Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Developer: Joshua Neurnberger
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
Winning several game of the year awards, Gemini Rue is an incredible first effort by UCLA student Joshua Neurnberger, a sci-fi thriller combing classic point and click adventure with some light arcade.
Over the course of the game you play as a few characters, though primarily a former assassin named Azriel Odin who has vowed to fight the evil Boryokudan and a patient named Delta-Six who has recently had his memory wiped by the same group and is being trained to become an assassin. The two stories do not connect at first, but the astute gamer will draw a lot of connections as they switch between them. For the most part the game is linear, though there is one section where you can switch to the other character if you get stuck.
Gameplay is fairly standard, with conversation trees, inventory puzzles, and some mild fetching quests. There are few things that help Gemini Rue stand out. There is a lot of tension as both characters find themselves frequently in deadly situations. Over the course of the game you need to use both stealth and your weapon. The game autosaves prior to dangerous situations, and while this makes it obvious that danger is ahead, the autosave is appreciated and the tension is still there. The game does an excellent job at slowly introducing the mechanics of both the inventory puzzles and arcade sequences (which mostly involve shooting your gun). One can toggle between medium and easy difficulty level for the action; I chose medium and didn’t have too much trouble. However, the shootouts quickly become repetitive, and halfway through found myself bored with them. On the other hand, the regular puzzles had a wonderful variety. From pairing up with another character by directing them how to help you, using databases to dig up information, and choosing when to use stealth, there is always something fresh to try. Possibly my favorite mechanic I’ve never seen in an adventure game is that one of the standard icons is your foot, which can be used both to kick things and stand on things. And there are many inventive and organic ways this is used to solve puzzles.
In addition to the repetitive arcade sequences, there are a couple of other adventure game annoyances. Some conversations are puzzles in and of themselves. While the game does a nice job of allowing the player to use deduction to get through the conversation tree, there is no way to screw up. If you say the wrong things, you can just start the conversation over and try a different path, the other character seemingly oblivious to the fact that you’re trying to manipulate them. Also, there are a few times where there is extensive backtracking with a lot of elevators and stairs to navigate. While none of it felt unrealistic, it can be a bit dull when you have to do it.
The graphics are appropriately dark and the music is above average, and your enjoyment of the game will likely depend on how much the story engages you. I was pulled in fast and was really enjoying figuring out how all the characters were interconnected. Just when I thought I knew what was happening and was annoyed by how obvious it seemed, the rug would be pulled out from under me and I’d look back and wonder how I missed certain clues. The storytelling is top notch for the first 85% of the game, yet I felt let down by the endgame. After what feels like the final (and brilliant) climax, there are two more climaxes after that, with character motivations changing suddenly and long-winded speeches that have more exposition than needed while spoon-feeding the author’s philosophy at the player. Not that it was terrible by any means and a lot of players have loved this part. But I was hoping for a bit more ambiguity.
There is a collector’s edition with developer commentary. I am not sure if I’ll ever want to replay this in order to hear it, though I am curious about a lot of the design decisions. And if Neurnberger ever decides to make another game I’ll definitely take a look.