Genesis Noir – Nintendo Switch
Developed By: Feral Cat Den
Published By: Fellow Traveller
Category: Point and Click Adventure, Narrative Adventure
Release Date: March 26, 2021
When you begin Genesis Noir you’re presented with a profound opening statement: sometimes reality is too complex for visual perception. This certainly sets the tone for what is to come next, but it may also be an analogy for many trying to decipher the reality of the world you journey through in Genesis Noir.
Described as a cosmic adventure by American developers Feral Cat Den and Australian publishers Fellow Traveller, you are plunged into a story with little context or explanation but much like some of Christopher Nolan’s finest, previous story beats become crystalised later. You play a watch salesman No Man who is trying to save his lover Miss Mass from peril by travelling back through time and space to the Big Bang.
Your journey starts in a city in a world called The Constant. A silky smooth jazz soundtrack plays as the camera pans down from the monochrome city skyline to your protagonist, standing across from the intentionally named Hoppers diner, who appears anxious and shifty for reasons not yet revealed. The story can be difficult to follow throughout, certainly initially. But don’t let that put you off, Genesis Noir can be enjoyed as a passenger on its ride through time and space.
In point and click style, you can move a cursor around to interact with the environment. When inspecting items, clues obscured from view can be found by rotating them with some descriptions delivered in a melancholic tone, such as an advert of a watch you pick up and view which is described as ‘An advertisement from better days’ or a whisky flask with the description ‘A flask for numbing. Good for losing track of time.’ Other times it plays as a walking simulator or a series of mini games you complete to drive the story forward and engross you in its web of mystery.
Genesis Noir is split into different chapters which are linear levels accessed from a hub. At the end of each level you get a clue item which you add to your evidence wall, each one a step closer to saving your lover. Each level is packed full of interesting and varied ideas. In a nod to TV show Atlanta, level names appear as part of the environment like art installations, such as a large neon in a cityscape or carved into the landscape. You’ll play matchmaker between abstract (suggestive looking) shapes looking for love, shear sheep in a field, experiment with an oscilloscope in a lab and improvise on the saxophone to name a few. This creates a feeling of wonder, never knowing what is coming next.
There is limited yet interesting interaction with environments that shift and change in all kinds of unanticipated ways. When picking up a phone to dial a number, the wall of the room you’re in transforms into the phone dial. As you dial the number, the room splinters off with each part of the phone number you dial until it disappears.
Genesis Noir is visually striking, with such an abstract and at times trippy style which will stick in the memory. You never know what you’re going to see next, like you’re traveling through a dream sequence. It shows the power of art direction over graphical fidelity, that will likely stand the test of time. The primarily jazz soundtrack oozes style and atmosphere and adds to the intrigue, which eventually reaches a crescendo towards the end resembling a Bombay Bicycle Club music video.
Frustratingly, the experience on Switch is hampered by a number of glitches. There are collision detection issues, objects and invisible walls you can get stuck on and game crashes which sometimes occur most frustratingly at the end of a level. With the power of surprise and wonder such a significant part of the allure, being made to replay a level strips that away somewhat.
Genesis is a treat for the eyes and the ears, and may be quite unlike anything you see this year. It’s very much a ride worth getting on that shows the power of movie-like experiences in games and visual ingenuity can be enough to offset simplistic gameplay which often is the means to progress the story through to the end. It’s metaphor-filled story may be difficult to follow prior to its conclusion, but art doesn’t need to be understood to be appreciated. However the aforementioned gameplay bugs can pull you out the experience which are fundamentals that need to be right. If you get on the ride don’t leave prematurely, Genesis Noir is very much worth staying on to the end.