Gemini Rue is a look back to a bygone era. From its 2D pixel art to its point-and-click controls, this is a game cut from the cloth of Sierra's classic adventure games of the early '90s. Created almost entirely by UCLA student Joshua Nuernberger, Gemini Rue was picked up by indie publisher Wadjet Eye Games late in development. The final release is a gripping science fiction thriller that weaves an amazing tale across two storylines. Unfortunately, what you're doing in between these story segments isn't as inspired, but it's worth pressing on just to see what happens next.
Like its name suggests, Gemini Rue divides your time between two protagonists. Half of the time is spent as Azriel Odin, an ex-assassin on an intergalactic hunt for his missing brother. His search has led him to the planet Barracus, which is locked in a seemingly permanent rainstorm. The other half is spent as the mysterious Delta-Six. After having his memory wiped at the game's outset, Delta-Six wakes to finds himself trapped in an unknown rehabilitation clinic. Little explanation is given, but if Delta-Six wants to eat, he'll have to complete his firearms training.
Gemini Rue's strongest asset is its story. What start as two seemingly unrelated plot threads gradually begin to overlap each other in ways you might not expect. The pace is masterfully balanced between the two protagonists, and you never feel lost in the middle. Just as you start to figure things out for one, the game switches perspectives to the other. Azriel might uncover a critical clue to his brother's whereabouts moments before the game cuts to Delta-Six who is listening to conflicting reports from his "friends" about what transpired before his memory wipe. Just as you're about to solve one mystery, another pops up to take its place.
This is essential because the actual gameplay of Gemini Rue is very simple. With a few exceptions, the solution to any puzzle is obvious and never impedes your progress. The puzzles simply guide you through the action of what is essentially an interactive novel. This means you're never saddled with frustrations, such as attempting obtuse, trial-and-error item combinations or pixel hunting for a tiny key hidden in a busy background. However, this also means that the game slips into monotony at times as you go through the motions of its clearly prescribed path to the next plot point.
The shooting segments are a similar situation. When a firefight starts, your character drops into cover. From here, you can lean out and fire on your attackers. Naturally, you'll want to stay behind cover when being shot at and lean out just as your enemy finishes shooting but before he ducks back down. Timing--that's all there is to it. Once you have the timing down, these segments--just like the puzzles--become a breeze. Overall, the shooting and puzzle-solving do the job of breaking up the story sections, but on their own, they can get tedious.
What does hold up is the game's atmosphere. Whether you're Azriel listening to the patter of the unending rainstorm or Delta-Six surrounded by the deep hum of an industrial air conditioner, the ambient sound design always conveys a sense of oppression and isolation in the unknown. The entire experience is underscored by soft jazz or piano tracks that emphasizes the sci-fi/noir hybrid at play in Gemini Rue. On top of all that is the voice acting. Though a bit dull in spots, the voice acting lends an extra bit of immersion that really brings this world to life. Brian Silliman's throat-of-gravel voice for Azriel Odin is especially fitting.
Thankfully, this game doesn't overstay its welcome. Clocking in at about eight hours, the game maintains a consistent pace that tugs you from one plot hook to the next. And by the time you enter the game's final act, you won't be able to put it down. Developer commentary is added after your first play-through and provides a wonderful incentive for you to jump back into the game. Even with its basic puzzle and action sequences, Gemini Rue is an intriguing experience for adventure gamers young and old.