Delta-Six wakes up on the cold metal floor of a cell, about to take part in mandatory reconditioning, with no recollection of who he is or why he's there. Azriel is waiting on a friend in the cold rain of New Pittsburgh who hasn't shown up yet and trying to stay under the radar of both the local authorities and the biggest crime syndicate around. Neither of them is having a good day, and things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better. Gemini Rue is a neo-noir point-and-click adventure game from Wadjet Eye Games and Joshua Nuernberger that blends mystery with action, stealth, and even science-fiction. And what do you get from that heady brew? Awesome. ... well, awesome and a little bit of back-tracking, some pixel-hunting, and adventure-game logic but Gemini Rue is still absolutely stellar.
The game is set a few hundred years in the future, and a few galaxies away from our own beloved spinning blue ball. But this future isn't all sleek clean interfaces, equality, and universal health care; no, this is the future that would probably be the setting for one of those episodes where Doctor Who gets disappointed in the human race again. The story takes place in the Gemini galaxy, where a war between two planets is the least of your concerns when more often the threat of the Boryokuden, the biggest and most powerful crime syndicate around, is more dangerous. The world-building here is fairly subtle, since the narrative mercifully avoids dumping huge piles of exposition in your lap, and you won't feel like you'll need an Alternate Universe encyclopedia on your lap in order to understand things. Just an attention to detail, a fondness for crates, and the common sense to avoid taking a bullet through the head.
The gameplay jumps back and forth between Azriel and Delta-Six, and later you can the ability to click between both characters, wherever they are, on a whim. Like most traditional point-and-clicks, gameplay boils down to talking to people, looking for clues, and solving puzzles through the rigorous application of "look at", "talk to", "touch", and... uh... "foot". (Yes, I know it's "kick", but "footing" things is funnier.) In addition to that, you even get some cover-based shooting segments. If the thought of combat makes you nervous, don't worry; the instances are relatively few and far between, simple to master, and a headshot is the answer to all of life's problems. Just remember; save early, save often, and in different slots. There are multiple points during the game where you'll have to think quickly in order to survive, and while the autosave usually springs to your rescue in case of untimely death, there's nothing wrong with having frequent backups either.
Analysis: Unlike most recent adventure titles, Gemini Rue eschews the cheerful, even goofy tone and instead delivers a story heavy on drama and noir-action, with characters to match. People have compared it in some ways to classic adventure game Beneath a Steel Sky (available completely free on GOG, or in spicy iOS flavour), but I might also argue that the story even shares themes in a spiritual sense with Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. This is hardly a bad thing, and you shouldn't take "similar to" as "carbon copy of"; the more mature themes it shares with those titles are worth exploring, and Gemini Rue still feels like its own beast, with an intriguingly-crafted world peppered with fascinating details and mythology I'd love to know more about. Can we look forward to more stories within this universe? It'd be nice.
Visually, Gemini Rue is a note-perfect return to classic VGA form, and while character models often aren't anywhere near as detailed as their environments, so much effort has gone into providing little touches in every area that gives them a lot of depth and interest. The only real complaint is that the washed out colour palette means spotting interactive places without mousing over them touch-and-go. Gemini Rue is a surprisingly light touch with sound, using musical tracks sparingly and usually only in a very subtle fashion. As such, the ambient noise tends to take center stage, and in this the sound design absolutely shines; everything from the murmur of rain to the soft hum of machinery serves to add to the immersion. Voice acting can be a bit hit-or-miss, but the use of subtitles means you can turn off voices via the options menu if they really bother you.
Gemini Rue's action sequences do a lot to make it feel different from other titles, and for the most part, they work. Shooting can be a little tedious, and some action sequences may take a few tries, but... it works. You really need to spend a lot of time exploring your surroundings and waggling your mouse over different areas to make sure you're not missing a vital piece of the puzzle. Sometimes all it will take is examining the right object, an object you might have missed the first go around, and comprehension will strike. I wouldn't say any of the puzzles or progression steps are impossible or even counterintuitive, just that they rely on attention to detail and a willingness to experiment and exhaust options when you're stuck. Admittedly, designing puzzles for other people, especially a wide audience, is hard; a solution that looks painfully obvious to a game's developer might seem equally simple to a handful of people, but also needlessly obtuse to others.
In the end, however, do I recommend it? Well... yes. Absolutely yes. Passing fans of the genre or gamers who prefer lighter fare might be put off by the grim atmosphere and serious tone, but if you've been hungry for a "heavier" experience, you definitely need to check things out. While it's a linear experience and you won't get much choice in events, the story is great, enlivened by moments of action to keep you on your toes. If you love mystery, science-fiction drama, and rummaging through corpses in massive trash heaps, then this is an adventure game not to be missed. Highly recommended.