Of All The Big Bangs, She Walked Into Mine
HIGH Every moment is graphically gorgeous.
LOW Discovering there’s no autosave — the hard way.
WTF An ending that seems to expand the infinite vastness of the universe.
While playing Genesis Noir, I kept trying to remember what it was about the demo I played last June that I appreciated so much? At the time I walked away from that small slice in love with its playfulness, and it remained stuck in my memory — I was excited to hear that it had finally been released! However, I suspect that demo gave the wrong impression about the true nature of Feral Cat Den’s title (as a whole) since the magic I recalled remains hidden for most of the experience.
Everything needed to know about the story is right there in the title — it is literally about Genesis (as in, the universe’s ‘big bang’) and it is a Noir-style tale. Beyond that… well, it’s not exactly straightforward to grasp or explain. The creation event and a man are juxtaposed with a story of a murder caused by jealousy. The ‘detective’ tracking down the main suspect is also merging with the mysterious creator of the universe itself. It’s not the average whodunnit story, for sure.
As for the gameplay, it seems to be mostly of the ‘click to advance’ variety — pop bubbles on the screen or walk to the end of an area to proceed. With this limited interface one might feel like a visitor in an art gallery, and rightly so. Every chapter features different environments for the player to gander at, but interactivity is limited only to what is required to progress. Despite this simplicity, there are several occasions where the player is tasked with waving their cursor around or blindly clicking on things while hoping to figure out what the designers intended.
Granted, there are a few actual puzzles here and there, like turning the hands on a clock or fiddling with knobs to guess the right frequency. None of it is terribly taxing or difficult to figure out, and in the grand scheme of things, these instances seemed almost like afterthoughts. Personally, I felt the more Genesis Noir tried to deliver an adventure-style point-and-click experience — even going as far as to feature sequences where the character walks around, picks up items and uses them — the less appropriate it felt to its ‘narrative meets art’ style.
Naturally, with its heart dipped in inky noir, there’s an appropriately smoky jazz soundtrack to go along with the gorgeous black and white art style that jumps out of screenshots. Make no mistake, the presentation here is entirely unique, combining cubism with early 1900 expressionism and a slice of Japanese ukiyo-e paintings. Seeing it in motion looks even more impressive despite some performance issues.
While Genesis Noir is a real looker and the adventure maintains a robust pacing throughout, the ending felt like it dragged on forever, and the final section throws its striking noir style out the window in favor of explosive colors and a sudden shift into electropop territory, complete with lyrics. After five minutes of that, I felt like the game had lost itself and I was just waiting for the credits to roll.
Apart from style and presentation issues, a major criticism I have is that Genesis Noir has no autosave nor manual save — which is fine — but the devs failed to address it in any way whatsoever. While I absolutely commend a developer who is clearly ‘doing their own thing’, that lack of communication led to easily-avoidable problems, like having to replay entire sections just because I had to answer a Skype call.
Genesis Noir stands out as an unique experience in the current landscape. There’s no argument there. However, for all of its gorgeous art, daring concepts and oblique storytelling, the gameplay and interaction required to succeed in this medium ends up failing to connect and doesn’t engage with the player in ways that feel significant .
Disclosures: This game is developed by Feral Cat Den and published by Fellow Traveller. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game is rated T by the ESRB, and contains Mild Blood, Mild Violence, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco. While nothing too graphic is ever shown, because of the complexity of the topics involved in its story, I would agree with the recommendation of this game to a teen audience. There is no salty language.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: While the game does feature several puzzles based on audio cues, there are also added visual references to aid the player, even though some still remain quite difficult without audio. Some hard-to-read text is also subtitled. I would warn less dexterous players that, at the moment, the game requires some pretty complicated mouse movements to solve some of the puzzles. The game is partially accessible.
Remappable Controls: The game’s controls are not remappable and can only be controlled via the mouse with added keyboard support for a couple of sequences. As mentioned, the controls are quite difficult to master in some of the puzzles because it is never explained how the player is supposed to move around the mouse.