How far would you go to save your loved one? Would you destroy all of creation just to prevent a bullet being fired at them from hitting its target? That’s the dilemma faced by No Man, the protagonist of Genesis Noir by Feral Cat Den and Fellow Traveller. At first, it seems like No Man is just a watch peddler who got caught up in a love triangle with a jazz singer named Miss Mass and Golden Boy, the saxophonist in her band. However, when Golden Boy shoots Miss Mass in a fit of jealousy, it creates the Big Bang and No Man is plunged into a surreal adventure spanning time and space.
As strange as the story sounds it is even more surreal in action. Genesis Noir is essentially a point & click adventure that sees No Man dipping in and out of pockets of time spread across the Big Bang. His overarching goal is to collect golden springs that will eventually allow him to destroy creation. However, as grandiose as this may sound, it essentially boils down to completing a couple of tactile puzzles in each area while marveling at the noir-style visuals. Unfortunately, this means that some players will love it and just go with the flow while others expecting something a little more traditional will more than likely end up confused and frustrated.
One of the most striking elements of Genesis Noir is the visuals. The game makes use of copious shades of black, blue, gray, and white for each scene and the result is as striking as it is stylish. The animations are fairly simple, but the constantly changing camera angles, dreamlike environments, and unique transitions make it all seem even more impressive. The game is split into fourteen chapters, each tackling a different theme or period in time. The developers of Genesis Noir are very good at using very simple visuals to convey epic concepts, so if you get drawn into this game prepare for quite a few mind-blowing moments. On the other side of the coin, some players might also find the game to be pretentious. From a technical standpoint, the only visual options are three preset quality options, the option to enable or disable Vsync, and the ability to choose the resolution.
Jazz music and noir visuals go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise that Genesis Noir excels in this department too. The soundtrack features everything from trumpets and double bass to tenor saxes and orchestral elements. Voice acting is conspicuously absent for most of the game, which adds to the surreal atmosphere, so it’s rather surprising to hear it introduced in the final chapter.
The controls are very straightforward and mostly involve moving No Man around the various scenes and clicking or dragging items to interact with them. We found that using the WASD keys works best for moving No Man while the mouse is reserved for interactions. Often these interactions are as simple as popping bubbles, plucking petals from flowers, spinning planets, or playing a Simon-Says style duet with a bass player. The puzzles are not exactly taxing, so half the challenge is often figuring out what the game expects from you. It is impossible to do anything wrong or die, though, so players are free to poke and prod at everything. The game doesn’t really have an inventory system like traditional point & click adventures either and while you might return to certain locations there’s never any real backtracking required.
Genesis Noir is certainly not a game that can be faulted for its scope or its imagination. No Man might be putting together the components of a Japanese tea ceremony in one chapter and then fiddling around with the controls of an electron supercollider in another. It is these surreal elements and never knowing where you might end up next that makes the game so compelling to play. The puzzles generally feel more like short mini-games so there is nothing here that is taxing enough that players will be stuck for too long. However, especially towards the end, some puzzles perhaps repeat too many times, which can feel like the run-time is being padded a bit.
Genesis Noir is not a very long game and also not as complicated as its story would want you to believe, but it is hard to argue with its creativity and ambition. It is not often that a game sends us scurrying off to read up on things like “Bubble Theory,” “Inflaton Fields,” and the “Kardashev scale” so the developers deserve kudos just for that. Just like the jazz music that is woven through every element of the game, Genesis Noir abandons traditional elements for something more improvised and spontaneous. Still, jazz music is an acquired taste for many and the same applies to Genesis Noir. It’s not perfect and some elements work better than others, but players who are open to new and unique experiences will have a wild ride with this game.
- OS: Windows 10
- Processor: AMD / Intel CPU running at 2.6 GHz or higher
- Memory: 6 GB RAM
- Graphics: Radeon R9 285 (or equivalent) or GeForce GTX 560Ti or newer
- DirectX: Version 12
- Storage: 8 GB available space
- OS: MacOS 10.13.0
- Processor: 2.0 Ghz
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Storage: 2 GB available space