There’s something to be said for a genre, long thought to be be dead, that has enjoyed a fresh new vigor. Telltale Games and a handful of independent developers have kept the concept and design of the adventure game alive by developing games that place a higher emphasis on telling great stories. Developer Wadjet Eye drew inspiration from Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” to create Gemini Rue, a point and click adventure game rich with atmosphere and foreboding. Originally released on PC in 2011, the game has been adapted for the iOS, a platform that is a perfect fit for this style of game (see Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars). Combining time-tested gameplay and a strong flair for the neo-noir, Gemini Rue is an essential addition to the catalog of modern adventure games.
Gemini Rue is the story of redemption and self discovery. After sneaking into the New Pittsburgh colony of the Gemini System, Azriel Odin seeks out a contact in order to track down the whereabouts of his brother. What he finds is a city economically ravaged by war and a local crime syndicate, the Boryokudan, has filled the political power vacuum, carrying widespread influence by flooding the streets with an addictive drug colloquially known as “Juice.” Charlie, also known after his designation Delta-Six, is an amnesiac contained inside a secret facility specializing in “rehabilitating” inmates using a bizarre program involving memory wipes and questionable training practices. At the start of the game, Charlie is confused about his surroundings and finds himself staring at faces that know more about him than he does. When an inmate reminds Charlie that he was in the process of developing an escape plan before his memory was wiped, he opts to assist with the breakout while struggling to pick up the pieces of his former life.
Gemini Rue benefits from the genre’s simplicity. To advance the narrative, the player will use Azriel and Charlie to interact with the environment and talk to people in order to solve puzzles of varying logical difficulty. Given the serious tone of the work, players won’t have to make Monkey Island-style leaps of logic in order to complete the tasks set before them. The game doesn’t offer the wide variety of locations typical of boxed retail adventure games which means there is a fair amount of backtracking to be done in order to pass over puzzle hurdles.
The game eschews the traditional point and click nature of the genre by including combat sequences in the form of rudimentary cover based shooting. At certain parts of the story, Azriel and Charlie will have no choice but to engage gun toting thugs. The action plays out like a side scrolling version of Time Crisis as a series of onscreen prompts will bring the character in and out of cover and change firing position as enemies will target either the right or left side of your cover. Although enemies take more than a few bullets to take down, one shot/one kill headshots can be performed by pressing a button to initiate a meter (in game, this is the action of holding your breath to steady aim). Once the meter hits green, firing a shot usually results in an instant kill. Headshots are risk/reward because the player is vulnerable to enemy fire while waiting for the meter to fill up. Combat isn’t especially difficult in Gemini Rue and firing off headshots is a quick way to get through these sections. As with Sierra adventure games, death waits for the unfocused. The game does a great job of autosaving just before major set pieces but it pays to save the game often. Outside of the gun battles, if the player isn’t fast enough to react in certain situations (say, evading pursuers) the result is game over. Getting through these tense moments requires some trial and error or, at the very least, a walkthrough.
Gemini Rue is solidly built and feels like a well produced product from a far off time. However, there is a curious design flaw that comes up when controlling Charlie. As Azriel, picking up objects and opening doors is accomplished by tapping a command verb and his distance to that object is not applicable in any way (you can tell him to pick up a rock, for example, from the opposite side of the room and he will walk over there to do it). As Charlie, however, you are required to stand directly in front of an object in order to interact with it. For example, I can’t tap the command verb for Charlie to turn a valve from across the room, he’s got to be standing near it. What, I ask, is the meaning for this? It’s as if both sections were designed by different people. This may not sound like much but it sticks out like a sore thumb. The game also suffers from moments of verb confusion. I wouldn’t necessarily know to use the Boot icon to climb up a crate or scale a wall, instead I would be more inclined to use the “Hand” (use) verb action.
Gemini Rue hearkens back to a moment in history when adventure games were king and despite the graphical limitations, they were able to tell stories far richer than any Hollywood film. Gemini Rue successfully recreates that spirit, right down to the dated, yet beautiful, graphics. Though wildly different, Azriel and Charlie’s arenas are substantially atmospheric as New Pittsburgh is a dark, gloomy world suffering from perpetual rainfall and the secret rehabilitation center is cold, sterile and frightening in its autonomy. Those with any love for the genre should play Gemini Rue for the story and to delight in the nostalgia of a simpler time before eye-popping HD graphics, light bloom and the Unreal Engine.