Published on January 17th, 2014 | by Travis Fahs0
Gemini Rue Review
Since their decline from mainstream popularity, adventure games have found themselves settling into a nostalgia niche. Despite this, there’s a sense that the genre’s ability to tell the sorts of character-driven stories that other types of games struggle with could give them wider appeal. Games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead have managed to penetrate the mainstream market, but at the cost of some of the fundamentals that adventure gamers hold dear. Gemini Rue walks the line between nostalgic adventure and accessible interactive story capably, by adjusting its design rather than its conventions.
Developed primarily by solo dev Josh Nuernberger, it’s undeniably retro in its presentation. The first thing you’ll notice are the chunky, low-res pixel art that evokes classics like Beneath a Steel Sky. It won’t win any beauty contests, but it’s a credible imitation of the genre’s ‘90s heyday that looks no better or worse than most games back then.
Gemini Rue tells two parallel intersecting stories set in a futuristic cyberpunk world. One is the story of Azrael, a detective searching for an old friend in a grimy urban wasteland run by organized crime. It’s as much hard-boiled detective fiction as it is Blade Runner. The second story follows Delta-Six, a test subject who has undergone multiple memory erasures and needs to rediscover his past. The bright white lights of the test facility make for a nice contrast to the rainy, gloomy exteriors of Azrael’s adventure.
After the early part of the game, you can swap between these two stories, although they don’t intersect until late in the game. This might seem pointless, but it’s not. In adventure games, it’s often necessary to take a break in order to think of a new way around a problem, and this gives you a way to set your own pace and break up the two stories.
Of course you won’t be getting stuck very often, since Gemini Rue is very easy, by typical adventure game standards. There’s no combining inventory items or setting up elaborate multi-part solutions to Rube Goldberg puzzles. Instead, all the puzzles are logical and mostly obvious, with items generally near to place they’re needed. Conversations can yield multiple results, which sometimes changes the way you’ll have to approach problems, but you seldom have to venture far.
Despite this, it still plays like a real adventure. There’s a four-verb system that works much like the one in Curse of Monkey Island and Full Throttle, as well as a host of inventory items. This all translates beautifully to the touch-based interface. Simply tap on an object and your verbs and items will pop up. A second tap on one of these will allow you to interact. You can also hold a finger on the screen to highlight all interactive objects.
Gemini Rue is a substantial game, larger than many classic adventures, but it never overstays its welcome, thanks to its surprising and excellent story that builds to a satisfying climax. Its length is only shortened by its relatively low difficulty, but this too is not necessarily a bad thing. Despite its old-school appearance, this is a game that anyone looking for a good story should strongly consider.
Is it hardcore?
Summary: Don’t let the old-school appearance fool you, Gemini Rue tells an original story with precious little of the adventure genre’s usual frustrations.