As a game reviewer, I occasionally comes across an indie game that just strikes a chord with me. Either the art style captures something from the past, the story resonates with me on some level, or the gameplay is a refreshing take on an old genre. I have to say that I was extremely lucky to find a game that has all three of these, in this case the game is Gemini Rue.
Gemini Rue is a little indie game made by Wadjet Eye Games that combines the retro art style of games like Flashback and Out of this World with the great gameplay from classic Lucas Arts adventure games. To make it even better, the story comes across like a Phillip K. Dick novel with it’s neo-noir elements and mind bending discussion of identity. Long story short, if you’re a fan of science fiction or adventure games, you need to check out Gemini Rue.
The game follows Azriel Odin, a former assassin turned cop who is looking for his brother who has been captured by the corrupt Orwellian government and sent to a hidden prison colony. This prison colony take political prisoners, erases their memory and then reprograms them to do the government’s bidding. As you’d expect from a Phillip K. Dick inspired story, the world of Gemini Rue is heavily intrenched in all the classic hard-boiled detective elements: perpetual rain, slums, back alley shootouts, etc. I don’t mean to make it sound like Blade Runner is the only inspiration for Gemini Rue, there are a wide variety of science fiction based Easter Eggs, references and shout outs. In fact, at one point I got a little stuck so I just started exploring as much as I could. I was surprised to find Ed and Ein from Cowboy Bebop hiding on the top floor of an apartment. They didn’t have any bearing on the gameplay or story, but it was a nice way to put a smile on my face during a slightly frustrating moment.
The game plays like any classic adventure game. You click on the screen to move your character around, to interact with objects and with people. You’ll need to combine objects and utilize your environment to solve puzzles. For example, at one point in the game you’ll need to break into an apartment to gather some evidence. The doors are locked with an electronic card reader, so picking it is out of the question. Luckily the neighbor isn’t so concerned with security, so you can pick his lock, go out onto the back balcony, jump across to the next apartment, and break in the glass door with a metal pipe. Before you get upset about spoilers, please realize that this is just one small example from the dozens of puzzles you’ll need to solve.
As I mentioned above I did get stuck a few times, however you should understand that I rarely play adventure game. Asking me to play an adventure game where I don’t get stuck is like putting someone completely new to StarCraft in a game versus Jaedong or Flash. I don’t have the finely honed instincts and nose for trial and error that adventure game veterans have.
On top of the adventure game mechanics, there is also a shooting mini-game. Throughout the game you’ll find you character in shootouts. The game handles this by putting your character in cover and presenting you a new set of controls. ‘A’ and ‘D’ will make your character peek out of cover while ‘Space Bar’ fires your gun. Sure you can just peek out and spray bullets hoping to hit your target, however the more efficient way to score kills is with the aiming mechanic. While in cover you can hit ‘Control’ to bring up a little breath meter. Time your shots with when you’re holding your breath to score a one-hit kill. While this shooting mechanic may not be as thrilling as getting tons of killstreaks in Call of Duty, it’s a satisfying way to reward patient and skillful gamers.
One thing that makes Gemini Rue so interesting is that you not only play as Azriel but also his brother, known as Delta-Six, in the prison. As almost any point in the game you can switch between the two characters and work on their own objectives, a nice way to keep players busy if they hit a dead end on one character.
Overall Gemini Rue is an amazing game that deserves a look from anyone who likes science fiction stories, adventure games, or is feeling slightly nostalgic for games like Flashback and Out of this World. Gemini Rue should take you anywhere from five to eight hours to complete depending on how quickly you can solve the puzzles. That said, I have to admit that there’s little replay value in the game. The only incentive for a second play though is to listen to the developers commentary, which is very interesting and a great little addition, although it may only be for people who were really into the Gemini Rue world. Also note that Gemini Rue is an independent title that can be purchased on Steam for $9.99, so it’s not like you’re spending $59.99 on a game with little replay value. If you find yourself sitting around looking for something interesting to play, pick up Gemini Rue; its by far one of the most interesting, engaging games of this year.