An atmospheric love letter to a lost era of gaming.
Until relatively recently it would have been fair to to say that they don't make adventure games like they used to, but with the release of Gemini Rue for PC in 2011 we had at least one exception to that particular rule on our hands. A homage to the PC adventure gaming greats of yesteryear, this is a title that eschews the race towards ever more impressive touchscreen graphical fidelity, instead owing as much to the 90s for its styling as it does its storyline.
That storyline takes place in a grim, cyberpunk dystopia where a gloom hangs over the city streets and characters shuffle about their daily lives while blending into the shadows. The storyline flits between two characters - a ex-assassin called Azrial, and a man held in a correctional facility where memories are removed and identities lost.
It's a satisfying storyline that knows just when to blend the pace of these two converging tales, and switch between the characters as you guide each one through exploration and interaction with the world. That story unfolds through solving puzzles, working with objects and talking to characters. If you were feeling uncharitable, you might say these challenges were a little simplistic. If, on the other hand, you suffered through some of the more obtuse adventure game design of the 90s, you might be more inclined to simply call it well-crafted. It's certainly one area where the game makes a departure from its roots.
What the game does have in common with many of those old-time adventure games is atmosphere, and the voice-acting in particular is remarkably accomplished and believable. The environments themselves may be heavily pixellated, but they still convey an intimidating gloom. Combined with the very delicate ambient sound of the game, this is truly a world to become lost in.
If you played the original PC version of Gemini Rue, and have doubts about the transition to touchscreens, rest assured that care and attention has been made with this iOS port. Information terminals are interrogated by drag-and-dropping phrases from your electronic notebook, or by using your device's virtual keyboard. Running your finger gently over the screen reveals interactive objects, pathways and characters. The combat remains a rather awkward addition to the game, however, with its cover-based firefights built around careful timing.
Gemini Rue certainly won't be to everyone's tastes, but if you long for the good old days where grim dystopias met a graphical style that never really went out of fashion, then you're in for no small treat here. At $3.99 it costs a little more than the average app, but in paying such care and attention to a largely ignored niche of gamers, it's a fair asking price.
What's Hot:A wonderfully atmospheric, old-school adventure game. A great port to touchscreens.
What's Not:The puzzles won't present a huge challenge, and the shooting mechanics feel out of place.