Gemini Rue review

Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking: “What’s with all these Battlefield articles?!  The singleplayer story was terrible, I need something to wash the taste away but I’ve only got under a tenner to spend on a new game!  Plus I only class a game as being ‘new’ when it’s released on Steam even though it might have been out for months already.  And on an unrelated topic, why in the great Adventure game renaissance has nobody done something like the Blade Runner game?  That game was amazing!”

My, you do jump around a bit, don’t you!?  Never fear, I understand completely and have the perfect answer to all of your thought questions: Gemini Rue.

Like squinting at Blade Runner

So what is it?  Gemini Rue is a point and click adventure set in a sci-fi, future noir universe.  The game starts you off in control of Azriel Odin, a trenchcoated cop trying to pick up the trail of his missing brother in a rundown city on a planet afflicted with perpetual rain.  The Blade Runner reference is apt with the film’s dystopian style having obvious influences on the look and atmosphere of the game, there are even direct references to the photo analysing Esper machines later in the game and the story covers similar existential themes of memory and identity.  What is so remarkable is how well the game captures that atmosphere using the modest resources of the AGS engine.  It’s clear the game’s creator, Joshua Neurnberger, is a master of this sort of pixel art, and the subtle movement of the rain, characters and background vehicles really add life to the still backgrounds.

The game doesn’t all take place in the rain, though.  Half of your time is spent controlling ‘Delta-Six’, the nameless inmate of an offworld medical facility.  Between completing daily tasks for the unseen ‘Director’, and dealing with his relationships with the other inmates, you help Delta-Six construct an escape plan to get off the sinister prison-like station.

The opening scene is clearly set in my dentist's

The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has spent much time with a point and click adventure, with left-click moving your character to wherever you are pointing on the screen, and a right click bringing up a neat menu of interaction options (Eye, Hand, Mouth or Foot) and your inventory.  This is very much a point and click adventure game and not a puzzle game, though.  While there are ‘puzzles’ to solve these are usually pleasingly obvious to bypass after a moments head scratching, and are usually only served up one at a time so you know that pipe you just picked up is probably going to be the thing you need to use to get in that balcony window you’re about to try and enter.  Whilst important items are occasionally hard to distinguish from the pixellated background, the puzzles are generally simple and satisfying to complete without a lot of trudging about to carry out their solution (with one annoying exception).

All that means you can get on with playing through the superb story.  The plot moves at a satisfying pace, with action sequences (yes, action sequences in and adventure game!) breaking up the investigation/escape plan hatching, and genuine twists and turns keeping you guessing until the end.  Planetside there’s a real feeling of playing cat and mouse with the local Boryokudan crime syndicate, with your character flipping from cat to mouse and back again with each bit of plot exposition, and in the cold, bleached confines of the Centre 7 correctional facility the infinitely oppressed Delta-Six slowly takes control back from his oppressors both within and outside the prison population.   It is the best story I’ve played through in a long while, it really is the sort of thing you don’t expect to see in a video game, let alone an indie-title on a shoe-string budget.

Azriel's plot arc summarised perfectly

The only issues with the game are brought on by that small budget.  Locations are reused heavily, and there aren’t any of the branching narrative options that its inspiration so brilliantly included.  The mostly fine voice acting is also let down by awkward pauses between one person speaking and the other, and the characters are strictly limited in their interactions with the world with only plot-specific objects, people and doors rewarding adventurous clicking.  That said there is a raft of appropriate comments from Azriel and Delta-Six when you click on inappropriate items, my favourite being when you try to ‘use’ a top floor window Azriel objects “I’m not THAT desperate” in his deep, noirish drawl.

At roughly 5 hours in length you get enough for what you pay for, and I would urge you to at least try the demo and see if you can resist paying up to continue the story to its excellent, twisty conclusion.  It’s a pleasure to play a well-written, atmospheric and serious adventure game and I can only hope Gemini Rue’s introduction to the Steam library gets it the sales needed to spawn a sequel and more of this sort of thing.

8/10

Even blander than my work canteen