Reviewed on Xbox Series X
Desperate to save his wife from succumbing to the effects of a genetic disease that threatens to destroy her memories, neuroscientist Josh undertakes an experimental treatment that sends him on a multiversal quest to find a cure in The Gap. Bouncing between timelines of his past to piece together clues and memories in an effort to ultimately discover the cure for his wife makes for a heartfelt, emotionally charged narrative adventure that challenge the player to recall Josh’s memories in his quest to save his wife’s.
Simplistic gameplay, stylised visuals and genuinely interesting science and technology rooted storytelling blend together in this beautiful déjà vu infused tale of love, loss and everything in between. Spanning years of their life together, conversations, studies and other personal moments, The Gap masterfully manipulates its time jumping escapades in a grounded take on an otherwise sci-fi sounding premise.
For my FULL PLAYTHROUGH, check out the video below.
The Gap doesn’t try to do too much yet at the same time it accomplishes many things. The core gameplay consists of exploring small areas and interacting with objects, taking note of important information and using it to solve a handful of puzzles throughout the multiple time periods that the player gets to explore. The simplicity of the gameplay allows the emotional themes and eerie, atmospheric tone of the lonely timelines to drive the emphasis towards the story that Josh is wrestling with, finding a cure for his wife before she loses all of her memories and the life they’ve built together becomes a fragmented mosaic of moments she no longer recognises.
Spanning multiple time periods that the player can jump to at any moment by accessing the wall map found in the home/present reality, the investigation-like board becomes decorated with clues and memories discovered throughout the journey, with each of the timelines being explorable for any length of time over and over again.
Each timeline has a collection of memories to solve, most of which require the discovery of clues from other timelines or the solving of other memories to progress. The clever interwoven layers of The Gap’s story prevents repetition from setting in when revisiting timelines, with things making sense when new information has been uncovered.
For the most part everything takes place within the players apartment, with it appearing differently in the multiple timelines based on the stage of his relationship with his wife and daughter, before and after she was born. The handful of playable memories transport the player to a concert, exams, a bar and a stunning northern lights outdoor scene for example, broadening the scope of the mystery without fully opening the world it takes place in. The limited exposure to life outside the apartment works wonderfully though, further emphasising the significance of what “home” is and what it means to Josh and his mission to save his wife.
Instead of traditional cutscenes, The Gap tells its story through dialogue, mostly Josh’s internal thoughts. Everything The Gap does really drives home the point that his thoughts, feelings and memories are at the heart of the experience, and everything that he is fighting to preserve. The voice acting conveys the emotional turmoil effectively, with strong performances from the small supporting cast punctuating the trauma that has enveloped his life.
The eerie, dreamy haze that surrounds the memories and the darkness that infiltrates them makes for a striking visual approach that compliments the emotional tone masterfully. A stylised, charming presentation across the board adds layers to the simplistic nature of the gameplay in a manner that truly conveys the message of “less is more” in its aesthetic and execution.
The Gap is a brief experience, taking as little as two hours to fully explore, but is one that has an emotional weight and power in its storytelling that justifies its brevity. It says what it needs to say, shows what needs to be seen and does what it needs to in a tightly focused manner that would unravel and stumble over itself if it were extended for the sake of it.
+ Interesting premise
+ Clever story
+ Simplistic gameplay allows emotional focus
+ Visually charming
+ Perfect length
– Progression isn’t always clear
Developed by: Label This
Published by: Crunching Koalas
Release Date: October 19 2023
Platforms: Xbox One/Series X|S, PlayStation 4/5 and PC
* DISCLAIMER: A digital code was kindly provided for the purpose of this review *
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All digital photography captured in-game by Games of DAYNE