Are we nothing but a construct of our memories? Now there’s a loaded question. We remember people, and experiences, that we attribute to changes in who we are. But how much of that is really true? Gemini Rue takes an intelligent look at this question in a point-and-click game full of clever writing and design.
Gemini Rue switches you in between the mud-soaked shoes of Azriel Odin, a former mafioso turned cop, and the much cleaner, facility-issued shoes of Delta Six, a subject at Center Seven, a research and rehabilitation facility for criminals. Azriel finds himself on the planet Barracus, combing the streets of New Pittsburgh for the information he needs in order to find his missing brother. This means dealing with the Boryokudan, a large-scale mafia operation that basically acts as a governing power in this post-war dystopia. It’s a product of rain-slicked noir plus space western mythos, and the two work together like a charm. Fans of Joss Whedon’s Firefly will find a lot to love in the background of Barracus, Azriel, and the ravaging effects of the Gemini War.
While Azriel investigates and interrogates, Delta Six ponders and plots. Waking up with his memory erases, Delta Six finds that his memory was erased after he attempted to escape Center Seven. He is not alone in his distrust of the place, and not without good reason. Everyone in the facility is told they are former criminals and are here for rehabilitation into society, but every inmate has their memory removed when they are brought in. In addition to this, the so-called “rehab training” involves things such as specializing gun training and computer skills, suggesting a darker purpose for these people. Nobody knows what happens to those who are let out, and so Delta Six soon finds himself aiding in a second plan to escape the sinister clutches of Center Seven.
Gemini Rue is a fantastic use of storytelling using multiple perspectives. As soon as you’ve played as both Azriel and Delta Six, you begin to theorize about the connection between them. The game plays with your expectations, tricking you into making false assumptions. There are a couple moments intended to be surprising that are pretty predictable, but these are few and far between among an otherwise intelligent and engaging story. Nothing is as it seems, and when the game begins taking unexpected twists near the end, you will not be disappointed. Voice acting is mostly very good, with the more questionable voices limited to background characters. The dialogue is well-written and witty, taking itself seriously enough to handle the story at hand while also adding small bits of humor where appropriate.
From a gameplay perspective, Gemini Rue is an intuitive use of standard point-and-click controls, as well as some minimal gunfighting. Left click where you want to walk, hit escape to quick-walk. Right-clicking on something freezes the scene, bringing up a little menu of options; use your hand, eye, foot, or mouth, as well as any items in your inventory. This makes it easy to try different options, especially when interacting with puzzle elements. It encourages the player to think outside the box, eventually leading you to think the way the game designers want you to think in order to get things done. The game creates interesting puzzles to follow, as you investigate lead after lead on the way to the location of your brother’s captivity. That said, the gameplay isn’t without its dull moments. One or two conversations basically require you to blindly go through every possible line of dialogue until you stumble upon the right one, which gets tedious fast. The gunplay is simple and largely timing-based, adding a positioning element later on. It’s used just enough to keep the gameplay from getting boring, and just simple enough to get through without a great deal of practice.
While the game’s first and third acts switch you between the two lead characters when the story dictates, the middle and longest section allows you to switch between the protagonists at will. This is a welcome element, allowing some relief from a puzzle in one perspective by hopping over to the other, but in the end it feels lackluster. Its only real purpose is simply to let you choose who to play as, with no greater goal in mind. It would be one thing if you could learn something in one perspective that will help you solve something in the other, but this never really happens.
Gameplay quirks aside, the one place where Gemini Rue can get tiresome is in its visuals. The whole game is sprite-based, which can be all well and good. If you’re playing on a larger screen though. The grey, trenchcoated pixel men can begin to get dull to the eye. There’s a reason 8-bit and 16-bit games had such colorful, unique-looking characters, and that seems to have been lost here. Added to this is the fact that the game’s environments, while very well-drawn, are limited to the same places throughout most of the game. Delta Six wanders through the same areas of the facility many times, and Azriel’s investigation covers a questionably small area of the city. A well-composed soundtrack helps the overall presentation, but does nothing for the sense of confinement. The game’s third and final act introduces more in the way of new areas, which do go a long way in revitalizing the experience near the end.
Also unfortunate to note is the game’s technical bugs on Azriel’s side. Often I would load up a save file to find myself in an area where half the screen was black, or a complete mess of colors. You could still exit, but sometimes this effect would follow you around to every area you fled to. Other glitches include character dialogue starting and then stopping after only a moment, forcing you to go through entire cutscenes without knowing what is being said. The only cure for either of these bugs, from what I have found, is to restart the game. There are also instances of sprites in the foreground that should be in the background, causing them to incorrectly appear in front of Azriel. All of these phenomena seem to only occur when playing as Azriel, and appear to only be present in the PC version of the game. If you’re playing on iOS, you should probably be fine.
Real or fabricated, Gemini Rue is a good memory, Weaving a smart, deceptive story with gameplay that makes you think, albeit with occasional contrivance. The world it presents has an interesting backstory, but will begin to feel oddly isolated before finally giving you more later on. Only near the end does the game’s scope start to get near what it should be. The graphical errors, although limited to the PC version of the game, are still a large oversight for any game to make. But all that aside, Gemini Rue is an engaging point-and-click adventure for anyone willing to overlook some technical errors and occasional dull moments.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Gemini Rue provided by the publisher.