Every now and again, when you’re browsing through the Nintendo eShop or other such gaming stores, you’ll come across a graphic that really captures your imagination, and you’ll click through to find out more about the game. That’s exactly what happened to me with Genesis Noir, developed by New York City-based studio Feral Cat Den. The art deco stylings of the logo paired with the somewhat lonesome figure gazing at Earth had me instant eager to investigate further. I found out that the game was yet to be released, but I looked at the screenshots, their noir stylings and the music in the trailer and I was sure I wanted to give it a chance.
Upon playing the game, I can say that Genesis Noir both exceeds and doesn’t quite meet expectations. The premise of the story is fascinating – a love triangle between gods leads to an attempted murder, wherein the blast from the gun triggers the big bang that created our universe. As a being outside of our space and time, you, the No Man, journey through a series of vignettes dotted throughout the history of the universe as you try to find a way to stop the big bang and save your lover, the beautiful Miss Mass. These vignettes can be absolutely stunning visually and atmospherically. One of my favourites sees a giant Golden Boy, the third point of our love triangle, playing the saxophone in the ocean as you, miniscule in comparison, watch on in wonder. It’s melancholic, aching, beautiful. This is a description that pretty much expands to the whole of Genesis Noir – as you journey, you’ll meet a variety of interesting people, but as you leave them behind on your journey, you can’t help but feel a pang of loneliness as you wonder when you’ll next have a partner on your travels.
Wonder is a pretty constant theme through the game, as you watch planets born of dust, you create the cells that will become the building blocks of life, and you watch human history unfold before you. As you continue on your way, you’ll be able to have some limited interaction with items that you find along the way. Most of the time, this just leads to being able to zoom in on it and read a little description of it, but sometimes these lead to mini flashbacks of your character’s life before his quest to save Miss Mass began. You learn, in drips and drops, how their lives came to be entangled and the actions that lead to Miss Mass’ attempted murder. The descriptions of the items you find along the way also spark the imagination – they often sound much more wondrous and intoxicating than what they are. Whenever I came across something, I’d always stop to take a look at what the game would say about it. This writing, alongside the cosmic visuals and atmosphere all help to take you out of our world view. We are not experiencing this story as a human, but as a divine being who can drop in and out of space and time at will. The item descriptions and how they are represented in the world all help to create that sense of ‘other’ in your head and keep it present at all times.
Tonally, and visually then, the world of Genesis Noir truly lives up to expectations. However, there are a couple of drawbacks with the game, and they are generally on the technical side of things. There were quite a few times when I felt that my button presses weren’t being properly registered – the opening scrawl of text to start each chapter sometimes just wouldn’t move on, no matter how much I pressed the ‘a’ button. Furthermore, there were a couple of glitches that caused me issues – in one climactic moment, the game just crashed on me and made me have to redo the previous ten minutes, while towards the end of the game, the sound just cut out. At first I thought it was a tonal choice, but as it continued, I started to feel a little suspicious. A reboot of the game confirmed to me that it was, in fact, a technical error, and there should have been music playing in the background. Beyond the technical difficulties, some of the ‘puzzles’ do seem a little obtuse. In one, you had to join up stars, but I had joined up the wrong pair and couldn’t get the lines to cancel, so ended up having to start all over again. There was the odd time when, during a puzzle, I’d stumble across the correct answer and still not be quite sure what had happened.
Despite those technical hiccups and some slightly off puzzle design, I found myself eager to continue playing Genesis Noir. This is a game that, even though flawed, lured me in with its visuals, its story and its sound. Being able to watch our universe grow from its humble beginnings to birthing life on Earth is pretty interesting, and, perhaps in a weird way, somewhat humbling. Seeing it laid out before you like this truly makes you appreciate the series of events which led to us being here as we are today. While Genesis Noir might not be everybody’s cup of tea, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, I do think that anyone who wants to have a ‘games as an art form’ experience and doesn’t mind looking past technical frustrations, there is a gem to be found in here. Who knows, maybe if a patch soon follows, I’ll be able to give an even more whole-hearted recommendation! In the meantime, tread with caution, but come into this one open-minded and I’m sure you’ll find plenty to love in the story and worlds of Genesis Noir.