Gemini Rue



Genre:   Adventure

Developer:  Joshua Nuernberger

Publisher:    Wadjet Eye

Released:  February 2011

Additional Screenshots





by flotsam


A tad Blade Runner, a touch In Cold Blood, with inklings of Beneath a Steel Sky. Soak it in soggy noir, throw in some TV Dollhouse and then retro the whole thing up, and you get Gemini Rue.

An Independent Game Festival Student Showcase winner, Gemini Rue is old-fashioned point and click, blocky pixels and all, but very stylishly done. Pixels were rarely quite this good; the hand painted backdrops and exceptional musical score, the little pop-up headshots of the speaking character, and confined perspectives that fit the context (e.g., a small prison cell is portrayed in a single constricted panel) all create a gaming environment that is a pleasure to splash around in. Some scenes are rather beautiful, and the feel of Barracus in particular is well crafted.

Barracus is a bleak world, and the sort of place you would expect to find Azriel Odin, a once-was assassin, now on a redemptive mission and looking for his brother. Azriel’s past is chasing him – you don’t get to walk out on the Boryokudan – but a shady past is a mixed blessing.

Delta Six is somewhere else, with no past whatsoever. That has been taken, and whoever he is or will be seems to be part of his training and conditioning. He wants to escape, before he is forever nobody.

It is the story of these two men around which the tale of Gemini Rue is woven, and it’s a good one. I thought it was extremely well written, allowing some elements to just “be” without explaining them in any detail. Barracus is a world of drugs and squalor, the Boryokudan control everyday life, and an interstellar war has left its mark – you just take these things as you find them. They don’t need explaining, which means that, while there is quite a bit of dialogue, it doesn’t get overwhelmed by large chunks of exposition about every aspect of the story. That’s not to say there isn’t any, just that it doesn’t dominate, and tends to focus on the truly necessary as opposed to the background detail.

The plot itself satisfyingly mixes grim sci-fi with gumshoe noir, very much like Blade Runner did, and contains enough intrigue, pathos and deeper meaning to stand out from the many more mundane adventure scripts. It is generally rather subtle in its telling, helped by believably voiced characters. Azriel stands out and, of the more central characters, only Balder disappointed me.

“This is the only consciousness I have”

The telling of Gemini Rue flits back and forth between the trials of Azriel and Delta Six, and you play each of those characters. In the middle chapters you get to alternate between them at will, but for the most part the game determines whose story you are playing. The two storylines slowly converge, and culminate in one of the more satisfying endings I have experienced. Endings can be terribly disappointing; this one wasn’t.

There are a couple of out-and-out puzzles, but it's situational puzzles that dominate. Like many such games, I occasionally had to resort to trying everything with everything, or aimlessly wander around hoping to stumble on something that would advance the game. But not often. For the most part I felt I had an objective, the way to which could be nutted out. Some of the nutting offered a greater challenge, but I was pleased overall with the balance. Only once did I howl in frustration.

Actually, I howled more than once, but it was at the same part of the environment.

There are some action sequences in Gemini Rue, and it was one of those that gave voice to the howl. Not because I don’t like such things, but because the controls were unsuited to the solutions. The characters did not respond as they normally would, numerous clickings being needed to propel them forward, and then a lag in response time meant the very small window for throwing a switch was almost sheer luck as opposed to timing.

The situation was also extremely contrived. Allowing for a sci-fi futuristic setting, most aspects are explicable. However two giant cylinders pounding up and down in a room, and under which you have to manoeuvre, smacks of filler. Or at least it does in a game where just about everything else is so well designed.

Finally, other action sequences – notably the gunfights – can be skipped by a key stroke command. If you don’t like them, even though they aren’t terribly difficult, just bypass them. Not so with the stomping room. You have to do it, and more than once.

For me, the sequences in this room were a big dud, so much so that they dragged down the overall rating. I expect it may well have the same impact on others. It was, though, the only true downside.

“The dead don’t talk to the living”

The rest wasn’t perfect – there are some very small pixels to find, in some places a character would say something like “I am too far away to do that” if you wanted him to interact with a door – though on most occasions he would just march over there and do it. But these were minor things, and did not detract from the enjoyment.

Everything is point and click, and you use an “old skool” verb system to interact with the game world – push, look, speak and so on – accessed by a right mouse click. There are only four verb icons, but they react differently depending on the context (the foot, for instance, might kick or climb). It will be familiar to many longtime gamers, and is easy enough for newbies to jump right in.

You get little tutorials for the gunfights, woven into the story as part of Delta Six’s reconditioning training. You can choose easy or medium for the combat from the options menu (I played on medium and it was still quite mild), and there isn’t much of it in any event. There are some timed sequences, but failure (or death by gunshot) will simply return you to the start of the event and let you try again.

You can turn the little pop-up portraits of the speaking character off if you wish, you can play with voice, or text, or both, and you can turn a director's commentary on. The game recommends you play through once without it, which I did, but I will certainly play it again with the commentary.

Truth be known, I would probably play it again anyway. Gemini Rue does most things very right, and will appeal strongly to fans of these old style games, and anyone who likes an interesting and well told tale. If only there weren’t those cylinders!


I played on:

OS: Win XP Professional SP3

Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz

Ram: 4.00GB DDR2 400MHz

Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb

Gemini Rue can be purchased from the Wadjet Eye website.


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