It's hard to believe that when Gemini Rue was released on PC a few years ago, it was the culmination of countless hours of work that started during Joshua Nuernberger's senior year of high school. On the PC, Gemini Rue received a lot of well-deserved praise from point-and-click fans who loved the game's atmospheric noir/cyberpunk aesthetic. For an indie adventure title, Gemini Rue had raised the bar significantly. So naturally it made sense to port the title over to iOS. But the real question is, how smoothly did Gemini Rue make the transition over to a mobile interface?
In Gemini Rue, the future is bleak. The story takes place far in the future in the Gemini system, which has been taken over by a merciless gang that keeps the populace under control through the use of drugs and violence. As Gemini Rue begins, you are presented with the narratives of two different people. Over the course of the game, these two stories wind together through a series of twists and turns that make for some impressive storytelling.
One part puts you in the gumshoes of Azriel Odin, a former assassin on the hunt to find his missing brother. The other story follows a mysterious man called Delta-Six who's trapped in a medical facility with no idea how he got there or what's happened to him. To not give anything away, I won't go into too much more detail about the story. But it's safe to say that Gemini Rue's tale is worthy of any of the hard-boiled cyberpunk pulps that inspired it.
But the look and feel of the game are truly what's impressive. The pixel-art style is put to great use here, with none of it ever feeling out of place. The rain-drenched streets, water color backgrounds and grimy feel to everything are extremely well done and it's clear that a lot of painstaking effort was put into making this possible. Though I wish that the game were optimized for the retina display, as some parts of the game feel blurrier than others.
The music and sound effects are also very accomplished, with both helping to establish deep moods and being varied enough where new settings feel unique and different. The presentation is so good, it stands in stark contrast to the voice acting. While voice acting is never a strong suit for a lot of indie adventure games, let alone a lot of studio efforts, the voices in Gemini Rue feel particularly clunky, in large part because everything around it feels so good.
But after a little bit, I got used to it and eventually came to enjoy it for what it was. In a way, it was a nice reminder that this whole game was essentially made by a team of one, which in a roundabout way made everything else seem that much more impressive.
Porting a game over to a new interface is never an easy thing to do. There are a lot of titles that just get it wrong, putting together an iOS game that feels like a bunch of spare parts slapped together quite hastily. Fortunately, Nuernberger and publisher Wadjet Eye Games have done an admirable job, creating an interface that feels like the best combination of the efforts of other good ports like Beneath a Steel Sky and Broken Sword.
In order to re-create the gameplay in PC point-and-click adventures where you mouse over an object that can be interacted with, there is a new element that lets you tap, hold, and drag your finger around in order to create the same effect.
As you move your finger around, objects that are part of the world will be highlighted. When you want to interact with an object, tapping it will bring up your command and inventory menu, giving you a host of classic adventure game options. You can also tap and hold anywhere on the screen to show a list of the objects that you can interact with.
While the combat and terminals in the game felt a little less conducive to the touchscreen interface, they did not come across as flawed at all. In order to speed up use of the terminals, you are able to drag and drop search options, rather than slowly tapping them out on your iOS keyboard.
The shooting sequences, while feeling a bit out of place, work just fine with their simple cover system. I did not find myself pixel hunting in Gemini Rue and everything felt smooth and seamless for the most part. This was not a glitchy port at all.
The bottom line here is that if you're a fan of adventure games or movies like Blade Runner, you need to check out Gemini Rue. It's a very impressive indie effort that feels like it was made by a much larger team. While it's a little rough around the edges in some parts, these end up being rolled into the larger experience of the whole game. Go ahead. Pick up your new toy ... it's time for some adventure.