Adventures in a grim, desperate dystopia.
Gemini Rue is an adventure game that doesn't care to hide its influences. The title screen – set to the sight and sounds of the rain-stricken planet of Barracus – evokes the feeling of a grim, desperate dystopia that takes a cue from the likes of Blade Runner and Cowboy Bebop.
After the unsettling scene of a confused prison inmate having his memories wiped, the focus shifts to Azriel Odin – an ex-Boryokudan gang member – and his investigations on Barracus into the whereabouts of his missing brother. A little later, after Azriel's attempts to meet up with his informant, the scene shifts once again and you're given a proper introduction to the aforementioned prisoner known only as Delta-Six. You'll eventually have the ability to switch between the two characters at will; it doesn't change the fact that it's a mostly linear progression, but the ability to switch is convenient if you want to take a break from a puzzle that's giving you grief. That isn't to say the puzzles are particularly taxing; on the contrary, most of them require only basic logic and simple interaction with the environment to accomplish. Even the gun-play combat sequences are simple once you get the timing down; instead they serve mainly to inject a sense of urgency into the proceedings. This isn't a bad thing because advancement of the plot is by far the most rewarding part of Gemini Rue. The problem comes when you get bogged down in the clunky interface.
Where many recent adventure titles have embraced context-sensitive actions and other control features that we now take for granted, Gemini Rue is very much rooted in the past. Azriel and Delta-Six can perform basic actions by calling up a menu that allows you to use your hands, feet or speech (or any inventory items you might have collected) to interact with the environment and NPCs, but there is no quick way to cycle between them on the fly. Unless you want to reuse the previous action again by double-clicking on an object, you need to bring the menu back up with a right-click and select the one you want.
It sounds trivial, but many puzzles require a string of different interactions in succession, and like I said before, you'd much rather be moving the story on than clicking through menus. And the story really is that good. Together with the futuristic-noire visual styling and very credible voice-acting, the mood and atmosphere created is exceptional. The dark palette and rain-particle effects give Barracus the genuine feel of a hope-starved place where juice junkies and gangsters are never far away. Delta-Six's prison, by contrast, creates a subtler kind of disconcertion. The high ceilings, sterile white walls and abundance of cameras leave no doubt that a Big Brother of some kind is watching you.
It almost feels like the tale of Azriel and Delta-Six is a side-story in some universe that is fully fleshed out in a volume of books...
Sadly, it isn't, but you can let your imagination fill in the gaps and enjoy Gemini Rue the game. If you're inclined to revisit the story on completion, there is an interesting director's cut version which places information nodes all over the game world. Clicking on one will initiate a short monologue by the developer, Joshua Nuernberger, that offers some interesting insights into various parts of the plot and game development – either that or you'll get an out-take from the voice-acting sessions.
Gemini Rue clocks in at around five-to-eight hours and at an affordable price (available direct from the developer website or on Steam and Desura). Considering the story it weaves and the atmosphere it builds, it should be a formality for adventure fans to overlook the niggles in the controls and interface.