|Glorious 640x480 resolution: It's like I'm really in 1997!|
The vaunted atmosphere of Gemini Rue is just a blanket of old noir detective film cliches draped over a generic, tired "oh no, in the future, technology will steal people's SOULS" plot and theme. But the gaudy veneer really is paper-thin.
One of the first things that hit me about the game's setting is that two and a half centuries in the future (the game is set around 2270 or something), moody trenchcoats and crappy wallpaper is still inexplicably fashionable - remarkable, given that these things went out of style around, oh, maybe the 70s, at the latest.
The graphics are yet more dime-a-dozen pixel art crap. I mean, seriously, the economy being what it is, the job market is crawling with desperate artists, and the ones you have are nothing special. Why don't you spend a buck or two on real art staff and draw some sprites with more pixels than you have IQ points?
And don't even get me started on the colors. The palette has, like, 5 colors, and they are all shades of gray. This game has fucking awful colors.
The characters all speak with this subdued, overly-calm, throaty voice like Max Payne wannabes that reminds me of those talentless hacks who used to copy Hemmingway, apparently thinking that the reason he is so good is the minimalistic prose. Besides that shitty veneer, there is nothing. They're not two dimensional, they're not even one dimensional. They are bland, completely interchangeable mannequins whose only purpose is to read lines of brain-dead fluff.
Gemini Rue really is all style no substance, and the style fucking sucks!
I feel compelled to mention that I was forced to play this game in compatibility mode with 640x480 resolution, because the stupid piece of crap wouldn't even run otherwise. This is a point and click adventure game made with fucking adventure game studio. It's literally the god knows how many hundredth iteration of the exact same game that must have been made for three decades now. I am appalled that people are capable of fucking it up so much that it won't run on Windows 7.
All you have to do is show some backgrounds while sprites wander on screen and the user clicks on stuff. There's no AI. There's no netcode. There's no computationally expensive graphics. There's no pathfinding. The number of actors on screen rarely reaches 5. Not to mention these guys have made a veritable pile of adventure games like this before (I mean, I'm not gonna say "shovelware" - oops! I guess I just did!). Just how are the fucking this up? What did they even spend "development time" on? Come on, how many times can you masturbate in a day before it gets old, guys?
The whole story of Gemini Rue hinges on the player being shocked at the idea of memory wiping. It has a prison that collects homeless drug addicts and petty criminals, wipes their memory, trains them in a skill such as computer programming or firearm use, then wipes what is known as declarative memory while leaving implicit memory untouched (bullshit - programming and many other useful things aren't learned through implicit memory), to get people with no memory of their past criminal lives or their training at the prison, who nevertheless retain their learned skills. These reformed criminals are then given fake memories and set free to go get jobs and do something worthwhile with their lives.
If I were 13, I'd probably love it. I'm not, though, and since then, I'd like to think I am slightly wiser, and I fail to see what is so terrible. These are scumbag thugs and junkies who live on the street - they are freed from guilt, freed from the desperation of knowing they will repeat those actions which cause them guilt, freed from the necessity of atonement, given fresh starts with useful skills and presumably jobs (even if those jobs are sometimes "Boryokudan enforcer"). They don't even have to serve years in prison to be rehabilitated, what's the problem? It's too expensive to print licence plates without slave labor?
Anyway, you play one of the convicts and of course wade knee deep in adolescent existential drama about the self. There's another convict, a woman called Epsilon-something, whom I can only describe as a stereotypical love interest. She's a pretty, graceful, shy maiden in distress that the protagonist rescues, and suddenly she's infatuated with him (and that's all there is to know about her, honestly). She serves as the spokesperson for the antithesis of the dystopian backdrop.
The problem is, she is delusional. Right off the bat she launches into a bull-fest about how memories of being pushed around in a prison should be treasured and memory wipes are death (the other day I forgot where my keys are, guess I should have called the funeral home). Her convictions are like primitive tribesmen thinking cameras will steal their identity and it destroys any credibility that the theme has.
One of her favorite ideas is that conscience is innate or impossible to erase - indeed the "triumph of the conscience" gives energy to the protagonist(s) to fight back against their mental conditioning. Unfortunately, modern neuroscience would disagree - conscience would very likely be wiped clean after such a magical memory wipe procedure. In general, the whole game betrays a particularly poor understanding of how memory and personality works, and builds silly notions on top of this poor understanding.
Moreover, the plot itself is also full of holes. The doctor doing the memory magic apparently puts in emergency recall switches that mind control prisoners into - no, no, wait, don't laugh!- coming back to the prison. How does he send these recall signals to light years away, from a nebula where no navigation beacon can function? Are there tiny FTL radios in their brains?
Lastly, here is one of the more awful problems of this game: It's racist.
Everyone in the future is white, and all culture is American/British with slight Japanese and Scandinavian linguistic influences. Where are all the Ahmeds walking around in robes? Where are the Indians? Where are the blacks? Where are the Dr. Hu Xing Wei's?
Presumably the lesser races have been eliminated.
This one only occurred to me while I was rolling my eyes at Sayuri's name - who has no conceivable reason to have her cool Japanese sounding name (why don't they ever use boring Japanese names like Haruka?) - she is not Japanese and had nothing to do with Japanese culture. Soon after I realized no one is Japanese in this game, or anything besides white, for that matter!
In this day and age, I don't think you can find a single place on Earth today that resembles the absurd, exclusively Aryan makeup of Gemini Rue. The closest thing I can imagine is a KKK rally in the deep south, but ignorant, graceless rednecks are a far cry from the refined middle class white paragons populating this game.
So it's not only a bad game, it's also offensive.
Gemini Rue isn't really, really bad, but it's really, really not worth the time it takes to play it. You might feel prompted by the discussion it gets to see what the fuss is about, my advice is watch a playthrough (there's even one in 2 4-hour parts on Youtube) and skip lots of crap.
The graphics are bad, the gameplay is awful (it's bad even for a point and click adventure), the "puzzles" are boring, the story is awful, the themes are a mix of tired cliches and offensive boorishness. It's a pain in the ass to get it to run besides.
The whole experience is boring and shallow. There's no payoff, no justification for the idiocy and incompetence you suffer, no vindication. Just a shitty "tweest ending" you saw coming from a mile away. As I said, don't bother.
Bias: Gave it an extra 1 because it's a small company making an adventure game in 2012.