Review – Gemini Rue

Review Gemini Rue
Prior to technology enabling us to connect with the world while ignoring everything immediately around us, the blinking lights of evolving machinery offered means for introspection – specifically a fresh perspective on a very old worry keeping us up late into a long night called existence.

Theoretical speculation on ideas of artificial intelligence and memory constructs allowed us the chance to chew on the question of human identity with fresh vigor, externalizing that oldest of mysteries to question who we are as individual grains caught up in the dust-storm of civilization.

Pro-tip – if you tend to worry about your identity while feeling that society marches around in circles with no particular direction in mind, you’re probably a replicant.

However, since Gemini Rue isn’t about a tortoise laying on its back in need of your help while its belly bakes in the hot sun, we should probably move along.


Review Gemini Rue
Gemini Rue inspires a desire to reference countless properties that betray my affinity for what we attempt to bind with a shaky genre label, grabbing for words like neo, noir, sci-fi, slipstream, turtlewax – from the writings of Philip K. Dick and the seminal film Blade Runner, to existing videogames like Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher and still more film titles such as Dark City, eXistenZ, and well, the list goes on to spiral down the staircase and around the corner for coffee.

More to the point, Gemini Rue slides into the now well worn skin these works have stretched, to do what such works do best, to ask us to think harder. And while Gemini Rue emerges as a lost entry more akin to an earlier era, now being brought to PCs like a reclaimed release from the point-and-click time when LucasArts and Sierra ruled the gaming scene with some enthusiasm and creative ambition, the game also accepts the challenge of that tradition to push for new depth within the medium it enters. There’s never any suspicion that Gemini Rue is content to simply join the adventure game set, instead consistently pushing to test the spaces that confine it.

Review Gemini Rue
Gemini Rue splits the narrative focus, offering players two characters in separate situations – this is the story of Azriel Odin, a former assassin now looking for his brother in a post-war civilization ruled by a vicious gang, where numerous people are abducted and given new personalities to serve that criminal agenda. And this is also the story of “Delta-Six,” one of those victims, robbed of his identity and awakening within a sinister facility, where a series of tests move him ever closer to his final exam and the new life intended for him.

Players take on these two roles, first as alternating chapters to play as Azriel and Delta-Six in bite-sized sequence, and then a generous portion of the game offers the ability to switch between either as a larger search for answers expands the play areas of both these characters – which proves incredibly handy should the larger spaces of either mission find players stuck and looking for a break.

The point-and-click adventure structure plays to the detective story at the core of Gemini Rue, directly engaging the question of identity through the physical act of searching out answers. The noir narrative brings natural adventure elements, such as lock-picking, apartment searches, phone-calls, and questioning every person encountered. A PDA of sorts also allows Azriel to compile information gained during his investigation, interacting with a central planetary database and turning over plenty of ideas that bring back memories of classic adventure games – when the concern was exploiting every opportunity to give players further means to interact more deeply with a world developers wanted them to feel was real despite the graphical limitations.

Environments are reasonably spacious, though the searches of either character will require returning to familiar scenery several times and often players will have no trouble finding the few items needed to further the investigation. There are bumps along the way, particularly in the sense that the player is dropped into this world sans any hand-holding during the trip – previous experience with adventure games is going to be of tremendous help, but curious tourists shouldn’t fear the trip. The minimalist scale that aids the atmosphere also stands to save players from ever straying too far from the answers needed to move forward.

Review Gemini Rue
The extra trick breaking up the search for answers involves gun battles, cleverly taught to the player via Delta-Six’s first test at the facility, and soon after employed by Azriel, who turns up plenty of armed pursuers in the search for this brother. Using keyboard commands, players and foes take cover, able to move out and fire at targets – with an additional means of trying for timed headshots. As the game progresses, these sequences find means to expand, offering players the ability to pop out from either side of cover and select between targets. These sequences easily fit into the narrative of the game, but also offer players climactic conclusions that manage to keep the overall pace of the game in mind.

The visuals might hold some at bay, but throughout the unwinding of this story, the simple means by which the atmosphere takes hold is remarkable – from the music to the convincingly grimy environments, and the twists that continue escalating as the story of both characters finds common threads to draw toward final confrontation. The sometimes cheesy dialogue leads players through classic themes, toward an ambiguous ending that is as unsettling as one might expect from a genre so often seeking to leave its point sitting heavy on the audience.

If only to abstract and stretch for words, the decidedly dated visuals and interface join the subject matter in creating a true dog-eared book in videogame form, an accomplishment worth quite a bit more than any number I might tack to the release. The pixelated slums of Gemini Rue, populated by juice addicted dregs and filled with familiar rain yields an experience worthy of the obvious inspirations, a videogame capturing the essence of much that came before it while also leaving marks to call its own on those willing to investigate.


Developer
Joshua Nuernberger

Publisher
Wadjet Eye Games

System
PC

Modes
Singleplayer

Release Date
February 24, 2011

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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