GEMINI RUE / Wadjet Eye Games / PC
 
 
Gemini Rue's obvious visual inspiration is Blade Runner, but in terms of game design it's heavily inspired by '90s adventure games - particularly Beneath a Steel Sky, The Dig, and maybe a little Rise of the Dragon.

This isn't the first adventure game outing for young indie publisher Wadjet Eye, but (as far as I'm aware) it's the first major commercial project for designer Joshua Nuernberger, who put it all together himself over a period of two years. You can see the inexperience and the constraints of using Adventure Game Studio (and the one-man shoestring operation) showing through here and there, but for a first (and solo) effort this is really pretty remarkable.

So we're in Crapsack Future Dystopia playing as a cop named Azriel who is searching for his missing brother. Complication: Azriel is a cop in the Taurus system, and we're on the planet Gemini which is governed by a giant corporate/mafia entity called the Bordoyukan, so Azriel is not only out of his jurisdiction, but in hostile territory where he'll likely be killed if anyone figures out who he really is. We also sometimes cut to a prison playing as a mysterious prisoner named Delta-Six, who is apparently undergoing training to become an assassin. It quickly becomes apparent that Delta-Six is Azriel's brother, and the rest of the game sees the two brothers alternating as Azriel tries to find his way to the prison colony, and Delta tries to bust his way out from the inside.
 


At about 6 hours total playtime, Gemini Rue is on the shorter side of adventures, made all the more zippy by the fact that it's very linear and fairly easy; you generally only have access to a handful of screens at a time, and the game employs a "hotspot" system that makes many puzzle solutions fairly obvious. To spice things up a bit, there are a handful of arcade-action gunplay scenes, a la Rise of the Dragon (except scattered throughout the game and gently introduced in the beginning, rather than being suddenly sprung on you at the tail end of the game.) I don't mean "linear and easy" as a real criticism in this particular case, because Gemini's chief success is in mood and atmosphere, followed closely by story and dialogue. I wouldn't want EVERY game to focus on these things at the expense of environmental intricacy and puzzle depth, but here and there it's a nice break to just go along with a well-crafted "interactive fiction" type of ride, when it's done this well. Also makes a reasonably gentle introduction for players new to the genre.
 


Gemini doesn't have any one really big failing, but there are a collection of little flaws. There's noticable plot holes and gaps in logic; you can see the gears turning a bit clumsily behind the "fourth wall" sometimes, such as in a particularly hilarious example early in the game, where Azriel empties his clip at a pursuer for absolutely no good reason at all just to set up a timed puzzle in the next room. The graphics glitch up here and there, particularly on the screen where you reload a save. The character portait art is, frankly, kind of distractingly crummy. And while the game's ongoing mystery and ultimate payoff are pretty good and competently written, the "philosophical undertones" come off as a bit muddled and irrelevant by the time everything wraps up.

Adventure Game Studio is kind of a creaky platform at this point; it was originally released back in the late '90s, and hasn't seen a huge amount of modernization or improvement of capability since then. Despite Gemini's welcoming nature in terms of difficulty (and absence of "dream logic"), it might still be relegated to the niche of established oldhead adventure gamers who are adjusted to putting up with antiquated cursors and these sometimes clumsy interfaces. Still, I strongly recommend the game, with the caveat that you can get it in a bundle or on sale rather than paying the full $10 retail for it (which seems a bit high for 6 hours of gameplay with little replayability.) It's a fine immersive ambient cyberpunk experience, which we really don't get enough of, and a testament to how far one person with a good idea and little to no programming experience can take "interactive fiction" with some cleverness and drive.
 
 
Links :
 

* Walkthrough (GameFAQs doesn't seem to have one yet)
 
Videos :
 


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