Genre: Point and Click Adventure
Developed by: Joshua Neurnberger
Published by: Wadjet Eye Games
Platforms: PC, iOS, Mac, Android, Linux
Feeling Like: Another Day’s Work
I can’t help but look ahead, particularly when it comes to the 500. I’m always refining the list, usually after 20 or 25 entries. As time passes, as I replay old titles, as I try to come up with something interesting to say, some entries move up, some move down and some are removed entirely.
I feel a tinge of guilt, knowing that the more games I play, the less deserved may remain on the official list, whereas other excellent examples of video gaming will forever be banished to a “Top 10 of” instead. I often dread getting to a particular entry; how the hell am I going to be entertaining with THAT game? I don’t even know why I have it on here in the first place!
I faced no such fate with Gemini Rue. I’ve been looking ahead to this one for quite some time. It’s one of the most exciting entries so far on the 500, simply because I so rarely play this type of game. I don’t remember how I found out about it; it wasn’t on anybody’s Game of the Year list, it wasn’t inflated with any kind of marketing hype, and none of my friends had tried it out.
But, moreso than any entries before it on the list, Gemini Rue stuck with me. Not because of how it plays, because I’m too impatient for that. Most Point and Click Adventures are riddled with puzzles with inane solutions that never make any sense to me. It’s so easy to miss a crucial trigger, or a key item that I find any mystery or awe of a setting becomes repetitive when I visit the same screen 14 times after trying to pick up the goddamn piece of paper and where the hell is the sandwich wrapper? There’s a reason why games of this genre are, mostly, a thing of the past.
Aside from that, Gemini Rue ticks all my boxes.
Film noir setting, complete with a disheveled city, dark and rainy? √
Mysterious protagonist, with amnesia, imprisoned in a futuristic facility? √
Other protagonist, a hard-boiled detective with a gravely voice and a not-so-innocent past? √
Cyberpunk elements, including interstellar travel and gang warfare? √
A pitch-perfect soundtrack, complete with lonely pianos and mournful trumpets? √
I don’t want to spoil the plot too much, but it turns out I don’t have to be overly concerned as the details escape me. I recall the cop having to find somebody and the non-cop trying to escape the facility and learn why he’s there in the first place. I appreciated being able to switch back and forth between the two characters, it made for a nice change of pace at my whim, but also gave me a mental breather in case I was stuck on a particular puzzle.
And stuck I got. I confess, I did use a walkthrough at times but I felt justified by wanting to see the story unfold as soon as possible, and also nobody cares if I use a walkthrough. Most of the challenges are passable, although it was surprising to see a “look at, kick, etc” selection back. You’d normally have to go WAY back to The Secret of Monkey Island or Full Throttle to find these kinds of verb-y selections. But, then again, part of Gemini Rue’s charm is reliance on the past, both in gameplay and graphics, with modern touch ups to both.
Not every addition is an improvement. There are several instances where you have to employ a gun, and engage in a real time battle. This is blasphemous and surprising to see in an Adventure game, and you can soon see why – the controls and animations are too stiff to confidently take enemies on. More than a few times, I simply ran into a few bad guys waiting in the hallway, content with gunning my impatient butt down. Right. Reload, try again.
Animations aren’t fluid, and the lack of faces on the character models can be unnerving, but considering this is an indie game, it’s likely due to budgetary concerns. The voice acting on the main parts is lent professional sounding weight, only a few side characters seem like amateurs.
Any minor irritants I experienced were vastly outweighed by the superior qualities of Gemini Rue. The creepy atmosphere, the intriguing dialogue, the confident world building, the detail on the backgrounds and the stellar story. This is an Adventure game that fully embraces it’s science fiction setting; even if the lack of polish does knock it down a peg, one could argue that it actually aides the design since it’s supposed to be a bit rough around the edges anyhow.
Finally, I can’t go on enough about the End Credits theme. It’s one of my favorite in all of gaming. If you want something melancholy, something to make you wish you were staring out of a cold window in a tall building, in a dark city, with a hot drink, wondering what the hell your life is, have a listen.