Publisher: Imperative Entertainment | Developer: Phosphor Games | Genre: First-Person Action/Adventure | Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One | ESRB: Teen | Release Date: January 18, 2016 | Controls: Mouse/Keyboard, Gamepad/Controller
It wasn’t until after finishing Gemini: Heroes Reborn that I discovered its connection to the NBC television series Heroes and its recent continuation as a miniseries, Heroes Reborn. This admittedly belated revelation called into question my opinion of the game’s storyline and plot, which–until this belated realization–I had thought lowly of. Then came another prodding inquest: Should one think differently of a game because of an association with a television series, film or novel counterpart? Such a question may pose a provocative thesis for an editorial, but on behalf of fairness to standalone successes like Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, Gemini: Heroes Reborn should be judged independently and on its own merits.
I usually beat games in two different manners: I either find myself yearning to complete one due to my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or I distractedly play one until the credits roll; at which point I sigh in both a regretful and satisfying manner. My experience with Gemini: Heroes Reborn was more relatable to the former than the latter. As you may have intuited from the first paragraph, I went into the game with no expectations or prior knowledge of it—possibly to its benefit.
The main character, Cassandra, is in search of information concerning her missing and unidentified parents. Her goofy friend, Alex, leads her to a rundown facility that he mysteriously proclaims to hold the secrets about her parents and her amnesiac history. After donning Smart Glasses for some reason, Cass gets separated from Alex and enlists in a search for her friend through the massive property. As you carve a destructive path through the massive facility in search of Alex and ancestral answers, you discover a selection of time and physics-altering abilities within yourself.
Why and how Cass is bestowed with these extraordinary “Evo” abilities is relatively unexplained. Nonetheless, as you progress through her story, she continues to unlock new powers, many of which are initially a blast to use. Time Scouting is the focal point of Gemini: Heroes Reborn, as well as a game mechanic. Using it instantaneously teleports Cass through time from 2014 back to 2008. In modern times, the facility you explore is decrepit, while in 2008 the building is intact, occupied by guards and prisoners alike. There’s obviously something fishy going on back in time. Presently, Cass is teased by a man named Trevor Mason, who acts as a prototypical villain puppet master; Cass must face him to uncover her sketchy past.
Right off the bat, Alex and Cassandra’s chemistry is awkward, topped off with stilted and clichéd dialogue. Their history is undefined and never really clears up. At first the story itself is relatively interesting; though, it isn’t long before it becomes exasperating and predictable. I was hoping for more of a mysterious narrative—and, like so many aspects of Gemini: Heroes Reborn, the potential was there—but it ended up falling short. If you know nothing of the show, the story is worse than bland, it’s befuddling. Indeed there are twists in the story as Cass peels away her forgotten past, but the plot is stale and the twists lack poignancy. Once the pacing begins, it gradually grinds to a halt while you move from room to room in a waypoint-centric journey.
There are many mechanics and gameplay features that are familiar, borrowed from other games. I noticed similarities to Portal, as well as Bioshock, Half-Life and Dishonored. Although instead of encapsulating one of these games, focusing on specific mechanics and improving them, Gemini: Heroes Reborn boils them down into a melting pot, ending up blurring the lines. This lends itself to a stew of blended genres, turning the game into more of a mishmash than a textured, enjoyable adventure. Sometimes fusing a gamut of genres results in an unexpected and uniquely deep game. However, in this case, the mix of stealth, mystery, adventure, action, and first-person puzzle categories results in an obfuscated journey of substance.
That’s not to say Gemini: Heroes Reborn never finds singular significance, but these moments don’t last long. Cassandra’s newfound abilities are a blast to use within the Unreal Engine 4 sandbox. Time Scout, shifting between time eras to progress through the world, can be rewarding and often tickles the brain. Because of this, I would have liked to have seen Gemini: Heroes Reborn focus and embrace its puzzle aspects. One puzzle jumped out as noteworthy where you uproot a tree in 2008 in order to replant it in a different area. You then teleport to 2014, and now that it’s grown, you climb its massive boughs to reach a previously unobtainable ventilation grate. There’s another event where you must flood a floor by destroying a water pipe in order to weaken the room’s integrity and reach a new area in the future.
There are other abilities like Time Slowing and Telekinesis that are also fun to mess around with. Picking up enemies and hurling them across the room is delightfully sadistic. The honeymoon doesn’t last too long though. Since the AI and enemies are unintuitive, your powers eventually become stale. Rather than having to adapt to your enemies’ tactics, battles devolve into rinse and repeat encounters.
The graphics on “Epic” and at 1440p are decent enough. They aren’t spectacular, and there are parts of the game that are poorly optimized. FPS drops in certain areas occur frequently, and there are plenty of weird issues with lighting effects. The HUD is modernized and pretty, but the Time Shifting portal preview is horrendous looking, resembling an N64 game. Pathing issues also rear their ugly head every once in a while. The NPCs can be buggy, and falling through the world will happen.
Since the story is disjointed and barely relevant, the game doesn’t do the show series much justice. There is a lot of handholding, and progression is centered on waypoints or killing every last enemy to advance rather than deciding where to go for yourself. The abilities, destructive environment, time shifting and micro-puzzles all offer temporary excitement, but eventually repetition bogs down the overall experience. There is a great deal of potential to tap into when it comes to time manipulation. This latent potency is sometimes explored, but mostly left untouched. In the end, Gemini: Heroes Reborn seems to be a game confused with its own identity.
Gemini: Heroes Reborn was played on PC and was provided by the developer.