For me, any game that deals with memory and personality always has echoes of Planescape: Torment washing over it like a cool summer’s wave on a calm beach. It’s funny how a piece of art from 1999 keeps casting its shadow (visible or not) in many games of today, especially when it casts an invisible shadow over a game of a different genre set far in the future. Yet the lo-fi graphics on both the games form shimmering tendrils that are *known* to me.
Gemini Rue is a lovingly crafted point n’ click adventure game from Wadjet Eye Studios that combines the brilliance of Blade Runner to the anxious urgency of Beneath a Steel Sky. It’s a throwback to the days of adventure games that one played for cleverly constructed puzzles as well as an immersive story that is both atmospheric and surreal at the same time.
And boy does Gemini Rue have atmosphere. Even with its pixelated stylized lo-fi graphics, the game oozes atmosphere right from the start. Baraccus’ dimly lit streets with flickering lights seem even more subdued under the constant rain that envelops the city, and the faintly heard refrain of a saxophone in the background only serves to enrich the fertile atmosphere and remind one of Blade Runner which no doubt served as an inspiration for this game. While I cannot say much about the story for even the most minor telling might spoilt the adventure, I can wax lyrical about the noir atmosphere that has been so effectively designed in the game.
You play alternatively as Azriel Odin, an assassin-turned-policeman searching for his brother on the planet of Baraccus, and a patient designated Delta-Six on a mysterious testing facility where memory wipes and betrayals run amok. For most of the game you can switch between these two characters and complete their puzzles individually. As Azriel, you will engage against the semi-legitimate crime syndicate of the Boryokudan, (a reference no doubt to the Yakuza crime syndicate of Japan that is designated as boryokudan(violence group) by the Japanese police) who have the information on his brother, while Delta-Six trains with weapons and hatches plots for his escape from the facility. Later on you get to play other characters as well. The puzzles, for the most part, are quite simple; yet some of them are either rather mundane or something you would not think about until you replay it several times. Combat, as with many games of its kind, is rather silly and sometimes non-responsive. Thankfully combat is not very frequent in the game and the handy auto-save feature helps immensely in these cases. At some places the story does get a little oratorical and high-handed with its philosophical questions that relate memory, experience and consciousness. It’s a precarious perch, no doubt, from where the game sermons on you on these matters and at times does feel a little overdone. Nevertheless the story otherwise is magnificent and the voice acting is excellent for an indie game.
The game is spectacular, and has brilliant references to other SciFi noir culture gems such as Blade Runner (with the give me a hard copyachievement) as well as cameos from Cowboy Bebop. This is a must-play for any adventure game fan as well as those who would like to sit back and relax on a rainy Saturday evening with a cup of hot coffee by their side. Buy it.