Do you happen to be nostalgic about old computer games? Well, the immense app database that is the Google Play Store harbors a few titles that mimic the pixelated graphics of the games of old. Among them is Gemini Rue, a game that was almost single-handedly developed by UCLA undergraduate Josh Nuernberger, who is also known for the La Croix Pan.
Gemini Rue is a 2D point-and-click adventure set in a sci-fi/dark universe. The graphics are intentionally out of sync with today’s more intense high-action games, so that the story becomes the focal point of the experience.
So as not to give you any spoilers, I will try to keep things minimal when talking about the storyline. Gemini Rue is about an amnesiac patient called Delta Six who wakes up in some sort of facility. Here people are “re-educated” before they get to go back into the world. At the same time, the story is also about former assassin Azriel Odin. This character is searching for his missing brother in a world controlled by a militia called the Boryokudan.
What I loved about the game is that it doesn’t reveal the whole story from the get-go. At first, you have no real idea what’s really going on, and as the events slowly unfold you become even more curious. You begin to ask questions such as How does this universe work? Are there multiple worlds? Why is Delta-Six locked up? It’s this looming mystery that kept me from abandoning the game at various stages in the experience.
Throughout the game, the two stories will alternate and you’ll either be helping Delta Six hatch up a plan to escape. Or you’ll be uncovering clues with Azriel Odin.
But while the storyline is quite stellar, I can’t really say the same for the gaming experience. Playing it on an Android phone, even one with a big screen was definitely not very rewarding.
The pixelated graphics make it quite difficult to notice small details/objects, like the log blocking the door in Azriel’s friend Matthius Howard’s hotel room.You can interact with objects either by touching or kicking them, so you have to pay attention at all times.
I also tend to have a short attention span, so the lengthy dialogue scenes weren’t my favorite part. Sure, you can speed through them. But you’ll most likely miss essential information which you”ll need to solve the puzzles and quests at some point.
You’ll also have to be careful how you choose your answers while interacting with the various characters in the game. This act has consequences in the sense that you might be prevented to complete a quest unless you offer the satisfying answers.
Be prepared to die…multiple times
Another thing I didn’t particularly enjoy were the really awful combat scenes. At least in the mobile version of the game, the system doesn’t work too well. Azriel and Delta six both know how to fire a gun. Yet in Gemini Rue that’s not an easy-to-accomplish task. The biggest problem with the system is that firing the gun is slow.
It’s also quite difficult to watch both a meter and a moving enemy while switching between the two states (shooting mode and re-charging mode). As a result, you end up dying multiple times before finally moving to the next scene. Fortunately, there’s an autosave option, so you won’t have to start from scratch if you perish.
On the bright side, the developer of the game obviously understood the importance of sound in a game such as Gemini Rue. The soundtrack created by composer Nathan Allen Pinard is truly excellent and really helps amplify the dark mood enveloping this dystopian universe. The dialogue is also quite clever and amusing, while the puzzles are intuitive.
As low-resolution and low-fi as it is, Gemini Rue uses these qualities to create a gloomy and intense atmosphere that perfectly complements the story.
It’s quite spectacular how Josh Nuernberger managed to do almost everything in Gemini Rue by himself including writing, animation, and programming. While the game might have its flaws (at least on mobile, I haven’t played the PC game), its well-crafted story was more than enough to make me want to stick around until the end.
Gemini Rue is available to download in the Play Store for $4.99.