Genesis Noir is a “non-traditional” point and click adventure on a cosmic scale created by developer collective, Feral Cat Den and published by Fellow Traveller. Originally conceived in 2013, the road to release has been a long one, but the standout sci-fi noir experience can now be enjoyed on PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
In and around space and time, you will traverse the history of the universe as No Man to save your lover, Miss Mass, from Golden Boy’s jealous rage… and it’s all one big allegory. The murder scene, a gunshot, represents the Big Bang and the inevitable heat-death of the universe; Miss Mass represents the universe’s mass; Golden Boy represents energy; No Man represents time itself; and the bullet’s wake is the ever-expanding reality in which life comes to flourish. The only way to stop the bullet and save Miss Mass is to seed the universe with enough black holes to consume the bullet and return it to sender through time dilation. As Pendulum would say: “it’s heavy stuff”.
Genesis Noir’s gameplay is linear, both in mandatory chapter selection and the way you engage with the evolution of the universe. No Man faces a series of simple logic puzzles that seed early plant life onto planets or combine genes in the original primordial ooze, and the level design is completely unhindered by scale, so you’ll solve these puzzles on the atomic or galactic scale. The puzzles are often as simple to solve as just holding a button and a direction, but the rapid explosion of size and visual dynamism keeps every moment engaging and utterly soothing.
From a visual standpoint, Genesis Noir is absolutely stunning, perfectly marrying the dark contrast of its film noir aesthetic with fractured perceptions that accentuate your role as time. These fractured visuals create dynamic scenes from the simplest of settings and resonate with the noir convention of confusing flashbacks.Set on such a cosmic scale, the art style creates a brilliant contrast between the basic line design of No Man and the intricate beauty of the revolving mechanisms that harness the power of the sun. Deep blues, glowing whites and a trail of golden intrigue make up the main colour scheme, but moments of chaotic colour make Genesis Noir an experience that plays like a kaleidoscope that you’ll want to stare at for hours.
The audio is just as impressive as the art design. Smooth and dissonant jazz aptly structures and engages with the puzzles and worlds No Man explores, while beats and sound waves subtly prime gameplay and give personality to the key characters: Golden Boy is followed around by improvised, chaotic tones; Miss Mass appears with seductive, silken brass notes; and the human characters are followed by beautiful tribal and choral tracks to denote the many voices of humanity. The entire game should only take 3-4 hours to complete, but it will provide an immeasurable sense of satisfaction and many memorable moments throughout. I’m still absolutely wowed by my playthrough, despite the fact that I — and I cannot stress this enough — do not care for jazz.
It is very hard to fault Genesis Noir in any way. Every design and concept has been so painstakingly considered and applied to synergise as a whole, beautiful experience. Neither difficult nor easy, the level design is purely engaging, soothing and thought provoking. Each chapter is framed by poetic romanticisms of scientific theory and evolutionary processes to help frame how No Man will engage with each space. The game even goes so far as to acknowledge the one element that needs some work before you even start the game: there are some visual effects that are harmful to people with photo-sensitivities, but Feral Cat Den is already working on a patch to resolve that.
Genesis Noir is one of the very few games that perfectly lands everything it has on offer. A flawless marriage of sci-fi and noir presented through an interactive medium, rich with passionate audio and visual art. While it is rigorously intelligent with allegory, metaphor, and symbolism, it is also incredibly simple if that is how you choose to engage with the game. Players do not need an academic understanding of the gravitational principles with black holes (I certainly don’t have one) to enjoy the romantic representation of cosmic science, theory, and love.
A critically intelligent and passionate journey through space and time, Genesis Noir is a stellar example of gaming, noir, and art. A must-play.
Tom reviewed Genesis Noir using a retail Xbox Series X code acquired via Xbox Game Pass.