Gemini RuePlatform: PC
Gemini Rue, formerly known as Boryokudan Rue, is a new PC game developed by Josh Nuernberger. Published and provided to me by Wadjet Eye Games and Dave Gilbert, Gemini Rue was a 2010 Independent Games Festival Student Showcase Winner. Nuernberger has created a wonderful point-and-click adventure game featuring a dark, sci-fi future.
The game's neo-noir narrative takes players through a grim future in which trust should be withheld and the Boryokudan crime syndicate controls the Gemini system. The story kept me at the edge of my seat through the entire game. In fact, not being able to talk about the game while playing my review copy was almost painful! Gemini Rue explores the themes of individuality, identity, ethics, loyalty, and what it means to truly be who you are.
Gemini Rue is absolutely gorgeous. As you can see in the screenshots included in the review, it has a retro-inspired look to it that adventure game fans should recognize. While not 3D or pushing anyone's graphics card to its limits, it's a stunning game that will leave most appreciators of retro game art with their mouths hanging open. Gemini Rue lets you explore beautifully detailed backdrops while discovering the truth of the world around you. You're given a closer look at the characters when their detailed portraits appear during dialogue. Throughout the game, small cutscenes play out that are fascinating to watch. Not only do they push the narrative forward, but they also set the mood using well-placed, beautiful scenic views.
In a lot of games I play, there isn't a lot to say about the sound. In this case, forgetting to talk about the sound would be leaving a large part of the review missing. The audio in Gemini Rue is amazing. The music always fits the action and story, reinforcing the desolate, dark atmosphere of the game. The sound effects are always clear and realistic, which helps the game feel more real and adds to the immersion. Voice-acting performances were done well. Even though Gemini Rue is an indie game, no corners were cut with the voice-acting. The lines are delivered in a natural way so they don't feel forced. I could tell the sound was going to be great and a major part of my enjoyment of the game by the first scene during which the characters' dialogue was delivered over the sound of Barracus' rainfall.
Gemini Rue has two main playable characters. One is Azriel Odin, a former assassin searching for an old friend in the Gemini system. The other is a man known simply as Delta-Six, a patient in a strange facility that wipes the minds of its inmates. The narrative switches between the two characters throughout the game. Sometimes this happens as preset times, but you can also manually switch characters. This can give you a nice break if you're stuck with one character. The stories seem far apart from each other, but the characters' stories slowly come together, culminating in a fantastic and satisfying ending.
As the genre, point-and-click adventure, suggests, you use your mouse to control the game, clicking on various objects to explore the game. Left-clicking causes the character to walk to that point. Right-clicking on certain objects in the scene brings up the action menu, allowing you to choose which action to perform on that spot from the four action-verbs and inventory items in your possession. Clicking the eye allows you to examine something. The hand has you interact with or pick up an object. Using the mouth will have you talk to the target. Selecting the foot causes you to kick the object. The kicking action is interesting because I don't recall seeing it any previous adventure games. While it's similar to the hand action, it gives players a second way to interact with the world, which can lead to more involved puzzles. Gemini Rue forces you to use this action very early in the game, making sure you incorporate this less familiar action into your repertoire. Also in the action menu are any inventory items you have. Selecting one will attempt to use it on the spot you originally right-clicked. Right-clicking on an inventory item causes you to examine it. Lastly, double-clicking in the scene will use whichever action was last used, allowing you to save time if, for example, you want to examine many different objects.
I have two small complaints about the control system. First, to examine an inventory item, you have to bring up the menu by right-clicking on a targetable object in the game. Note that you can't simply right-click anywhere. It seems strange that even though examining an object in my inventory has nothing to do with any item currently in the scene, I still have to choose one object in the scene arbitrarily to right-click on to be able to access my inventory menu. Another small complaint is that interacting with an object on the other side of the screen will sometimes cause the character to walk over to it and interact with it while other times will cause the character to say it's too far away. Why the discrepancy? It seems like saying it's too far away would be the best response if there's some puzzle blocking the path, so this might be a pathing bug. These faults are minor and do not detract very seriously from the enjoyment of the game.
Gemini Rue also contains action sequences featuring shooting. It uses a fun system that rewards being patient and intelligent rather than having fast reflexes. It's perfect for an adventure game and isn't overused. Whenever a shooting sequence starts, your character will automatically get into a cover position. Using 'a' and 'd' causes the character to lean out of cover to the left or right. Pressing 'space' shoots, 's' goes back into cover, 'r' reloads, and 'w' switches targets. Enemies will either shoot at your left or right out-of-cover positions. To successfully defeat enemies, you'll want to lean out of cover on the opposite side of where your adversary is aiming to shoot at him. Pressing 'control' while out of cover will bring up a slowly filling meter. When the meter reaches a sufficient height, successfully shooting an opponent will instantly kill him with a headshot. This is a gamble because you'll have to be out of cover for longer to wait for the meter to fill. Some people might not like action sequences in their normally slow-paced adventure games, but the characters in Gemini Rue will always get into cover automatically at the start and won't take damage while in cover. Because of this, the player never needs to worry about being caught unaware. Shooting adds a bit of variety to the game, and let's be honest: How could this neo-noir thriller be complete without some gunfights?
There are a few other scenes in the game that require gameplay other than normal point-and-click. Interacting with certain boxes allows you to push them around, 'a' and 'd' used to move them left and right, 'w' used to climb on top, and 's' used to climb back down. Also, there are occasional puzzles regarding getting a computer or machine to do what you need it to do. These never distract from the story or take very long. They fit very well with the rest of Gemini Rue and, more importantly, would detract from the game if missing.
One aspect of the game is interacting with the environment - finding items you need and figuring out where to use them. You'll also need to gather information, sometimes from notes found lying around or computer terminals. You need to think about what you know and what you need to know to reach that satisfying moment where the puzzle suddenly clicks in your head. You'll also need to get a lot of information from other characters in the game. Dialogues have multiple choices that can lead to the same positive result, giving players more than one way to solve a dialogue puzzle. The dialogue is fascinating and continually adds to the narrative. No character feels needless or like filler content. In fact, Nuernberger does a fantastic job of making sure every scene, character, and bit of dialogue exists for a reason and continues to progress the narrative and enjoyment of the game.
Let's get this out of the way: I love Gemini Rue. The narrative was gripping, friendly characters were likable, and supporting characters all seemed like they belonged in the world and evoked the correct emotional response. The dark, rain drenched neo-noir setting is perfect for the story being told. Scenes were beautiful, the music fit superbly, the voice-acting was believable, and the sound effects were realistic. Is a person simply the sum of all experiences and outside input or is there more to a person? Gemini Rue explores identity, ethics, and even free will. Like all great pieces of fiction, which Gemini Rue definitely is, it'll leave you contemplating the questions it poses even if it doesn't offer a concrete answer. Gemini Rue is available for purchase and download at WadjetEyeGames.com for $14.99, a very low price for what is now one of my favorite games. For those of you who are still unsure, there's a demo available on that site as well. If you're an adventure game fan or simply like the themes, setting, and story presented, you owe it to yourself to look into Gemini Rue!