Gemini Rue is from a gameplay point of view a classic adventure game. You control a protagonist by selecting objects of interest with the mouse and have the option to interact with them by choosing to look at them, do something with your hands, talk to them or do something with your foot. The puzzles weren’t frustrating, but also not so easy that one could just click their way through the game without having to stop and think every once in a while. I was never primarily into the puzzling aspect of point-and-click adventures to be honest, but the puzzles of Gemini Rue were enjoyable and felt like they fit in very well, enriching the experience. Only twice did I feel like I was stuck because of a puzzle not very well integrated rather than my lack of wit. After looking at the hints (over the years, I’ve learned to keep my self-discipline at a good degree when using walkthroughs for adventure games) for both puzzles I had to admit that I simply hadn’t given enough thought for an alternative approach.
So, the puzzles are good. That’s great! But what about the other departments? When looking at screenshots, the first thing people often get impressed by is the pixel-art style, making the game look as if it was actually developed by LucasArts in the first half of the 90′s and been lost until today. Yes, the art is very pretty. But there is much more to it than simple retro-charm. While I’m not sure if creator Joshua Nuernberger just didn’t have the resources to make high-res background and character art (which I doubt), I think that using pixel-art for a game in this day and age is a conscious decision of artistic vision rather than necessity.
The low-detail visual art of Gemini Rue has a similar effect as the painting style of impressionists such as Valery Rybakow. While the single strokes/pixels don’t say much, the power of all pixels/strokes together communicate the dark gritty noir atmosphere that the game is going to great effect.
But the visuals are only part of the experience. Gemini Rue’s soundtrack created by Nathan Allen Pinard is amazing and combined with the visual art style, the game can give you the goosebumps you haven’t had with the latest AAA titles. The sparingly used piano music is just perfect, used at the right moments to be as effective as possible. At some parts in the game, music isn’t needed and the sound effects of closing doors, moving elevators or the rain in Barracus bring the beauty you see on screen to life. Especially the sound of the rain is so well done. When outside, it pours loudly, giving you a feel of the the discomfort Azriel Odin, the main character, has when standing outside. But when going indoors, suddenly the rain drops sound muffled and far away, just like it would in real life. This attention to detail is what wins over players hearts, and it serves to ground the game’s feel with a strong sense of realism, even though it’s a work of fiction.
The voice acting is very very good and nails the personality of the various characters almost all the time. Sometimes it feels a little over the top (Azriel at times and Balder), but even that could be seen as a plus.
The credit for the high quality of the voice acting goes to Wadjet Eye Games, who have had experience in the field with other Adventure Game Engine (AGS) games in the past (for example the Blackwell Games).
So what about the story? I’m going to discuss the plot and its themes at greater length soon, but if you don’t want to be spoiled, just know this: Gemini Rue does not have a conventional hero-saves-world story. It’s a thriller and the complexity of the plot is on par with that of any thriller movie of the past and present. If you can appreciate a well-woven plot, then you won’t be disappointed.
Azriel Odin is an ex-assassin trying to save his brother from the Boryokudan, an intergalactic mafia. He discovers that his brother was sent to Center 7, but only rumors are known about the place. At the same time, the player plays the second protagonist Delta-Six, a prisoner/patient in the mental facility that is Center 7. The place wipes the memories of their patients and trains them to become criminals, giving them completely new identities. The original purpose of the facility and its research was to take criminals and turn them into law-abiding citizens (which is by itself already immoral IMO), but has been corrupted by the Boryokudan. The entire universe in which Gemini Rue plays is a run-down world ruled crime and ruined by war, where the mafia has the power, people are drug-addicts and those who seek justice met with accusations of naivety. On the search for his brother Azriel picks up his old friend Matthius Howard, a young lady called Sayuri, all the while working together with his new partner Kane Harris.
Delta-Six on the other hand must deal with the prison that is Center 7, work through combat training to earn his food tickets and get to know the other prisoners who tell him that he tried to escape and had his memory wiped. Again. He eventually works out a way to escape the facility, together with fellow in-mates Epsilon-Five and Giselle who are both female. He also ends up having to fight against Balder, a jealous and slightly-mad inmate who apparently was humiliated by Delta-Six and who tries at one point to murder him. The escape goes awry and only Epsilon-Five escaping, with Giselle killed in the process and Delta-Six brought back into the training program, getting his memory wiped again.
After the two thirds of the game it becomes evident that Sayuri, the mysterious girl from Barracus is in fact Epsilon-Five, and her goal in going back to Center 7 is to free Delta-Six. The twist that had me shit my pants was that then it turned out that Azriel is actually Delta-Six, that the two parallel stories weren’t taking place at the same time (an assumption I made because of films, books and games in the past who’ve all worked their non-linear narrative that way), but that one was actually a prologue for the other all along. One of the most elegant ways to structure a narrative I’ve ever seen. Not just in video games, but in storytelling media as a whole.
So Azriel got his memory wiped after Sayuri’s escape, a new face and new identity, thus turning the whole subplot of finding his non-existent brother into a farce. The “evil” doctor explaining to him that this memory of finding his brother was a safety mechanism which was triggered when he quit the Boryokudan to work as a cop. After all, he was sold to them to work as an assassin. He became a broken product, which must be returned to the manufacturer. The mission of finding his brother was that safety mechanism. The game concludes with Azriel/Delta-Six and Sayuri managing to escape the trap set for them, killing the evil doctor and destroying Center 7.
There are some very philosophical themes discussed in the game. Who are you when your memories, your life experiences are taken away from you? Is there something in a human that defines who they are apart from these things and which cannot be taken away? The game seems to answer this question with a yes.
The characters were very well written and each had a fleshed-out personality. While they weren’t THE most complex personalities you’ve ever seen in a work of fiction, they were done well enough to pull you into the events happening around them, giving you somebody to root for and against. It can only be a compliment rather than criticism that I felt like I wanted to know more than what was provided about these characters and the world they live in. I can easily see another game settled in this universe.
So to conclude this happy review, I want to thank Mr. Nuernberger for creating a game that takes its audience seriously and with respect. This is a mature game in the most positive sense of the word. A BIG recommendation!Share Share