Good platform games on the PC are a bit of a rarity. Such a genre is mainly found within the realms of the console. Nintendo and the like churn out hundreds of these things for little kiddies around the globe, but there are some PC developers out there giving it their best shot. The results have been a mixed bag with games like Croc, Gex and Rayman and with many PC owners not owning a joypad the keyboard controls seem unwieldy, letting down the better games. By far and away the best success has been had by the never-ending Tomb Raider series of games. The perfect balance of platform puzzles, adventure and old-fashioned sexist eye-candy has been a real hit, especially on the PC. With Gift, the Ekosystem team have taken a different route integrating adult humour and a slob of a main character into the usual mix of puzzles, attacks and power ups. From the screenshots the game may seem in the same cute league as Mario, but on closer inspection you will find binge drinking, cheeky dialogue and a Princess with all the right 'bits' in place.
It is this Princess (full name Lolita Globo) who has been captured by the bad guy, 'The Shadow of the Black Deep Dark Night', although how the Black Deep Dark Night casts a shadow is another question. You play the part of Gift, the cheeky hero underdog who must, of course, save and win the Princesses affections. This Gift is a rather strange looking creature and is best described as a fat little red devil (that is my best shot, so look at the screenshots and make up your own mind). All other heroes sent out to save her have failed, Gift is the last chance. All clichéd stuff so far, but all the levels and worlds Gift must defeat are contained within a video game, all having different themes parodying other well-known games and films. You must work your way through seven different worlds, each led by a sinful dwarf. Laziness, Miser and the rest of the seven sins are represented and each gives a clue to the whereabouts of the beautiful Princess. Once all the dwarves are collected the (cut and paste from above) 'Shadow of the Black Deep Dark Night' can be defeated. The funny thing is Gift's main weapon throughout is merely a stick!
Don't worry though this stick (perhaps staff is the correct word for it) has magic powers, and is not just used for hacking at enemies. Found throughout the game's levels are coloured crystals. These give the staff a variety of different powers: yellow gives you light, blue is ice, black is darkness, green cancels the current power and so on. Naturally these crystals and powers lead to different puzzles geared towards them, for instance if you collect the light power there is no guessing needed to predict the next area will be pitch black as your staff is used as a torch.
This play on special powers, especially with light and dark evident throughout, adds some sort of variety but Gift is still a true platform game at heart. Each room consists of enemies that need bashing and switches, keys or moving platforms that must be overcome. There are some nice touches like near invisible platforms or pole-vaulting Gift across a gap but the majority of it has all been done many times before. Even the humour that promised so much never really works. Maybe the first time you see Gift juggling or working out which way to pull a switch a smile may appear on your face, but after repeatedly falling off the same damn platform these cut scenes seem to merely mock.
For quite a low recommended PC specification Gift is surprisingly good looking, and for those of you with top systems, whack up the resolution to avoid disappointment. There are some great effects too, associated with the separate power ups and Gift himself smoothly waddles and leaps around each level. The levels and textures seem a little bare but objects like a roaring fireplace or machinery juice things up a bit.
An important area in games such as this is the camera positioning, and games have literally been thrown to the dogs for poor camera code. In Gift it is pleasing to see a fairly robust system. Its only once you explore higher up levels or seemingly unreachable areas of a room that the camera starts to get blocked.
Although Gift has been plugged as a platform adventure there is little adventure on show. The game remains a comfortable and easily approachable platform game to be added to the pile. Perhaps if the game had more laugh-out-loud moments some light would have shone through, even enough to interest the platform indifferent gamer, but there is really nothing new here. It is another simple, although admittedly well executed, platformer and if mad ass puzzles, those infuriating moving platforms and subsequent falls to death are what you love then Gift should fulfil.