Otaku USA Magazine
Gift [Game Review]

From developers Toydium and Million Edge, Gift is the latest award-winning indie to come out of Akihabara, Tokyo. 

On board a luxury cruise, you must solve the everchanging environmental puzzles to survive the fast-approaching water. 

Playing an elderly man, who finds himself on a giant cruise liner, you quickly learn of the dangers ahead as the ship is split and swiftly sinking. Besides escaping the oncoming waters, your purpose is not clear at first. As you make your way deeper into the hull of the ship, you meet the remaining surviving passengers, whom you help to rescue and bring to safety. 

Gift’s strong atmospheric visuals carry the majority of its slowly unfolding story, but it takes longer than expected to understand the old man’s purpose. It’s a  2.5D side-view action-adventure game that, I can confidently say, does a great job of making the environment feel “alive.” Part of the puzzle is not knowing what will happen with every step and leap you take. Just one step may trigger the ship to tilt severely to one side, and with it, a huge wave ready to engulf the platform you’re standing on.

The game’s mechanics are repetitive, so it’s not particularly difficult, but it manages to throw in more challenging encounters and unexpected obstacles while running from gushing waters. Just when you think you’re safe from harm’s way, the ship flips and tilts unexpectedly. Just because it feels simple doesn’t always mean a game stays that way. Escaping each level becomes slightly harder, as more obstacles appear and at times the ship is constantly turning, flooding different areas.

While it was a short game, around 3 hours to complete, some levels in the ship’s hull felt drawn out. The real purpose of the man’s journey is not discovered until very late in the game,  I was more curious about piecing hints together rather than finding an exit. As you meet new passengers, you may start to question “What is the point?,” especially as there is no dialogue, only a Simlish-like language. Some elements feel unnecessary as well, such as the ship’s map. I found it more confusing than helpful, and the linear progression made the real need for a map obsolete. 

The game started to become confusing after helping the first few passengers, but you are thrown into more near-drowning puzzles so dwelling on it doesn’t help you much at first. The environment and music were enough to bring back my attention, but unfortunately, those moments felt few and far between during the middle of the game. However, part of me wonders if the repetitive puzzles and deafening quiet in between the action are symbolic of the man’s adult life.

Story-focused titles are typically my preference, so the ending was a sweet way to reflect on the game’s hints throughout the time played. At first, the game feels like a nod to the Titanic’s tragedy, but as you spend more time roaming the dilapidated halls and rescuing other passengers, everything begins to make more sense. Gift has gone on to win the Grand Winner title for PC Game Indie and PC Game Platformer at the International NYX Game Awards.

It may not have been what I was expecting in the beginning and left me feeling confused, yet intrigued. In the end, Gift manages to tie up a few loose ends into a nice bow confirming my assumptions. If you pick up Gift, stick with it til the end, otherwise the story will be lost on you. Figuring out each event’s significance at the end of the game is what made the confusion more tolerable. 

Brianna Fox-Priest

Brianna Fox-Priest is a freelance journalist based in Tokyo. Covering video games and Japanese pop culture, her work can be seen in Otaku USA, Anime USA, Jotaku Network, and Sprudge.