Story (4 out of 5)
Gemini Rue is set in the future, in a galaxy known as Gemini. Most of the galaxy is controlled by a crime syndicate called the Boryokudan. The story of the game centers around this crime syndicate and the way the two primary characters interact with them. The settings, characters, and the atmosphere of the game are all extremely evocative of film noir motifs, and more specifically, of science fiction noir, sometimes known as neo-noir.
The game intentionally holds back information about characters and their pasts so that it can reveal them piece by piece as the player advances. This makes the story a little cheesy and heavy-handed at times, but it seems almost intentional when it is. It demonstrates a real love for film noir, and noir has never been an art of subtlety. Even the plot twists that are predictable are well-written and fun, and some of the plot twists are genuinely hard to predict. It may not be the most original storyline I've ever come across, but it shows some real talent for writing and storytelling, with a delivery of those elements that always remains interesting.
Characters (3 out of 5)
The game centers around the two playable characters, Azrael Odin, and Delta Six. Azrael is a former member of the Boryokudan crime syndicate. He spent years as an assassin before finally having a change of heart and turning on the syndicate. He now works with the police and helps other defectors to get away from the syndicate. The story begins with Azrael attempting to rescue one such defector from the Boryokudan, none other than his brother. Having spent most of his life as an assassin, he doesn't exactly have a lot of people he's close to in his life, so helping his brother to get away and make something better of his life is incredibly important to him.
Delta Six is a patient in a hospital. We meet him after he's had his memory completely erased by the mysterious director of the hospital. They perform memory wipes on the patients after any escape attempts. Apparently, the hospital is a rehabilitation center, where former criminals are able to be returned to society as productive, law abiding citizens upon completion of their rehabilitation. Something more sinister appears to be going on under the surface, however, and it's up to Delta Six to uncover it, even as he struggles to cope with the complete erasure of his memory.
Graphics And Audio (4 out of 5)
In terms of high-tech graphical prowess, if you're expecting a lot from Gemini Rue, you should look elsewhere. That's not what this game is, but that's not what it's trying to be either. It's much worse to attempt to be a graphical powerhouse and fail than to attempt a simple graphical look and succeed. Gemini Rue is a sprite-based game and the backgrounds are static images. It's simple, but it does simple very well. The backgrounds are hand-painted, which, coupled with the film noir art style they evoke, does a great deal to help with the atmosphere of the game.
The music in Gemini Rue is excellent as well. It's dark and moody and sets the tone perfectly in every environment. All dialogue in the game is also voiced, and the voice acting, with the exception of a couple of the minor characters, is done incredibly well. The game isn't going to tax the technical limitations of anyone's PC, but it does an excellent job of using its simple audio and visual effects to set the mood of the game in every situation. Indie games are definitely on the rise, but still, the audio and visual here are delivered to a higher quality standard than I expected from an indie title.
Gameplay (4 out of 5)
The gameplay in Gemini Rue is a throwback to some of the great retro point and click adventure games. Games like Myst, King's Quest, or a plethora of others that built the genre. Control alternates between Azrael and Delta Six, and as either character, you'll travel through the world by clicking where you want to move to and by clicking on the objects you wish to interact with. You'll talk to people, collect items, and use those items in creative ways to solve puzzles scattered throughout the world, which will advance your progress and open up new areas and new puzzles that you have to come up with even more creative solutions to.
There are combat sequences scattered throughout the game between puzzles as well, where you're suddenly forced to use the keyboard to duck in and out of cover and shoot enemies who are chasing you. This is awkward and jarring, and really has no place in an adventure game. The combat itself, besides being a strange switch in focus, is also not implemented very well. Ultimately it just isn't very fun. Luckily, combat difficulty can be toggled down to easy from the default normal setting, which makes it less of an intrusion because it becomes so simple.
The game world is well-designed and intricate, and the puzzles are fantastic. If things stopped there like they really ought to, the gameplay would be pitch-perfect. The fact that it insists on interrupting you with uninspired combat every so often drags it down a bit, but because the combat sequences can be rendered almost irrelevant by lowering their difficulty, the gameplay in Gemini Rue is, overall, still an overwhelming success.
Solving Puzzles in Gemini Rue
When you choose to interact with something in the game world, it will give you four options to choose from. These are foot, mouth, hand, and eye. Foot kicks things or steps on them, mouth speaks with people, hand is the basic use/take command, and eye examines objects. Use/Look/Talk are really the standards for adventure gaming, whether in point and click adventure games or newer ones, so the foot icon makes for an interesting and unique addition in the puzzles where it's called for. Underneath these four buttons it will also load your inventory on screen, and you can choose to use an item you're carrying with the object you clicked on by dragging the item from your inventory.
Additionally, you will sometimes travel with a friendly NPC character, and you can ask them to help you with things that you can't achieve alone by clicking on them and using them, with the hand button, like an item. After clicking on them, you simply click on an object in the game world that you want them to interact with. Overall, this is classic adventure gaming, but the helpful NPCS make a clever addition to an otherwise well-established formula. The puzzles are very clever, and many of them are difficult to figure out. Occasionally the game offers fewer hints than it perhaps ought to, but mostly the puzzles follow a pretty reasonable progression of logic, so that's not a problem often.
Controls And Interface (3 out of 5)
The controls are pretty straightforward in Gemini Rue, just as they are in all point and click adventure games. Which is to say that you point at things and then you click. The game will highlight items you can use when you hover over them, so it's easy to tell what you should try clicking on.
While the combat sequences may not be the game's best moments, they are at least easy to control. You use the WASD keys to move in and out of cover, and the spacebar to shoot. You can also use the shift key to assist in aiming, and if you're a bad shot, you'll have to use the R key to reload. All of this stays in the corner of the screen every time you're in combat, so with that reference, controls are never an issue here.
The inventory presents the biggest problem with the interface. The only way to bring it up on screen is to interact with something in the world. So if you want to examine something, you need to pretend that you want to do something with the first object you see, just so you can look at the items you're carrying. In a game where your inventory is so important, this is a pretty big oversight.
Each of the game's settings can also be a little difficult to navigate at first due to a lack of map or any real instruction as to a direction you should travel in. Once you learn your way around an area it works out, but this is one of those problems that could have been solved easily and wasn't. Still, with the exception of those complaints, the controls in Gemini Rue and the interface work pretty well.
Overall (4 out of 5)
Overall, if you're a fan of adventure games at all, Gemini Rue is worth a closer look. The game succeeds hands-down at providing a challenging adventure game experience with clever, difficult to solve puzzles. Whether you're used to playing the old-school style point and click adventure games that Gemini Rue is following directly or you've only played the newer adventure games with 3D graphics and mouse-based controls, adventure games are all, ultimately, cut from the same cloth. Collecting items and using them together in strange ways to solve puzzles is at the heart of games like this, and this game does an excellent job with that.
Also, with its film noir art style and it's moody atmosphere, if you're a fan of science fiction or film noir, it'll appeal to those sensibilities in you. Between the well composed music, great voice acting, and a well-written story, so for anyone that's a fan of the genre, it delivers a pretty solid experience on that front as well, reminiscent of films like Blade Runner, or even something more contemporary such as Gattaca.
Source for all information: Author's own experience.
Screenshots and images from Gemini Rue's product page, https://www.wadjeteyegames.com/geminirue.htm
Gemini Rue is available to purchase through Wadjet Eye Games for 14.99, or 24.99 for the Limited Edition version.