Developer: WadjetEye Games
We've been champing at the bit ever since Gemini Rue made its debut at last year's Eurogamer Expo. Sci-Fi adventure games are a rarity these days, and Joshua Nuernberger's Wadjet Eye Games looked to be onto an absolute blinder. Assuming the role of hard-bitten cop Azriel, you'll search the seedy underbelly of Gemini Rue for your missing brother well as helping the amnesiac Delta Six escape from a sinister research facility. The premise is as exciting as it sounds, and we're delighted to report that Gemini Rue manages to deliver on its hefty promises.
As a point and click adventure, Gemini Rue functions exactly how you'd expect, but with a host of streamlined features that removes much of the traditional grind and non-sequiteurs that tend to dominate the genre. Right-clicking on an object brings up a context panel displaying hands, eyes, mouth and feet- providing clear methods of interacting with any given object. A communicator allows players to keep tabs on contacts and leads as well as to make the occasional call for help. Some items can be manipulated directly using the arrow keys, providing access to higher platforms or ways to circumvent otherwise-impassable obstacles. Bar a few awkward interactions with doors and screen transitions, the mechanics work extremely well.
Unlike many adventure games, Gemini Rue throws the tired old random object-combining puzzles out of the window. Progression is based on common sense and good old fashioned detective work as opposed to randomly clicking around a glutted inventory screen in the vain hope that two items can be arbitrarily mashed together. This means that players are rewarded for immersing themselves in the game world and the character's mindset- which is exactly what adventure games ultimately strive to achieve.
Partway through the story, Azriel's search for his brother and Delta 6's story are run concurrently with each other. The two characters and locations can be instantly switched between by clicking an onscreen icon, meaning that there's always something to keep players occupied. Both storylines are interlinked and progress in profoundly interesting ways.
In terms of tone, art style and storyline, Gemini Rue feels like a heady mix of Blade Runner and seminal anime Cowboy Bebop. The universe feels gritty, solid and 'lived-in' without being overly cliched. There are plenty of respectful nods to the source material that will make established fans crack a smile, including a hilarious easter egg involving Bebop's androgynous hacker Ed and super-hound Ein. The art design is absolutely top notch.
Painstakingly-crafted sprite visuals are easy on the eyes and also require little in the way of system resources, making Gemini Rue a fantastic option for laptops or netbooks. The full voice acting is also fairly impressive (especially considering the sheer number of observations that Azriel can make on scenery items and objects), though bit characters frequently aren't voiced to anywhere near the same standard. Luckily the script is strong enough to carry it off.
The only major problem with Gemini Rue is the combat, which is never the crown jewel of any adventure game. Once engaged, you'll need to lean out of cover and shoot enemies using a clunky and awkward selection of keys. A headshot timer also doesn't manage to make the experience feel immediate or tense in any way. Thankfully combat scenes are few and far between, and escaping overwhelming odds by participating in excellent timed puzzles puts the focus on common sense decision-making once again.
- Strong storyline
- Puts the emphasis on detective work and common sense
- Attractive resource-friendly visuals
- Some awkward transitions/interactions
- Combat is fairly ropey
- Inconsistent voice acting
The Short Version: Gemini Rue is a moody and meaty yarn that feels like a forgotten classic from yesteryear. Streamlined controls and clever puzzles make it suitable for old-school adventuring fans and newcomers alike. Highly recommended.