It was a Friday. There I was, minding my own business making a Mario statue out of used tissues when he appeared – The Boss. “What the hell’s going on here?” he shouted as he cleared my desk with his boot, sending a green tinted replica of an Italian plumber flying through the air and splattering on a nearby wall. “Well,” I began “GFG’s episode for the week is recor…” The icy stare stopped me right in my tracks. “Get this reviewed” he said, thrusting the iPhone code for Gemini Rue into my hands. “But, didn’t we review this on PC, shall I concentrate on just the port or…?” I started to ask. “NOW!” he screamed, foam flying from his clenched, toothless mouth. Well, better get on with it I suppose….
Gemini Rue has recently been ported from PC to iOS and is now playable on iPhone and iPad. This has been done to allow non PC gamers such as me to experience Joshua Nuerenberger’s take on the point and click adventure game. It is a futuristic thriller set in the war ravaged Gemini system which is controlled mostly by the Boroyokudan – space gangsters. You play as two separate protagonists in two separate story arcs. The first sees Azriel Odin, a cop trying to rescue his brother from Barracus, a planet on the wrong side of the Gemini system. The second storyline sees Delta-Six wake up in a cell after having his memory erased for trying to escape. The worlds these stories take place in would not be out of place in a Philip K Dick novel or a George Lucas film. Barracus for example is always dark and rainy and everyone wears big long coats a la Blade runner. The setting for the second story is very clinical and reminded me of the dystopian world of THX1138. Sound also plays a very important role in bringing these worlds to life; you can constantly hear the rain falling in Barracus whilst a strange discorded symphony accompanies the eeriness of Centre 7. The game seems to borrow all the best bits of classic science fiction and turns them into something that is fresh and familiar at the same time.
Gemini Rue aspires to be a classic point and click adventure. By classic, I do not mean good classic, I mean this game wishes it was made in 1987. The game does its best to look like the Lucasarts and Sierra games of the time such as Monkey Island, Loom and Space Quest – detailed and well-built backgrounds filled with blocky little sprites you control and interact with. Now this may seem silly in today’s world of super clear amazing graphics but this adds to the atmosphere of the game and reinforces the image of a classic point and click adventure. The world of Barruacus is beautifully realised as a busy metropolis, complete with graffiti filled fences and broken down slum buildings. These stand out amongst the pixelated characters that live there, just like the rolling hills of the landscape of Loom stood out in comparison to the wee round blobs that were meant to be sheep. It also makes you come to the realisation that if they are staying true to the classic look and feel and the genre then the gameplay is going to be the same: Bloody difficult.
The gameplay in Gemini Rue is the standard adventure game fare presented in the point and click format: you wonder the world interacting with all the characters and objects you come across. Some characters move the story along by revealing plot points and indicating either places you need to go to or objectives you need to complete. The game is not difficult as such in this regard, it just does not hand everything to you on a platter. It expects you to listen what you are told, put two and two together and interact with everything that looks relevant. Should you not do this, the penalties in some cases are rather severe. Get seen in a stealth section or alert the authorities by being in the wrong area and you are flung back to your last checkpoint.
You can interact with the world in a few ways: talking, looking, touching, kicking and combat. These are staples to the genre that any hardcore adventure gamer will be familiar with. In addition to this is the ability to move crates and boxes around a la classic Tomb Raider. The combat has also been modernised slightly in that a cover system has been adopted which works really well. In gunfight scenes your character can crouch or stand behind objects to avoid behind brought down in a hail of bullets. You can then choose when to let him pop in and out of cover with separate buttons for going into cover, leaning out and firing. There is also a focus button which activates a sliding scale that provides one shot kills when you fire you weapon at the correct time.
Another nifty little feature the game introduces later on is the ability to switch between the two characters / story arcs at any point in certain chapters of the game. This is handy for points where you may run into a mental block of not knowing where to go or how to solve a certain puzzle. With a touch of the switch button you can jump into the story of the other character and should you all of a sudden twig to the solution of your predicament, you can bounce straight back to the point where you were stuck.
The control scheme for Gemini Rue on iPhone / iPad has been completely overhauled as these devices do not have keyboards and mice. The positive to this is that point and click adventures and touch screen devices are a match made in heaven. You move the character around the screen by simply touching the direction you would like to walk and off you go. Interacting with objects is also rather simple. Touching and holding on the screen reveals all the objects that can be interacted with on that part of the screen. Touching any of these individual items then brings up a separate menu screen which allows you to select how to interact with the object. The buttons for combat appear at the bottom of the screen and have been placed in such a way that they never interfere with the action on the top half of the screen. The one criticism with this new control scheme is that it sometimes takes a couple of presses on an object for the game to realise what you are trying to do. Normally this is when you have a group of bad guys chasing after you and you can’t seem to click on the door to lock it and they come in with all guns blazing and you get flung back to the checkpoint.
In summary, Gemini Rue on ios is an extremely faithful port of a very enjoyable game. It is clearly a well-crafted love letter to both the point and click adventure game and classic sci-fi and rightfully deserves it status as a cult classic.
8 Philip K Dick references out of 10