Gemini Rue was bit of a surprise to me, honestly. I only heard about it a couple of weeks ago, but became quickly interested in it, something unusual for a new (to me) game. Then, I bought it impulsively (something I almost never do) and beat it in four days, which I think is an all time record for me and PC games (there was one Gameboy Advance game that holds the all platform record of one morning). After finishing it, I think I can safely say that this game is perfect for my blog, being an excellent introduction to Western gaming for...anyone, really. But I digress. Let me proceed normally.
|Gritty noir at its grittiest.|
|Combat in Gemini Rue|
Next is the story. As I said in the last section, it's an extremely important part of adventure games; it's the whole point. Your main reason for solving the puzzles (at least, in most games) is to advance the story, so if the game has a boring plot it's boring all around. Fortunately Gemini Rue delivers in that department too. I have a bit of a soft spot for noir stories, so I particularly enjoyed it, but even if you're not a fan of the genre you can still appreciate the way it's told. Both characters' stories, one a search for a kidnapped brother and the other an inmate's escape from prison, advance in an exciting, suspenseful way. The requisite twist (all game stories require twists now, right?) at the end is wonderfully executed, taking advantage of the player's assumptions about the game itself.
There are only two failings in the story, and both are minor ones at that. The first is that the setting is rather poorly explained. The game certainly tells you enough to serve its purposes, and you won't ever be confused about your immediate surroundings, but trying to get a sense for what Gemini Rue's universe is like and what technology is used and why can be quite confusing. A good example is the weaponry. The only weapons used in the game are (seemingly) traditional pistols, including ones from the present. Then we find out one of those same pistols has a "stun" setting. It just kind of makes you scratch your head. Like I said, it works - the use of old weaponry helps enhance the noir setting - but it's confusing. The second thing about the story is that there's a lot of psychological discussion about what creates identity and "self." While not executed poorly at all, it can be a turn off to gamers that don't care about such topics. Fortunately, it's not so central a part of the game that you have to enjoy it to enjoy the story (it's more of a "take it or leave it" kind of thing), but it creates the drive for a number of characters, so it deserves a mention.
Moving to the technical aspects, the visuals of Gemini Rue are a bit of a mixed bag. The backgrounds and areas are honestly quite good looking, and are an excellent fit for the style. That said, things are just a little less detailed than I'd prefer. Everything is done in a pixelated retro style (as you can see from the screencaps), which is appropriate, but I can't help but feel the game could look a little more...defined. Take the character portraits, for example. They're pretty good, but they could be better, even without abandoning the retro/noir look of things. I mean, don't get me wrong. The visuals aren't poor. They're just a little less detailed and polished than the one might prefer. Perhaps I'm just making a mountain out of a hill, since the game certainly looks nice and the backgrounds are beautiful. I just feel like there's room for improvement.
The sound is also less than impressive, though the problem is equally as trivial despite being more obvious. The voice acting, which makes up the bulk of the noise you'll be hearing, feels a little...amateur at first. You'll warm up to it after a while, and the main characters actually have pretty good VAs. But some of the minor characters, especially the ones in the first scene of the game, deliver lines in a way that screams "Youtube Original Series." Like I said, it'll grow on you, just expect the occasional poor line delivery (it should be noted that voices can be turned off). The only real disappointment of the sound (and the whole game, really, unless you count the puzzles) is the music. What's there is good, but there are twenty something tracks and it feels like there are only ever six or seven. They come in rarely and randomly, and most are between half a minute and two minutes in length. So basically, music is uncommon, fleeting, and short. The silence (or, for one of the characters, the pelting of the rain) can be quite mood fitting at times, but more use of the tracks could only have improved the game.
Gemini Rue is an excellent game. Accessible and fun gameplay that makes you feel good about yourself, a cool retro/neo-noir style, and a well-told story all work to its advantage. The sound is a little lackluster and some genre veterans might call the puzzles too easy, but neither is a big enough problem (arguably, neither is a problem at all) to bring the game as a whole down.
Plot/Narrative: In all honesty, the plot Gemini Rue tells isn't extraordinary or breathtaking. But it's a very well-communicated narrative. The story is interesting, sucks you in, and has a great noir protagonist. Combined with the cool style of the game and some surprisingly well made cinematic elements (in the cut scenes and perspective choices), it makes for a very compelling and interesting story.
Gameplay: The gameplay in Gemini Rue is superb. Simple (and subsequently accessible), fun, and engaging, the wonderful merging of combat and puzzle solving elements only makes it better. As an extra bonus, the game really makes you feel capable as a player/character, so that's good too.
Visuals: This game looks good. Yes, there could and should be more detail, especially on the character portraits and inventory icons, but the backgrounds really capture the mood of the respective areas, and just 'cause there's room for improvement doesn't mean what's there isn't already quality.
Sound: Probably the worst aspect of the game. Which is not to say that it's bad, but the voice acting got off to a shaky start and the music should have been incorporated more. The voice acting quickly picks up and stabilizes, and the music that is used is quite fitting, but it could definitely be better.
Overall: Look, I'm running out of ways to say "Gemini Rue is good, play it." The combat sets it apart from other adventure games and is good enough to satisfy gamers who aren't normally fans of the genre. Many of the puzzles are easy, but a good number are tricky enough to make you pick your brain for a while and the lower difficulty keeps the story moving at a steady pace. If you like adventure games, neo-noir stories, and/or Cowboy Bebop (there are tons of references to it in the game), then this is the game for you.
Got feedback? Complaints, arguments, suggestions, requests, or whatever else, I read it all, so leave a comment!