Played on Xbox Series X
A point and click adventure game on a cosmic scale. With a love story that starts with the creation, expansion and possibly the destruction of the entire universe, I can guarantee you one thing.
You’ve probably never seen, nor played, anything quite like this.
I say point and click, because that’s the genre of video game it’s probably closest too, in that yes, you have a pointer or cursor of sorts, and you can most assuredly ‘click’ on things, but interact is probably a better word to use.
New York based developers, ‘Feral Cat Den’ (Great name) have described Genesis Noir as an “adventure game with an emphasis on exploration, simple interactions and generative art”. This is somewhat of an understatement, as by the games conclusion, you’ll certainly have explored the vast reaches of the universe, both physically and spiritually.
I’ll try and set the story up here as best I can. You play as No Man, a Dick Tracy style character who happens to represent time. No Man is very much in love with a voluptuous Jazz Singer, Miss Mass. Unfortunately, she got in the bad books – and gun sights – of Golden Boy, a saxophone player who decides to put a bullet in her. The gunshot is the “bang”, and represents the creation of the universe. The Earth is apparently a rather large piece of shrapnel on its way to pierce the unfortunate singers heart.
It’s your job to try and stop the inevitable, if it can be stopped at all. The universe is ever expanding after all, so the only path is destruction. No Man seeks the formula for a black hole, with a plan to end the big bang entirely.
Along the way, you’ll create the building blocks of life, spin the stars, grow and nurture seeds into plants and trees and solve complicated particle analysis. Each section of the game is started with some very serious scientific fact and theory on the creation of the universe, and is utilised to set the scene from the initial Big Bang and beyond.
I regularly marvelled at the many different moments to be had in the various chapters of this cosmic love triangle, and I’m loath to spoil any of them for you, but I’ll risk two early ones. The first time you decide to sleep as you wait for a plant to grow, and speed things up by grabbing the very stars themselves to spin them overhead to expedite growth. Or later, as you begin to piece together the very first cells and bacteria that will become the first life on Earth, deep in the ocean as underwater volcanos spew warmth and energy into the depths. It’s all varied, both visually and musically, and each segment is a source of genuine, childish delight.
Genesis Noir is also a visual treat, which has to honestly be seen in motion to be enjoyed. It reminded me greatly of the abstract elements seen recently in Disney Pixar’s Soul. That’s not the only thing it has in common, and that’s jazz. The music and its uses, both in mood and gameplay are fantastic in application. The splash of a cymbal or the tap and thud of the double bass as you spin, pull, build and destroy is done incredibly well.
Having said that, I did run into a few bugs on my play through, where chapters didn’t fully “close” meaning quite a bit of replaying, which frustrated me immensely. I also question, outside of showing other people how cool the art and sound design are, how much replayability is on offer here.
For those of us who like a lot of ‘game’ in their video games, they may also be left wanting. This is more an experience, albeit and incredibly interactive one, with little hand holding or objectives given. In terms of gameplay though, there’s not much here. If you don’t think video games can be art, you may find yourself bemused and likely uninterested in short order.
For those that love projects that take a few risks and try to do something different, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. The imagination and variety on display is frankly phenomenal, and as fan of experiments and risks in this medium, I’m left thoroughly impressed.
But if you can slip on a good pair of headphones, and imagine yourself in a smoky jazz club with a drink in hand, I think you’ll have a very good time indeed.
Genesis Noir is available on Xbox Game Pass for PC and console.