The point-and-click adventure gaming scene has arguably not kept up with the modern world all that well. When discussing the genre, more often than not gamers will cite old 90s classics such as Monkey Island or Grim Fandango, rather than venturing into the realms of the 21st century. It's not that adventure games aren't as good as they used to be, but more that the average gamer no longer has the patience to solve the trial-and-error puzzles that are usually on offer.
Enter Gemini Rue, an adventure that harks back to the classic offerings with quite a resemblance to the wonderful Beneath a Steel Sky. Yet this offering from one-man band Joshua Nuernberger does not simply attempt to catch attention with its old school visuals, but also throws a great number of clever updated ideas into the mix too, such as action scenes in which you can die, and gathering information from computer terminals.
Old school, gritty, awesome
With a wonderful storyline that grips the player from start to finish and a gritty futuristic setting that blows adventure games of recent years away, Gemini Rue is every adventure gamer's dream. However, certain puzzle solutions can feel unnecessarily convoluted, and there aren't too many different areas to explore.
What makes Gemini Rue's story so entertaining is switching back and forth between the two main characters. Delta-Six is a patient at some kind of experimental facility, who has no memory of how he got there. Azriel Odin is an ex-assassin who has landed on the planet Barracus, looking for his brother. You play out both stories, which eventually become intertwined.
For most of the game, you'll have the option of moving between the two stories at any time you want. Hence, if you get stuck in Azriel's part, you can simply move over to Delta-Six and solve some of his puzzles. In this way, the game manages to remove that stumbling block that so many adventure games run into, where getting completely stuck can result in the player giving up instead of pushing forward.
It also helps that the dialogue and actual storyline are brilliant to follow along with. There are so many questions unanswered at the beginning of play - who is Azriel's brother? Where is Delta-Six? What is the facility? It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when this setting could possibly make sense in the real world, but then this adds to the intrigue.
Whereas some adventure games aim for wacky puzzles that don't make a whole lot of sense, Gemini Rue sticks to the more obvious line of fire. You've always got a mission of sorts which each character, and it's just a question of getting that mission done with the tools provided. Usually talking to the surrounding characters will provide hints as to where you may need to go next, and we barely found ourselves getting stuck or lost.
Haven't we all woken up in this situation after a heavy night
The point-and-click elements are also broken up by a number of special tasks. Now and again you'll be provided with a separate puzzle, such as lighting up LEDs on a panel, or retrieving information from a computer terminal. These sections feel really hands-on, and give the game plenty of character and personality.
The most interesting addition to the genre, however, is the shoot-outs. Occasionally you'll be chased by armed men, and you'll need to duck behind cover, and then use special keyboard commands to peek out and shoot them down. One scene in particular sees you rushing to the roof of a high-rise building, firing at enemies to keep them back and kicking down doors to forge a path. It's really exciting stuff, although it's worth noting that the save button is your friend here, as death may send you back a short while!
Sometimes the puzzles in Gemini Rue can feel a little too drawn out, asking you to perform multiple actions when a single one would have done. For example, at one point you need to climb up to a ladder above. This is done by using the 'Kick' action on a pipe below to stand on it, then the 'Use' action on the ladder to grab hold. It sounds simple, but in practice, you can't help but think 'Was that really necessary?'.
There aren't too many areas to explore either. Both Azriel and Delta-Six's worlds feel very small indeed, and even the larger areas are simply repeats of other places. For example, every floor in Delta-Six's facility look identical, which makes sense in the context of the game, but also leaves the whole place feeling very small. Similiarly, when Azriel explores an apartment block, every floor looks the same, and for 99% of the doors, he'll say the same thing when you try to interact.
It doesn't help that the game feels so sparse of any life, too. Delta-Six walks around the facility, and barely anyone is around. Yet whenever he enters the mess room for lunch, suddenly all the tables are filled with people. It's rather odd and doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
We're totally going through that gate at some point, right?
Certain conversations also damage the game's personality. You can try every dialogue tree with someone, and then stop talking to them. Then later when you talk to them again, they'll act as if they've never spoken to you before. It's little things like this that chip away at Gemini Rue's overall feel, stopping it from being a great adventure gaming release.
GEMINI RUE VERDICT
Gemini Rue is a truly great adventure game, with its clever mix of puzzles, logic and action, marred only by a convoluted aura. If this is any indication of what we can expect from developer Joshua Nuernberger in the future, then we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on his work.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The action scene chase onto the roof is great fun.