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Gemini: Heroes Reborn

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Phosphor Games
Release Date: Jan. 19, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PC Review - 'Gemini: Heroes Reborn'

by Brian Dumlao on Feb. 26, 2016 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Gemini: Heroes Reborn is a first-person adventure game that brings players into the dangerous world of Cassandra, a young woman who is determined to solve the mysteries of her past while discovering her new powers.

"Heroes" was a huge property in 2006. The series became an instant hit for NBC, and it seemed like the merchandising was going to capitalize on that, including a big video game adaptation by Ubisoft. After a year, things cooled considerably, and what was once a loved series quickly became disappointing as stories dragged on before finally shutting down after four seasons. It came back recently as a miniseries but did so without the hoopla that the network or series creators had expected. It seems strange that a video game would come out as the series is winding down again, and some players would interpret that as a sign that the game isn't worth anyone's time. While no one will claim that Gemini: Heroes Reborn is the second coming of a Goldeneye or The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay in terms of licensed titles, it does have some enjoyable aspects.

You are Cassandra, a 20-year-old woman who has been trying to find the whereabouts of her parents after an accident left her without any childhood memories. She and her friend, Alex, arrive at a seemingly abandoned base when they're attacked by armed guards. Alex is captured, and Cassandra's dormant powers are awakened by the encounter. With her newfound abilities, she set outs to rescue her friend while seeing if her new abilities can help her find some answers.

It's nice to see the game focus on a new character, so the title is accessible to those who are unfamiliar with the property. At the same time, the story doesn't do much with the world it has been given. The only references to the show are from incidental material that can easily be ignored, such as finding the sigil in a child's drawing or seeing various 9th Wonders comics strewn about; they're small shout-outs to fans but otherwise have no bearing on the game world. Also, for a story that involved some of the show writers, it isn't the most exciting tale. There are many predictable parts in the story, and the ending has been seen countless times in other games, so it's a ho-hum affair overall.

Taken from a first-person perspective, Gemini has influences from a few games. The most obvious one is Mirror's Edge thanks, in part, to your character's inability to procure and use firearms. There are a few other nods to that game, such as your better-than-average jumping capabilities and the fact that you can do a decent amount of climbing. You have a good running speed, but that's about as far as the comparisons go.

The influences continue once you start to get your powers. You have the ability to slow down time, much like Max Payne, and that gives you the chance to move faster while everyone else slows down. You also have telekinetic abilities that are reminiscent of games like Psi-Ops, so you can target almost anything and pick it up with your mind. The execution is more like Second Sight or BioShock, as you can only do forward throws once you have something in your mental grasp, and you have to charge up your power before you can accomplish that. The telekinetic ability also lets you stop projectiles from coming at you and gives you a chance to throw it back at your foes. It sounds like a great power, but the targeting system and sizes of the projectiles mean that it works best against rockets since bullets are difficult to see in the middle a fight. If there were some indicator that you grabbed a bullet, it would work out much better.

The jumping between time periods feels like it was borrowed from Singularity. With the press of a button, you can freely jump between the more pristine 2008 version of a lab and the caved-in 2014 version. As expected, this is mainly used for puzzle-solving and navigation, as you may find areas that are inaccessible in one time period are fully available in another. The same goes for some of your actions, as flooding a room in 2008 means giving yourself a hole to jump through in 2014. To prevent you from jumping into a surprise between periods, you're also given the power to peek between them, so you can see what's immediately in your view before you make the leap.

Using these powers is lots of fun, especially when you start to combine them. Telekinesis is always amusing, so you're either throwing dead bodies at the enemy or dragging enemies through the air so they end up on a spinning fan blade or shocked via exposed wires. It's also funny to grab them and send them to be abandoned in another time. You're rather limited in what you can do compared to other titles, but that doesn't make the powers any less enjoyable.

However, if you're looking for some challenge, Gemini doesn't really offer one. The enemies are brain-dead enough to consider rushing you as their only viable tactic, so any deaths you may suffer occur because they're overwhelming you with their numbers, not their tactics. You have a regenerative health system, but it fills up so quickly that you won't be hiding for very long before you can return to the fray. Puzzles consist of shifting between time periods to get past walls, and they rarely ask for something ingenious that uses all of your abilities in tandem. These shortcomings can make the game a slog, but the title doesn't reach that point. Unless you're going to hunt for all of the collectibles, Gemini is short enough to finish in one sitting. By the time you realize that the enemies and bosses pose no threat, the game reaches its conclusion. In that respect, it does a good job of not wearing out the player, and it feels like the right amount of gameplay is provided.

Running the game on Unreal Engine 4 has a few benefits when it comes to the graphics. The environments look a bit richer, and particle effects are more abundant and look more natural. Shifting between the time periods shows off the engine's signature flaw in that textures take some time to load. Do it for the first time in a new place, and there's a good chance that you'll be transported somewhere that looks muddy before things clear up. While the environments benefit from the upgraded engine, the character models do not. The modeling looks like it came from Unreal Engine 3, and the animations don't look very good. The overall game looks fine, but you get the feeling that it could've looked even better.

The sound is good, but it feels rather incomplete. Most of the effects sound fine, but then you don't hear anything when you toss some bodies around. It would be nice if there were some kind of audio indicator for grabbing things — especially bullets since those aren't easy to gauge. The voice work is rather good, and the performances for all characters are better than expected for a budget title. The music also does a good job of matching the score for the show, and it is doled out in such a way that the emulation is perfect, with equal parts silence and rousing pieces to match the pacing.

Gemini: Heroes Reborn may be flawed, but it is fun while it lasts. The powers don't get old, and although there isn't much variety in terms of what you can do, they remain enjoyable due to the game's short length. Its brevity also makes the number of puzzles and the story more palatable. It could use some tune-ups in the presentation department, but it isn't bad for a game that's meant to be completed in an afternoon. Fans of the series will likely dig this, as will anyone who's looking for a brief first-person adventure.

Score: 7.0/10

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