For those who rue the day LucasArts abandoned its point and click adventure prowess to flog its star-themed cash cow, an indie developer refreshes the dusty genre with a noir-infused, dramatic sci-fi thriller that does the field justice.
Gemini Rue tells the story of ex-assassin-turned-pseudo-detective Azriel Odin (getting the neo-noir jist?) in the future, intergalactic version of a run-down, downtown Chicago, glazed with a constant stream of torrential rain and a moody ambient soundtrack (how about now?). Azriel is on the hunt for his long-lost brother who he suspects has been taken captive in a distant prison by his shady, underworld ex-employers.
As you play the detective on one side, you simultaneously play out the story of patient 'Delta-Six' who awakens in one prison of a hospital with no memory of his past, though is compelled to escape. As the story progresses, the two counterparts' roles intertwine in a story that'll suck in those craving a good tale.
It's enlivened by some top voice acting over a string of healthy dialogue, and backed up by some diverse diversions from the typical gameplay of your average point and clicker. Some characters' voice-overs (like some fellow inmates) sound a little forced, but the main players in the story are all voiced perfectly for their characters. The soundtrack is sparing but poignant. When a single instrument isn't ringing out in the Gemini background, a dead silence outside of echoing footsteps fills the halls of the hospital - sparse but effective.
The game threads the two characters' stories together seamlessly despite being able to keep you in the cold as you try to unravel the mysteries before you. Why is Delta-Six imprisoned? Who is the ominously omnipresent 'Director' whose eerily calm voice coaxes him through tests?
The story dictates a pretty linear path for you to follow at any given time, and the set-pieces aren't very far-strung out, so you find yourself wandering the same few screens looking for your next little scrap of info or important item most of the time. But thanks to this, the story is constantly tight (up until you're stuck on something, of course), and there's a thick enough level of atmosphere to encapsulate the world you play in microcosmically.
While you're not navigating the screen with your cursor and looking for clues, the gameplay throws in a few fun distractions like a unique albeit uninspiring cover-shooting mechanic that has you popping out from behind poles and dumpsters to squeeze off a few shots at mobsters and security guards. There's also your cell phone and a city database computer that makes the sleuthing process all the more involving. The extra mile they went with this game shows, and the back-story has enough depth to pull you in.
Anyone prone to nostalgia will be swept up by Gemini Rue. It might not sit right to new-school gamers, but fervent fans of the point and click adventures of the '80s and '90s like The Dig and I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream will relish the well-oiled and well-told story that's been hand-crafted in all its pixelated glory. And at a fraction of the cost of any mainstream game.