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Gemini Rue is a relic. At least, that’s how it appears. It’s a game that’s unapologetically old-school, designed with players that cut their teeth on Sierra and LucasArts’ point-and-click adventures of the ‘90s in mind, right down to the janky way a character’s walking animation may stutter as you click across the screen.
For a 2011 indie PC title that's just made the leap to iPad and iPhone, this kind of attention to retro-detail is worth taking notice of. The opening area in rain-soaked New Pittsburgh is chunkily evocative of Gemini Rue’s neo-noir trappings, drawing heavy influence from Blade Runner and Neuromancer. If you haven’t played a point-and-click adventure in years, you may be surprised how effective large pixels can be in portraying such a moody atmosphere. Graphically, Gemini Rue is no doubt a humble marvel, the kind of project most large publishers would never conceive of without some plan firmly in place to give the visuals a modern overhaul first.
Gameplay is delivered surprisingly well too, especially given iOS’ touch interface, and even in spite of Gemini Rue’s unabashedly archaic design. Following dual plot lines involving an ex-assassin-turned-cop and a memory-wiped test subject in a mysterious (and seemingly totalitarian) rehabilitation center, object and character interaction is handled through a classic “look, interact, walk, and talk” pop-up menu. A few modern concessions have been made, oddly including the use of an unexpected 2D cover shooting mechanic, but as you would expect, puzzles and progression are based around logical real-world interactions. Still, some puzzle designs can be annoyingly obtuse, no doubt another intentional nod to the game’s dated inspirations. Holding down a finger to see any area’s interaction points is, however, an appreciable new-school touch.
The production values might seem almost painfully low-budget at first, with lower-grade quality audio recordings that drive home the authenticity of Gemini Rue’s vintage presentation. The Alec Baldwin and Andy Richter-alike leads may take a little getting used to, but between the artfully nostalgic performances and a well-written script, Gemini Rue is a great throwback.
The bottom line. If you like unspooling a good sci-fi detective story, Gemini Rue is well worth the investment.
iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone running iOS 4.3 or later.
Beautiful old-school graphics. Well-written script, performances, and atmospheric music. Really nails the classic point-and-click adventure feel.
Pixel-accurate item interaction can be a little finicky on a touchscreen. Some tediously obtuse puzzle design.