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Portabliss: Gemini Rue (iOS)


Gritty, futuristic adventure game Gemini Rue started as a student project by Joshua Nuernberger. Nuernberger received help from Wadjet Eye Games, the husband and wife tandem of Dave and Janet Gilbert, who helped bring the point-and-click adventure to Steam in October 2011. The game runs on the Adventure Game Studio engine, which was first created in 1999, back when the notion of porting games to a mobile device wasn't at the front of developers' minds. Janet spent eight months adapting the AGS engine to iOS, and Gemini Rue is the first attempt at bringing one of Wadjet Eye Games' adventures to the platform. For a first attempt, it's quite impressive.

Gemini Rue has players controlling two characters located across a stretch of space from one another in the distant future. Azriel Odin, an ex-assassin, is searching for his missing brother. The other playable character, Charlie, starts the game with his memory being erased after a failed escape attempt from an unknown testing facility. Each piece of the mystery unravels at a good pace. The initial puzzles provide the backdrop for the game's well-conceived universe, itself an intriguing, nearly relatable Earth-like world full of crime. As the story progresses, the plot thickens and twists in a mostly expected manner before dropping a hefty, deep series of concepts on the player at the end.

If you think that sounds like a vague explanation of Gemini Rue's story, you're spot-on. I can't unveil the plot in good conscience; it simply needs to be played. It isn't ground-breaking by any means, but the tale is wholly enjoyable and worthwhile to anyone who enjoys dark sci-fi.

Gallery: Gemini Rue (iOS) | 8 Photos

I opted to use the smallest screen I had available to test the game's point-and-touch elements, an iPhone 4S. It goes without saying that playing the game on iPad will result in fewer missed taps. Even so, I rarely found the game frustrating, thanks to some optimizations made for the smaller platform.

Touching and holding reveals every clickable element in an area, while dragging your finger to a hotspot and lifting it results in "clicking" the element. Doing so opens up a small menu with sight, touch, talk and kick actions available, as well as your character's limited inventory of items. With each hotspot being labeled, you'll always know when you're highlighting a usable item. I still missed smaller items a number of times, as lifting my finger occasionally caused the cursor to move slightly away from those hotspots, but the game still didn't require much extra patience on a smaller screen. In the absence of a keyboard, the limited combat has been reassigned to on-screen buttons.

One facet of the Gemini Rue that is a little frustrating is its method for skipping dialogue, which is to tap anywhere on the screen. Given that iOS devices are all screen, it's easy to do this on accident and miss crucial story elements. Even adding a small dedicated button would go a long way in easing the woes of those truly interested in the plot.

Portabliss Gemini Rue iOS
I found myself stuck on only two puzzles throughout the adventure, eventually resorting to a classic point-and-click tactic: "backtrack through every single area." It turns out that the solutions weren't overly esoteric, and that my problems were (at least partially) the result of user error – overlooking a tiny clickable element, using an item in the wrong spot, etc.

Gemini Rue features the pixelated look of a classic 90s Sierra adventure game. It looks much smoother on a smaller iOS device, but still retains its nostalgic, retro charm. Voice acting is competent for the most part, and does a good job of drawing you into the tale. The roles of Azriel and The Director in particular are conveyed very well, much better than some of the supporting characters. The iOS version also features the director's commentary seen in the original PC release, which is a must for those that have completed the game already.

Being able to play such a well-crafted interactive story on the go was an attractive option for me from the beginning, and Gemini Rue proves to be a great example of how the adventure genre can be adapted to a mobile platform. The pointer mechanics translate well to the touch interface, and even with some minor nuisances, the game doesn't feel hampered by the smaller screen size or the use of touch controls. Gemini Rue is an excellent point-and-click adventure with a story that more players should experience, regardless of the platform, and the iOS version makes a fine choice.

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