Genesis Noir (2021)
Developer: Feral Cat Den
Okay, this will be the last of my Xbox Game Pass games for a good while. I had to squeeze in one more before my trial subscription ran out. Genesis Noir was a game I heard about after it received several nominations and awards at the end of last year. I didn't know much about it but I found the art style to be really unique and intriguing. Genesis Noir is a noir point-and-click adventure about space, cosmic gods, and saving someone you love. Genesis Noir is undoubtedly stylish, jazzy, and artistically impressive; unfortunately, as a game, it feels like a chore to get through and difficult to comprehend.
You play as "No Man", who at first appears to be just a watch salesman, dealing with different customers on the streets of a big city. After heading home, he calls the phone number he has written on napkin. Hearing a frenzied woman's voice on the other end of the line, he runs over to the apartment of Miss Mass, his lover. He rushes in to find Golden Boy, a vain musician who has also fallen for Miss Mass, firing a shot directly at her. Time stops in that moment and allows No Man to consider all the ways he could possibly stop this catastrophe from happening. It is now that things get cosmic and abstract - Golden Boy's shot is the Big Bang, and No Man must find a way to stop it, destroy creation, and save his lover. No Man will jump into several locations within the shot, which are moments in time and space that he can influence to see if it could change the outcome. Essentially each of these locations are individual levels, all taking you through different puzzles and collecting different items.
As I said before, Genesis Noir has such unmistakable style and personality in its art. Even though it's mostly black and white, its sharp contrast and thick lines make the world pop and then quickly morph into something else. It plays with using abstract shapes, which makes sense within the idea that the characters and worlds represent abstract ideas. The few times this game uses colors really makes an dramatic effect of making things stand out and guide you. The music is also an excellent "noir" jazz that also adds to this drama and moodiness. I'm not an expert on this type of music, but I really like the soundtrack and think it works well. Even the one important thematic song that isn't jazz is still really good, although a little inconsistent with everything else.
Now, I've listed all the positives for Genesis Noir. Unfortunately, despite those, this game was not for me. I'm not sure if it's the slow gameplay, the smooth jazz, or the dark colors, but playing it made me very sleepy. I had to take a lot of breaks and come back when I felt more awake. Even when I was, though, I found a lot of the early puzzles really boring and repetitive. Even something like planting seeds, which should've been a cool thing to do, felt a little pointless when I didn't understand why I was doing it and especially why I had to do it like 20 times. Also, movement just felt very limited. Whether I arrow keys or my mouse to move around, I would encounter very random invisible walls and certain paths that wouldn't let me move until I approached it from a weird specific angle. It felt frustrating to actually navigate this space-like environment. An issue that I think some point-and-click games suffer from, and this sometimes did as well, is that you'll end up on a screen where you're just blindly clicking everywhere on the screen to advance the story. Often times I was pretty confident I knew where I was supposed to click and I did doso, but I wasn't clicking exactly on the right spot enough to trigger a reaction. There's a few puzzles here and there I enjoyed, but a lot of them overstayed their welcome. I did enjoy playing music with another jazz musician, but the game didn't involve enough of this mechanic or enough freedom with it as I would've expected or enjoyed.
Genesis Noir is meant to feel mysterious and abstract, I'm sure, but unfortunately it leaned so hard into that to where I didn't feel like the game was really communicating its story. I have a hunch that perhaps the story and theme would've been a lot more interesting to someone who loves space science. I personally don't find space that interesting and don't know a whole lot about it beyond the basics. It focused a lot on scientific theories regarding the Big Bang and the "Big Crunch", giving you information about these when jumping into new levels. I did like the idea that you as No Man would get to see the story and patterns of humankind, but I would also say that this felt less like a "mystery" to solve and more like going to a bunch of levels to gather items to help you stop the Big Bang. The ending of the game was decently satisfying so I'm glad I pushed through the beginning parts, but it's definitely one that I considered just dropping halfway through.
Genesis Noir is a work of art, but perhaps in the wrong medium. I hate to say "this game should've been a movie", because I think games can function in many different ways, so instead I'll say that I think this game should've focused more on engaging gameplay. It was perhaps so focused about style and beauty that it left me feeling like I was just an observer, not a player in the story. It's hard for me to recommend it but if you love the noir aesthetic and you like stories about space, then maybe this is a better fit for you. Perhaps it went over my head with its symbolism.
Genesis Noir is available on PC, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
Played on: PC
Playtime: 7 hrs