The first series of Heroes was a true milestone in television entertainment and still holds up to this very day. Sure, some of the effects look hammy compared to modern standards, yet all the key ingredients were there. If anything it proved that writers didn’t have to rely on the decades of archived comic book stories from publishers like Marvel and DC. With solid pacing, superb writing, and an enthralling roster of characters, Heroes achieved what its blockbuster counterparts could not do at the time, delivering a grounded yet engaging superhero story that could swap all-out action for pure drama and still reel in viewers by their millions.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of Heroes Reborn. NBC’s recent attempt to bring the popular series back to life regurgitates the same spool of narrative thread, and it failed to recapture the imagination of many core fans, partly due to many big names, such as Hayden Panettiere and Zachary Quinto, having left the show in 2009. With other superhero movies and television shows having come leaps and bounds since then, it’s little surprise that few fell in love with Heroes Reborn.
NBC Universal Television clearly had very high hopes for its return to screens, however, having signed off on not one, but two video game adaptations. With developer Phosphor Games (Nether, Horn) at the helm, the purpose of these spin-offs was to flesh out some of the lore lore, effectively serving as a bridge between Heroes past and present.
The Chicago-based studio is hardly a stranger when it comes to tackling such a premise. Although few will remember, Phosphor had originally planned to release its own original superhero title before it wound up in development limbo. Still, it’s clearly to see through Gemini: Heroes Reborn that the studio has an abundance of inventive ideas knocking about, even if some are poorly executed.
Instead of going down the same route as most video game adaptations, Phosphor created its own story set in the Heroes universe. As twenty-year-old Cassandra, players will explore an abandoned facility in their attempts to discover this mysterious character’s past. With only a handful of mentionable characters, the plotline runs incredibly thin, managing to snag on a variety of tropes along the way. Of course, there is the occasional nod to both Heroes and its lukewarm successor, but ultimately this is one story you’re sure to end up forgetting.
Interestingly Gemini is played entirely in first person, breaking away from your regular superhero spin-off. However, instead of wielding an arsenal of assault rifles and shotguns, Cassandra packs a intriguing combination of powers. We aren’t talking fireballs or thunderbolts either, with time travel and telekinesis taking centre stage.
It’s an odd pairing yet one that brings an exciting dynamic to Gemini’s first person gameplay. At the simple press of a button, players can shift between two completely different time periods, showing the facility both before and after a cataclysmic event laid it to waste. This entails much more than a simple texture swap or lighting adjustment here and there. Most times, environments can dramatically change in shape, harbouring different objects and enemies in their boundaries. Time travel also comes in handy when moving between these interchangeable areas, many of them linked by door and vent ducts that materialise as you alternate between time periods.
Cassandra’s telekinetic powers kick in when it comes to combat, allowing players to toss enemies around like ragdolls or pelting them with anything in her nearby proximity that isn’t nailed down. This is perhaps where Gemini is at its most enjoyable: a super-powered playground sporting crazy physics. There’s a real sense of joy in flinging guards around the facility, watching as they flail into walls and the many death traps strewn about.
Combining the two powers together, players can slow time, opening the door to a handful of advanced mechanics. The most satisfying of these, however, is being able to catch bullets and projectiles mid-flight, firing them straight back at your attackers.
As fun as these powers are to use, they lose their novelty as you progress further into the game. When juxtaposed with tedious exploration and puzzle sections, they serve as Gemini’s main source of entertainment value. What also doesn’t help is the game’s dated visuals. Although not completely awful, it’s a mixed bag that contains too many dull textures and drab character models.
In a way, it feels kind of cruel to mark Gemini down. For all its flaws and lacklustre looks, you can tell that Phosphor were really onto something in the way it experimented with superpowers here. Given more time and resources – and without being weighed down by the Heroes license – the studio could have created a truly special comic book adventure.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4