Every adventure game falls somewhere in between an “adventure” and a “game” spectrum. Most games tend to have either a more interesting story, but lack in puzzles and challenge or present stronger part of the gameplay but lack in story. Obviously it’s not an easy task to balance them out: too many difficult puzzles might disturb the flow of the story, but trying to make it flow seemingly might require to sacrifice some puzzle potential. Either way, most of the games I’ve played at least try to contain the balance.
This time however, I’ve managed to play two games one after another that fall to the opposite extremes: The Day of the Tentacle, which is packed with puzzles and had absolutely no reward in story development for cracking them and Gemini Rue that soaks you in by delivering some new details for as little as standing on a box and reaching something, but barely has any puzzles worth mentioning.
The story, characters and atmosphere are without a doubt the strongest aspects of Gemini Rue, it just never lets go and by the time it’s about to reach a climax, it’s impossible to stop playing.
The story centers around two main characters: Azriel Odin, a former assassin turned police officer and Charlie Delta-6, an inmate in mysterious rehabilitation center Center-7. Azriel returns to where he used to work in his older days to find his brother, only to discover that he has just been sent to Center-7. In parallel, Charlie has his memory wiped out after a failed escape attempt and is undergoing a training process once again.
The stories of both characters build up dramatically as we learn and discover more about the main characters, as well as side characters, to the point where it reaches the epic climax.
The atmosphere is really great: from rainy and dark dying city of Barracus to cold and sterile facilities of Center-7, it’s always present. However big part of atmosphere — music — is quite chaotic. Most of the time it’s completely gone, so you’ll be running only to a sound of rain in Barracus and complete silence in Center-7. Sometimes it suddenly starts, but disappears just as randomly. It is quite good when it’s playing though.
The biggest drawback is the puzzles. There was not a single moment of “Eureka!” in the game for me, what was really disappointing, as the puzzles are very easy. You will know exactly what you need to do and even how to do it, so the biggest struggle will be finding an item or a tool that you need to use. There are no item combinations too.
However as easy as it might be, I must admit that I had to use the walkthrough 3 times, as it appears that I wasn’t hovering over exactly the right pixels. Sometimes it might be quite hard spot the what you can interact with due to very pixelated graphics as the objects are not highlighted. Not for one of those 3 times I feel guilty for looking for help.
The controls are fairly straightforward: you can use or pick up an object, talk to, kick something or inspect. Other than that, sometimes you gain control of other characters and must use them to help you get over some obstacles. This feature however does not add any difficulty, as it is always very intuitive what you need the side characters for.
Even though I like my games leaning towards the puzzle heavy side, I really enjoyed Gemini Rue. The unforgiving and dark atmosphere and extremely well written story more than makes up for the lack of challenge.