Combining the powers of other games, this tie in becomes slightly more than expected.
Expectations were low going into this tie-in game for a show whose cancellation after just one season was recently announced, but Gemini: Heroes Reborn refused to completely live up to the cliche by sometimes being more fun than the TV series that inspired it. That’s not really saying much, but Gemini at least lets the series die with a shred of dignity.
You can almost see the DNA of Portal and Half Life 2 coiling through the walls of the facility you battle through.
A big part of the fun of watching Heroes was guessing which Marvel or DC superhero inspired the powers of this or that character on the show; with Gemini: Heroes Reborn, it’s just as entertaining to figure out which beloved game inspired the settings and action. In one corner, you can almost see the DNA of Portal and Half Life 2 coiling through the walls of the facility you battle through (and the graphical fidelity here is probably closer to the standards of 2004 than 2015). Mirror’s Edge reveals itself in the first-person platforming sequences, and BioShock almost screams its presence when the hero injects herself with a syringe that grants her glowy hands and telekinesis. Gemini: Heroes Reborn is thus every bit as derivative as Heroes and the doomed Heroes Reborn, but much like them, it sometimes manages to deliver some fun in its own right.
It certainly captures the feeling of the show well, right down to the mediocre acting and the jarring attempts to inject millennial slang into the script. “Check out these dope smart glasses,” one character says barely three minutes in. “So baller!” another exclaims right after. Ugh, gag me with a spoon.
Wisely, though, Gemini doesn’t burden itself with the expectations that portrayals of the new or old crop of heroes would bring; instead, the action centers on the hitherto unknown Cassandra, an unflappable sort who’s trespassing on an abandoned facility in 2014 in order to find out what happened to her long-lost parents. The lore never gets much deeper than that, unfortunately, apart from references to series favorites like Hiro Nakamura scattered about the debris. The approach works, though, as there’s a faint glimmer of that wonderful sense of discovery that characterized Heroes’ first season while Cassandra learns to harness her newfound powers, even if the plot rarely grows more complex than her search for a captured friend.
These are powers that prove useful in combat and puzzle-solving.
Focusing on a familiar character (other than Sylar) would have done Gemini a disservice, as being limited to a single power probably wouldn’t have produced combat as generally enjoyable as this. As it is, Cass is practically a goddess, and that allows for some great moments in a mostly bland game. She slips back and forth in time to both 2008 and 2014 with the ease of someone shooing flies away (and that power comes with a nifty ability to see what’s going on in the other time period without leaving the current year), and she can speed up or slow down time to boost her own speed and make otherwise impossible jumps. Later, she learns telekinesis about as easily as Neo learned kung fu, which leads to satisfyingly Matrixy sequences in which she stops bullets in mid-air and sends them flying back into her enemies’ faces. These are powers that prove useful in combat and puzzle-solving, which often focuses switching between states of the facility to avoid locked doors and rubble.
It’s actually a little disturbing to see how easily Cassandra slips into murder—for a long stretch, there’s little evidence the guards she fights are doing much more than performing basic sentry duties at a remote facility with an unclear purpose. She slaughters them without blinking an eye, long before she’s given reasonable provocation.
But gosh, you know, it’s kind of fun. Once it’s clear the guards aren’t merely out to question some snooping kids, in both 2008 and 2014 they come at Cass in assortments that demand specialized techniques. She can’t fling heavily armored guards across the room, for instance, she has to pelt them with their own ammo or smash them with the occasional desk. Nothing hits her so hard as the slippery melee fighters in 2008 who bounce around like ninjas—she needs to slow time to avoid their batons. In the best battles, Gemini: Heroes Reborn demands you use multiple such tactics in quick succession, and it’s kind of exciting to get through such bouts without a scratch.
Why does a god need to sneak?
Tutorial pop-ups encourage you to use the time-hop ability for stealthy tactics – guards exist in both the 2008 and 2014 versions of the facility, but rarely are they at the same place in their different times. On the other hand, stealth rarely seems necessary or even rewarding, as some areas can’t be cleared without killing the same local schmucks you’re ostensibly trying to avoid. For that matter, on Normal mode Cass might as well add near-invulnerability to her suddenly impressive resume, as bullets seem to affect her about as adversely as accidental tumbles into small rose bushes. Why does a god need to sneak?
It’s much more fun to pull filing cabinets from 2008 and smash them over the heads of the devoted 2014 security staff, who sometimes crumple a tad too hilariously with ragdoll physics that clash with the overall attempt at gravitas. It devolves into a mindless shooter of sorts, deemphasizing the more interesting puzzle solving, but never resorting to giving you actual guns. Once you get the hang of it, the smashing, smashing, smashing and a healthy dose of jumping puzzles is good, cathartic fun.
In that light, Gemini: Heroes Reborn ends precisely when it should. The whole mess is over in a mere five hours, which is about the time that the dance of time travel and telekinesis starts to grow a tad stale. It’s just enough time to leave some goodwill after seeing one too many bugged NPCs running mindlessly in circles, or after the graphical sameyness of the facility and its outdated textures started to wear down. Gemini: Heroes Reborn isn’t without a few visual surprises, particularly since the the switch between past and present states imparts some silent stories, but only in the opening minutes does it give us something to enjoy besides grim, secretive corridors. But there is, at least, something to enjoy here, which is more than Heroes Reborn itself could usually say.