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
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
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
“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
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 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
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
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
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
can be purchased from the
Wadjet Eye website.
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