What is it? An experimental point-and-click adventure that's cool, stylish, and a bit odd.
Expect to pay £12
Developer Feral Cat Den
Publisher Fellow Traveller
Reviewed on AMD Ryzen 5 3600, 8GB, AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT
The Big Bang is kind of bonkers when you think about it. All that we have come to understand—space, time, our universe, and life as we know it—are all part of a long domino chain started from one precise moment. Just thinking about how Earth is a single speck of dust caught in an immense hoover bag full of hundreds of billions of galaxies is enough to send anyone spinning into an existential crisis. But Feral Cat Den's Genesis Noir takes these grand themes in its stride, creating a cosmic adventure mixed with a noir story that goes down like a smooth glass of whiskey.
In Genesis Noir, the Big Bang isn't only the single biggest event in recorded human history, but a gunshot blast frozen in time, its bullet speeding toward your lover. To stop this event from reaching its seemingly inevitable end, you need to explore different pockets of time in the vast expanse of the universe, trying to undo the chain of events leading to this moment and thus changing the course of history.
This thematically epic adventure is wrapped up in a noir mystery, with your character caught in the middle of an unfortunate love triangle. The trio consists of a watch peddler named No Man (the character you play as), your lover and femme fatale jazz singer Miss Mass, and jealous shooter Golden Boy who makes up the third. These characters aren't really people, but something akin to Gods, interdimensional entities, and cosmic beings. The story is similar to the godly dramas of Greek and Norse legends, except this particular god has a trenchcoat, fedora, and an affinity for trad jazz.
Genesis Noir's themes may be ambitious, but following along on this time-traveling adventure is a breeze. Most of the time you'll be swept along through a string of animated sequences with occasional puzzle-solving mixed in. The gameplay is a little experimental and you'll be clicking parts of the scene and manipulating the environment to continue.
The game always has new ways for you to interact with a scene, like taking part in some call-and-response improv jazz, planting seeds that expand into all-engulfing black holes, or simply piecing a broken bowl back together. Most puzzles are pretty straightforward, but there were times where the interactions were a little abstract, and it was difficult to work out what the game wanted from me. Spending time clicking on every part of a scene and pressing all the buttons halts the effortless groove of the game.
Even though there are moments lost in visual translation, the majority of the game flows as smoothly as the coolest saxophone solo. Genesis Noir has a great sense of motion as you travel from one scene to the next, and that's all thanks to its incredible animation and visual style. Often there won't be a puzzle at all and you'll just be messing with the reality of the scene. In one section, I'm using an old rotary phone, and the background swirls around me as I spin its dial. I would be jamming out on some giant piano keys only for them to melt away and reappear as the windows of a giant skyscraper. The imagination that has gone into the game is brilliant. It feels great to play and is a visual feast for the eyes.
Although playing Genesis Noir can be an effortless ride, it does lose momentum when it gets to the last third. There were multiple times where the game's story hinted that it was coming to a close, and after the third false ending, it felt like the game had overstayed its welcome. The game's conclusion, however, felt tonally abrupt rather than dramatic, and something of a let-down.
Genesis Noir may have some issues with pacing towards the end, but the way its story, themes, and visuals are so tightly interwoven is spectacular. Choosing to fuse the ideas of the Big Bang to a broody noir storyline is a really clever concept, and I love how No Man is constantly gravitating towards Miss Mass like he's helplessly caught in her orbit, how the gunshot blast is visualised to look exactly like the scientific diagrams of the Big Bang, and how an ice cube swirling around in a gin glass can look like the spinning planets in a solar system.
The noir genre is all about how characters are caught up in circumstances that are beyond their control—people who are trying to stop a series of events from unfolding but ultimately have no power to do it. Genesis Noir captures exactly that and its deterministic framing of human history and poetic presentation of the Big Bang is a wonderful way to explore it.