also perpetually under the spell of its own Siren Song, behaving like some sort of sleep-walking zombie. That's SUCH a novel twist I wish I'd thought of it myself, and it's reflected well not just by Mermurk's pose but by its subtle drool and eyeless, "sleepy" looking face.
My single favorite thing about this design, however, is the tiny seashell decorating Mermurk's head, with its own set of tiny, glowing eyes. The adorable mollusk is never officially acknowledged in any way, but if you ask me, it's quite possibly the location of Mermurk's true, actual "eyes" or even the only "body" Mermurk has, the rest of it one big, elaborate decoy that is, indeed, controlled like a zombie by the snail's psychic song.
Another that was on a lot of merchandise, probably thanks to having one of the game's very simplest, most straightforward designs, this lovable little blob is literally supposed to be a sort of mold-based Squisher that has completely overtaken some sort of spoiled food item, originally said to be a "dumpling" in-game, but its anime episode had Moldi forming from bread rolls and later from uneaten fruit.
While the design is admittedly just a glob with a cute face, Moldi was another I couldn't resist using on my own team, especially as another Squisher with its own symbiotic flies. Moldi, Garblugh and Barfly pretty much form a sort of "trio" in my head. This series only rarely featured monsters that "evolved," but I feel like Moldi was perhaps meant at some early point in development to be the immature stage of Garblugh, and Barfly possibly some sort of by-product of the transformation.
And here he is, the Squisher that completely took over the entire property. From the second story arc and onwards, Sutikki spammed Mushi as his go-to battlemonster enough that you could almost miss he had any other monsters at all, let alone the 0023 that started his whole damn adventure. Beloved by the Japanese fandom and a lot of younger kids, Mushi was quickly the older, Western fandom's favorite punching bag, with entire websites devoted to bashing the poor thing for having "killed" Squisherz.
Its overuse by the marketing department was hardly its fault, though, and the first in a long line of variant "Squisher Cats" is admittedly pretty cute, especially the way it burbled in the anime and contorted into weirder shapes than even other Squisherz. This is a series where literally every monster is a slime mutant, so even when you design one to be broadly profitable, you really can't go wrong.
Speaking of things tailor-made to make money, Oozurf embodied absolutely everything that was trendy in the radicool 90's, though I don't think any of us kids could have really appreciate that to the fullest until we got a little older. Back then, this almost seemed ordinary, but sometime you really don't know what you've got until it's gone.
Oozurf is perpetually riding what is simultaneously stylized to resemble a surfboard, a wave, and a shark, a wildly appropriate and clever combination I'd somehow never seen either before or since, and could not possibly be more freaking GNARLY. Even the shape of the shark's teeth and the jagged, purple stripe against its brilliant teal is evocative of a sort of pseudo-tribal art style all but unique to Trapper Keeper folder art and glow-in-the-dark bicycle decals.
Combined with his RAD SPECS, spiky hair and perpetual smirk, Oozurf is truly RIGHTEOUS TO THE X-TREME...though I still wonder exactly which mouth is Oozurf's most "real" mouth, since only the lower is accompanied by any confirmed, functional eyes and only the upper has ever been shown speaking. I suppose, like many Squisherz, that Oozurf's anatomical plan simply doesn't follow our typical reasoning.
There never were a lot of plant-based Squisherz, but each one was pretty much flawless. You should already know what a sucker I am for eyes inside of mouths, especially glowing eyes in total darkness, and it's a great look for the obligatory fly-trap monster of any series. What I always loved even more, though, was how the act of constantly "drooling poison" was treated as a bigger trademark of this monster than its botanical nature, and yet again we have a Squisher accompanied by flies, or at least one fly. Hovering perpetually inside Pitrool's mouth, the insect interestingly matches the Squisher'z own eyes...if those are indeed its own eyes. If you want more wild speculation out of me, it could be that the larger set of eyes belong to a larger, unseen insect, quite possibly the female fly, controlling the rest of the plant body and guarded by her smaller mate - or offspring?
This diabolical psychoplasmic was quite possibly the most popular Squisher with players, which went over as well as you could imagine with religious fundies of the 90's. Personally, I can usually go either way on your basic "demon and devil" type monsters, but Plasmemon is really something special. The disproportionately huge, cartoon-ram-skull head just looks awesome with those blocky,interlocking teeth, enormous eyes and curly, almost Burtonesque horns, and I'm a pretty big fan of just how shrunken and emaciated its body is.
Plasmemon supposedly causes bad dreams and hallucinations that are easily mistaken for a ghostly haunting, and any contact with its slime can open someone up to actual possession by the Squisher, resulting in a notoriously dark anime episode the original English dub opted to just skip over. You can only paint out so many slime pentagrams before it's just not worth the effort, I suppose.
