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Video Game / Gingiva

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Gingiva is an RPG Maker game created by indie developer myformerselves. It serves as a sequel (though probably taking place before, or possibly not) to the developer's first game, Middens, with several reappearing themes and characters.

Set in the same surreal dystopian setting as Middens, you play as Gingiva, a young woman with an old fashioned clock winding key for a head, who is essentially an enslaved automaton factory worker. The story begins with the "Holy Mother Most High" requesting your presence; when you speak with her, she accuses you of slacking off in your work, and has you thrown in prison.

However, in your prison cell, you meet with a sentient, disembodied mouth referred to as "the Chatterteeth" who helps you escape. Now on the run from the evil corporate executives, you must make your way through a bizarre, corrupted world filled with danger, in a quest to regain both your freedom, and your humanity.

Gameplay is relatively simple; there are no shops in the game, so there is very a finite, set number of items that can be collected around the game world (they all look like sheets of paper being blown around). The protagonist can restore her and her allies' "Vim" and "Verve" ("health" and "mana", basically) by twisting her head key around. There are very few friendly creatures in the game; combat is turn based, with experience points earned from defeating monsters.

Early on in the game, you can acquire a party member to help you on your journey, a TV with legs named "Himmler". Later on, you will acquire a third party member; depending on whether you take the ferry or the train to the Rift, you will get a sentient worm named "Vermillis Maximus", or an animate sculpture named "Kharms". You can also find fleas scattered around the game world, which can be temporarily recruited as a fourth party member; after a seemingly random amount of time, they leave the party.

