Back in university, most of us can probably attest to ending up once in some disorganized freshman party or wild classroom shindig. Whether you ultimately enjoyed yourself or not, there will often come a moment a few hours into the madness when you eventually ask yourself, “What in tarnation is happening?” or “What on earth am I doing here?” If you, for some reason so relish those unforgettable memories and wish to relive them, look no further than Genesis Noir. In this jazzy, monochromatic psychedelic point-and-click adventure, you’ll need more than a few drinks to process what the blazes is going on. Developed by Feral Cat Den, Genesis Noir is out on Steam, Xbox One, Switch, and Game Pass.
Trippy ‘Blues’ Clues
From peddling wristwatches on the street to solving cosmic mysteries with a jazzy beat, you play as No Man, a time-traveling dimension hopper who’s hell-bent on unraveling a murder crime that seemingly, influences all of space and time. Hopping from dimension to dimension and drunk on physic booze, you’ll explore the cosmos in search of clues. These will uncover why Golden Boy, the snazzy saxophone player with Elvis-style hair, is attempting to murder Miss Mass, the alluring singer with whom you’d had an affair.
High on cosmic moonshine, you’ll constantly be slipping, sliding, and slurping into and through deep interstellar gateways and arcane black holes, all with the hope you can save the one you love. Attend a tea ceremony in feudal Japan, have a saxophone standoff with a bass busker in a train station, witness the birth of the very universe — No Man’s tale delivers one novelty after another. Genesis Noir has no shortage of bizarre “WTH” moments, where one stage will have you casually pruning a tree that grows birds while another will have you unpleasantly trying to copulate sentient shapes like a molecular breeding simulator. Until the conclusion, most players likely won’t comprehend the illogical narrative; neither will the whacky story wait for players to grasp its meaning.
Abstract Puzzles Don’t Equal Fun Gameplay
Genesis Noir‘s gameplay follows in the steps of its risible narrative as a non-stop surreal and nonsensical experience. It can be best described as an interactive storybook of sorts. The game constantly requires “touch-style” mechanics that produce an overall impression that Genesis Noir was perhaps supposed to be a mobile title. Continuously trying to convey its story in a deranged and abstract manner, the gameplay’s design doesn’t feel consistent with the plot. One moment you’ll be following an eventless “yellow brick road” of booze bubbles to locate a vision. In another area, you’ll be rapidly clicking(tapping) your screen trying to collect bulbous hairpin-like creatures to form rings. Every moment the game feels like it’s trying to “wow” the player by throwing you into the trippiest, surreal experience imaginable. In my opinion, I can’t say I wasn’t intrigued, but neither was I ever really enjoying myself in Genesis Noir.
No Man will regularly come across abstract puzzles that aren’t too complicated to solve but hold no significant gameplay value other than being novel. The experience almost feels like a fugazi, like the entire gameplay is actually just an obscure showcase for some new touchscreen technology or something. Genesis Noir‘s design feels like it’s in love with itself so much that it forgot it’s inherently supposed to be a game. Filled to the brim with surreal mechanics and metaphysical concepts, the otherwordly gameplay is a constant stream of interactive propaganda, trying to make you think it’s clever when it’s really not. You’ll run into many unique but prosaic puzzles that clearly aren’t fun, but the game will be like, “Oh, did you enjoy that? Let’s do it ten more times.” Light a match and uneventfully run about until it becomes dark; repeat this process multiple times. Saunter around in an ample, dull open space while “planting” black holes until something interesting happens. On the whole, Genesis Noir makes for a great experimental “touchscreen playground.” Yet, the overarching experience is poor and ineffective regarding its core game design.
However, there still were redeemable instances worth a mention. For example, there’s a sequence where you have to rebuild broken objects. The zen-like experience isn’t groundbreaking by far, but it was a notably enjoyable part of the game because the player is “actively doing something” as opposed to “passively nothing.” On the other hand, half of the time, I couldn’t tell if Genesis Noir‘s mix of narrative and gameplay was striving to be emotional, serious, or comical. Undoubtedly, a niche crowd will be into this kind of unhinged design while heavily lacking appeal for the wider audience.
Pristine Jazz and Animated Pizzazz
Where the linear gameplay (and abstract story) generally misses the mark, the same cannot be said about Genesis Noir‘s incredible soundtrack and audio design. The focus on heavy jazz creates a heavenly atmosphere for the “noir” setting. The exquisite saxophone pieces mixed with the clingy double basses, trumpets, and trombones will assuredly keep players “in the mood.” Where Genesis Noir lacks in gameplay design, its well-rounded sound effects and skillfully placed ambiance were on par with its various environments. While the psychedelic visuals in terms of the story were somewhat messy, the overall presentation and clean character animations were well-done. Genesis Noir holds an exceptional level of mastery in its cinematography, imagery, and camera work. There are definite moments when the rancid gameplay and the absurd story don’t get in the way of the game’s good parts — its phenomenal audio and graphically pleasing aesthetics.
Multiple Softlocks and Collision Glitches
While continuing to hammer on Genesis Noir‘s lackluster gameplay isn’t my intention, the game has some major issues that must be addressed. Throughout my playthrough, I ran into four total softlocks preventing any progress until I restarted the stage. Each save begins at the level’s beginning, so starting over every time is anything but fun. There are also a few collisions, notably in sections with interactive ‘palm leaves.’ These aren’t as serious as the softlocks but still posed as an annoyance nonetheless. While these problems won’t affect everyone, it’s important to keep in mind such potential hazards when playing.
Surreal Yet Colorless
Even though it lasted only a few hours, Genesis Noir was a memorable adventure with its theatric experience and spectacular cinematography. However, the experimental gameplay was (literally) colorless and frustrating. The story was an unstable roller coaster ride that didn’t compel any investment on the player’s part. The nonsensical finale was a comical nightmare that left me speechless. The whole experience could compare to watching a poetically bad movie, leaving you curious to see how terrible it can get until the end. If Feral Cat Den’s goal was to make an unenjoyable but relatively unforgettable mind-bending journey, they did an excellent job.
While I can’t quite put my finger on it, the Genesis Noir surreal experience was therapeutic in a way, with its concluding moments curing me of the foul blight the game gave to me in the first place. Those looking for something worthwhile to play should steer clear of this game’s delirious disarray, but if you’re absolutely craving for something new, Genesis Noir could be the game for you.
- Astounding jazzy soundtrack and audio design
- Entertaining cinematography and animations
- Bland, tedious gameplay (more suitable for a touchscreen)
- Confusing and nonsensical niche narrative
- Softlocks and collision bugs
- Irredeemable 'abstract puzzles'
- Excessively assertive in its 'surreal concepts'