Zadzooks: Gemini Rue review (iPad)

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Owners of Apple’s handheld tablet looking for a Philip K. Dick style science-fiction adventure need look no further than Gemini Rue (Wadjet Eye Games, rated 12+, reviewed for the iPad 2, $3.99).

The award-winning, point-and-click PC game from 2011 gets ported over to the iPad to give a player the chance to visit the 23rd century and the Gemini star system.

Managing multiple characters within an intersecting storyline, the player enters a puzzle-solving paradise where careful investigation of the minutia and logic lead to success.

For starters, take control of assassin-turned-trench-coated officer Azriel Odin (with one of the cooler names in video games) who finds himself on the rain-drenched planet of Barracus, looking for his brother.

Then, handle a mysterious chap named Delta-Six, who is on a mission to escape a supposed medical facility that keeps wiping his mind.

Suffice to report that all is not what it seems within the noirish stew that pulls its flavors from such classics as Blade Runner and Total Recall.

Of course, no cursor or keyboard required here to move characters as the touch screen allows tapping to lead Azriel, Delta-Six and others around, or more tapping on icons to interact with objects or talk to other characters,

Our protagonists can also use items, climb, open doors, use a retinal scanner, position crates, pick locks and even fire weapons during the methodical action.

That iPad keyboard does get used to access data terminals and a communicator that both team up as one of the highlights of the game. Each further sucks you into the story while viewing news, maps, a journal, typing in contacts to call, dragging and dropping names in a search box to get more information, and storing clues.

I did mention firing weapons, which is more an exercise than cinematic moment as a player has his character pop up from behind cover to fire and occasionally uses the right timing of a tap (follow the meter) to get a coveted headshot against a bad guy.

What really stands out is the exceptional voice acting, atmospheric sound effects, surprising level of role-playing elements and the plot twists.

However, owners of retina display iPads will be sorely confused by the graphics presentation. Don’t expect eye-popping visuals to accompany the complex game elements.

Instead, get ready to take a nostalgic trip back to the late 1980s when 8-bit action ruled the home arcades. It’s a pixilated universe and often hard to distinguish what exactly to click on screen while searching for clues. (Tip: holding a finger down on a location reveals the possible hotspots.

Still, I hope that is not enough of an issue for the younger generation to appreciate Gemini Rue. It’s an old school masterpiece, requiring hours of game play that stimulates the brain rather than trigger finger.

Note: Complete the story and go back to appreciate a commentary track by creator Joshua Nuernberger. The informative sound bytes are tied to clickable, tape-deck-shaped icons scattered around locations and even include dialogue bloopers.

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