This game provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: All of the boss monsters that ask for your hand in marriage, which include a human heart with legs, and a giant tadpole.
  • After the End: It isn't clear if it was ever a "normal" place, but the protagonist's homeland has been utterly taken over, reduced to a twisted ruin of whatever it was before, and its citizens enslaved by an evil megacorporation.
    • Possibly the world as a whole was bigger than it was today even in it's current state, since the Rift is slowly eating away at it and by the end it does so entirely.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Genie has been confirmed to be female by Word of God.
  • Ambiguously Human: You meet a handful of humanoids, but never any actual humans in the game. It isn't clear if the protagonist herself truly is (or ever was) one, either.
  • Amnesiac Hero: The protagonist apparently has no memories of her life before her head was removed and replaced with the clock key. When she regains her human head, she regains all of those memories - but loses all of her memory from her time with the key.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: There's at least a dozen different monsters in the game who will insist you marry them as soon as you talk to them. Saying no leads to a fight. Saying yes causes a Time Skip as the screen slowly fills with babies, after which you get the option to sue for divorce, which allows you resume playing, but also causes you to level down due to years of inactivity. Opting out of divorce leads to a Non Standard Game Over. Exaggerated with one monster, who thinks you should marry him because you walked into his house unannounced...
  • Art Shift: Gingiva's art, while strange, has a consistent Victorian style. And then you enter The Rift...
  • Awful Wedded Life: You'll be treated to this, if you agree to marry any of the monsters who propose to you. Though, really, you should have seen that coming...
    Monster: Make me more offspring. Then sweep.
  • Attempted Rape: This is evidently why several of the monsters who want to marry you attack you if you refuse.
    Monster: In that case how about I destroy your innocence and leave you a mess for therapists to solve.
  • Babies Ever After: Sort of. If you actually decide to marry any of the boss monsters who propose to you in the game, you're treated to a dialogue about "many years passing in domestic bliss" as the screen slowly fills with babies. You get the option to sue for divorce and resume playing, though (but if you don't, you get a game over).
  • Beautiful Void: The Rift, which is essentially an unstable intradimensional realm between realms.
  • Berserk Button: The game's bosses aren't initially hostile. However, if you speak to them, they'll propose marriage to you, and refusing them leads to a fight.
  • Big Bad: The Magistrate.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Your main companions are killed by the Marquess (except for the Chatterteeth, who is able to escape on his own). However, you are able to avenge them, regain your human head, and finally escape to freedom.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Going hand in hand with the very surreal theme of the game, most characters in this game have very, very strange ways of thinking.
  • Body Horror: You were a human woman who was decapitated and had her head replaced with a clock winding device. Apparently, this is a standard procedure done to women in your homeland. Men, on the other hand, are rarely bornnote  at all, and those who are born normally are castrated.
  • Cats Are Mean: Averted with the snake cats, who are among the very few friendly creatures in the game.
  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": "Vim" is your health, "Verve" is essentially your mana.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Every single character in the game falls under this trope to some extent.
  • Citizenship Marriage: One monster asks to marry you so he can become a full citizen of the Rift.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The main antagonists are entirely made up of these, from your immediate boss Holy Mother Most High to the hired hands the Reptile Twins.
  • Dating Sim: The update upgrades the interactions with Gingiva's suitors to this; certain responses can give buffs to them if you choose to fight them.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    Genie: How about you break me out of my 'small' cage and I'll assist you in breaking out of your 'big' cage?
  • Demoted to Extra: Mr. Freedom is set up to be the Big Bad of Moments of Silence, but when that's canceled, he becomes one of the two bosses that can be fought to escape the Rift.
  • Determinator: The Marquess, and the Reptile Twins. You're just one factory slave, and there are plenty of others to replace you - but oh no, they're not going to just let you go.
  • Duel Boss: The final boss is a battle between Mr. Chatterteeth and Genie; like Off, you choose who to stick with.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Most creatures encountered in the game qualify; the Rift bosses Mr Freedom and the First-Person Shooter stand out in particular.
  • Eldritch Location: The Rift, naturally. It's also eating away at the world around it.
  • Emoticon: Mostly used to represent status effect in battle.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: There are a lot of monsters in this game. Most of them want to kill you.
  • Genius Loci: At a certain point in the game, the characters visit the center of The Rift, who has a face and speaks to them.
  • Green Aesop: The destruction of nature and the environment is mentioned quite a bit.
    Factory worker: We traded the forests for store receipts and toilet paper. Was it worth it?
  • Happily Married: While most of the bosses turn out to be abusive or domineering husbands, a handful of them actually do have a post-marriage line that is rather kind or loving (you still get a game over if you don't sue for divorce, though).
  • Hero of Another Story: The Nomad, who can randomly be seen wandering around in the Rift, though you can't interact with him in any way. He also makes an appearance at the end of the game, waiting with you at the bus stop.
  • I Have Many Names: Several characters have two different but similar names. For example, The Magistrate/The Marquess, Holy Mother Most High/Queen Mother Most High, and Reptile Twin and Twin Reptile/The Other and The One.
  • Informed Attractiveness: The protagonist is a woman with a clock winding key for a head. Every character who comments on her appearance believes she's ravishingly beautiful.
  • Killed Off for Real: All of the monsters in the game; they will never respawn after being defeated.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Chatterteeth styles himself as this.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: An early-game NPC has dialogue Lampshade Hanging the game's Invisible Grid and four-directional movement, which its predecessor Middens lacked.note 