CUTE! The idea of ooze not only rising out of the sewer, but taking a manhole cover as a "shell" to form a "turtle" is so memorably creative, it's not a surprise this was another that appeared on a lot of cereal boxes, toys and school supplies. It was also really cute how the anime originally featured four of them. Wherever have we heard of four mutant turtles from the sewer before? They even had orange, purple, red and blue eyes, respectively.
Turthole is best remembered for ironically sporting the highest speed stat in the game, canonically capable of retracting under its manhole cover and zipping through the air at blinding speed, which is alarmingly deadly if you consider it for even a moment.
One of the only cases of "evolution" in the original 24, Turthole could transform into Shellslop only after consuming enough toxic waste, acquiring much more of a body and upgrading its manhole cover to an entire steel drum full of poisonous ooze! What I really like about the two is how Shellslop doesn't actually render Turthole obsolete, but complements it on a team by simply trading speed and offense for incredible defenses and its poison miasma.
Another of my absolute FAVORITES, there are those who've dismissed Shambloth as nothing but a "pile of sludge," but it's obviously more than that. Some people even outright miss the fact that it has a distinct, stumpy tail and legs, having been shown in the anime as simply rising from a mire of goo. It's basically a half-melted cartoon dinosaur, and I just love the staring, low-slung eyeballs flanking its ghastly, gaping mouth. It would already be flawless without the tacky business tie, but that's just the dash of absurdity to propel a merely "great" design to a "magnificent" design...and adds a dash of incredibly morbid humor when you realize this pure necroplasmic is supposed to be the zombie Squisher. Is the tie meant to imply it was born from a human corpse? Or is it a sort of "corporate zombie" joke?
Either way, I have to say I also really enjoy the "Shamble Off" name. That's not just thematic, but really fun to say!
Is this actually one of the weirdest of all Squisherz? They're all pretty bizarre to some degree, obviously, but I can't begin to parse the thought train that must have lead to a design and concept so totally bonkers. It's not merely a giraffe monster, as the name would have you believe, but a giraffe monster with one single, giant eye, a fin like a shark, an almost "wizardy" color pattern and a melted puddle for a body, which is a surprisingly rare design feature for a series revolving entirely around slime, and they gave it to a giraffe-o-clops.
Sliraffe is the fifth psychic Squisher here, and actually one of the game's most powerful, but the charms of its sheer silliness were often lost on an ungrateful fandom. I, for one, definitely enjoy how much this thing reads to me as someone's childhood fever dream, and its power is appropriately enough to cause "confusion" in anyone who meets its gaze, which the anime sort of treated more like a psychedelic drug trip.
This seemed like a Squisher already set up to be another evolver, and yet...it never did. Yolky remained a sleepy, pitiful little baby bird perpetually emerging from its egg, weak and nearly useless in every respect except for its ability to resurrect a "splattered" (0 HP) Squisher by sacrificing itself. Devoting a whole team slot to this essentially means you've just opted to use one of your other Squisherz twice in one battle, but it can be a downright broken strategy once you've worn down the enemy team. The only problem, of course, is the likelihood that your opponent has a Yolky of their own in reserve, and then it becomes a matter of who can hold out the longest before using the one-shot trump card.
What's really noteworthy about Yolky's design, and something some people seemed to overlook for years, is that the yellow "marking" on top is actually an exposed, veiny eyeball, possibly Yolky's only actual eye!
Like 0023, Glopoly and Leaka, most electroplasmic Squisherz are born from electronic toys and games, and Yuckey is often assumed to be a parody of the Tamagotchi phenomenon. What most fans didn't realize was that Squisherz actually began with a virtual pet around the same exact time the first Tamagotchis ever landed on store shelves, and nobody to this day is quite certain which one was truly conceived of first. The V-Squish, unfortunately, was almost instantly overshadowed by its more famous competitor, and is now almost impossible to find. Its official Squisher counterpart is, of course, an in-universe virtual pet possessed by Squisher slime, and I really like how the buttons have become three eyes while the keychain portion is treated like a sort of "claw" it can attack with. A really fun Squisher with a lot of history, and an appropriate, if bittersweet point for us to leave off on, considering that the other 127 Squisherz had no official art released to the public, and even the crudest screenshots seem impossible to track down.
What could have happened? Did everybody really just fall that head over heels for Robopon a couple of years later? Was there some kind of cutthroat corporate drama that killed Squisherz in its prime? Were the bible-thumpers right that it was all part of some dark, occult conspiracy their prayers only narrowly thwarted in the nick of time?
...Or, and I'm just spitballing here, could it be that the Squisherz were illustrated by my friend Bynine, a great artist who was hired to design the creatures for developer Jay Tholen's bizarre alternate-reality PC game, Hypnospace Outlaw? I mean, if that were true, I'd have to recommend checking that game out, right? I might also have to recommend you Tholen's surprisingly touching point and click adventure Dropsy, and especially suggest you take a little time out of your life to play Bynine's own beautiful, relaxing little adventure game Forest's Secret.
But, come on, if Squisherz wasn't real, why do all of us remember the rap?