    Why did the planet look like before fences? Was it truly free all around? Could you walk in the eight directions? It seems today that if you're not moving along a square grid you're trespassing somewhere.
  • Level Grinding: While increasing your level doesn't seem to have much effect on the amount of damage you deal to enemies, it does increase your health, which you will need in order to survive fighting many of the monsters you encounter later in the game.
  • Mad Love: Apparently, at least some of the monsters are genuinely in love with you, even though they try to kill you. After killing them, each has a unique, extremely emotional letter that automatically appears in your inventory.
  • Maybe Ever After: When the now fully human Gingiva meets the Nomad at the bus stop, it's implied that she falls in love with him. They're last seen boarding the bus together, which drives off as the end credits roll.
  • Mind Screw: Pretty much the whole premise of this game; it's a very bizarre and often confusing world, and the plot can be very difficult to follow. This was entirely intentional on the author's part.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Two monsters game, the Crab Dog and the Crab Man, definitely qualify. Other characters qualify to an extend as well - seemingly every monster in the game appears to made of a collage of various animals and objects.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: To get a bus seat.
  • Mutually Exclusive Party Members: Vermillis Maximus, who you will acquire if you take the ferry to the Rift, and Kharms, who you acquire if you take the train route.
  • Mysterious Past: It's explained that the protagonist was once a normal human girl who had a home with her parents. What happened to them, or why she was sent to the factory, is never revealed, except for the implication that they were killed by gunsnakes.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The factory that you escape from being forced to work in, which among other things, has dangerous conditions that have gotten many of your fellow laborers killed in the past, and also forces little girls to labor alongside adults.
  • Non-Human Head: Gingiva has a metal clock winding key replacing her head, though she wasn't born that way: they had to chop off her normal head and put on the key in its place.
  • Not Good with Rejection: When you refuse the monsters that want to marry you, they immediately try to kill you.
  • Not Quite Dead: In the Gingiva update, the Reptile Twins survive, and plan to commit a robbery due to their failure.
  • Not So Extinct: The factory's prison, a former wildlife sanctuary, is inhabited by the ghosts of apparently extinct creatures called "snake cats". However, deep in the Rift, you find that they are still very much alive, with one area containing a small population of them (they're very friendly, and also sentient).
  • Obsessive Love Letter: Each of the marriage proposing monsters has a unique one that appears in your inventory after killing them. Some are... very emotional, indeed.
  • Offing the Offspring: In the post-marriage screen, your own babies can actually attack you, and you are forced to kill them...
  • Optional Boss: You can actually skip out on fighting the Magistrate who is likely to be killed by the Rift anyway.
    • You can completely avoid fighting either the First-Person Shooter or Mr. Freedom in order to escape the Rift with the help of a teleportation service located within one of the Rift's areas.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: As was the case in Middens, just about every creature encountered in the game. Trying to actually describe most of the monsters will probably just give you a migraine.
  • Parental Abandonment: The protagonist was born to normal parents and raised by them for a time, but it's never clear what became of them.
    • One of the ending scenes implies they were killed by a gun-snake.
  • Purple Prose: In truckloads; it's part of why the dialogue and plot is so difficult to follow.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: The Nomad, who appears in the very last scene of the game.
    • He can occasionally be spotted wandering around in the Rift, though you cannot interact with him in any way.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Reptile Twins, with human bodies and fossil-like reptilian heads.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Your main companions, beside the Chatterteeth, in the endgame.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After failing to capture Gingiva and realizing that their insurance isn't going to cover the injuries sustained in the fight, the Reptile Twins decided to turn tail and leave rather than facing the punishment that most likely awaits them.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The OST has an ethereal, mystical feeling to it, which is quite fitting for the setting. The sole exception is the battle theme of the twin reptiles which is a fast-paced rendition of Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag.
  • Stealth Sequel: The game outwardly appears like a sequel to Middens. It's got a new main character, a more advanced world, and "gunsnake" enemies who appear to be more evolved versions of Genie. But flavor text heavily implies that the ominous void threatening to consume the world of Gingiva is in fact the Rift that Middens takes place within, and if you don't pick up on the breadcrumbs it'll probably stop you right in your tracks when a very not-yet-dead Genie shows up and joins your party, eagerly obliterating any gunsnakes you encounter from that point onward, proving that in fact she was the more evolved version of them. Furthermore, what appears to be an earlier version of the Nomad, Middens' protagonist, can be seen but not interacted with at multiple points in Gingiva's world as well as during the ending cutscene, implying Middens takes place directly after the Rift consumes this world. This all means Gingiva is most likelynote  a prequel.
  • Straw Misogynist: One of the boss monsters, whose name is "Patriarchy".
    Monster: I know my ABC's and I can count to three... marry me?
    You: I do not.
    Monster: Maybe I can mansplain the situation to you.
  • Time Abyss: The Rift.
  • Villainous Crush: All of the unique elite monsters in the game inexplicably fall in love with the protagonist at first sight.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Reptile Twins.
  • Void Between the Worlds: The Rift.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Marquess pulls this on the Holy Mother Most High after Gingiva manages to escape from the innermost rift. Calling the failure of the Mother at preventing this a total embarrassment, he decides that examples must be made... Starting with her.