Reviewer: Jeremy Jackson
Played on: PC
Genesis Noir is a genius melding of the theories of the universe and an iconic film genre. Film noir already explores what it means to be human (often with nihilistic undertones), so combining it with literal theories of how and why we’ve come about is such a satisfying path. The gameplay feels more like an interactive film sprinkled with some relatively fun, abstract puzzles, but the style and story are where Genesis Noir really shines.
Gameplay: A simple vessel to carry you through the experience
Genesis Noir is highly cinematic and linear (though, there are a few neat instances of choice in the game). The gameplay is simplistic, mostly involving some light character control and plenty of straightforward puzzles. Nothing here will leave you scratching your head for too long, but the same can’t be said about the story, which is packed with twists and turns (narratively and metaphysically).
The puzzles themselves are as elegant as the visuals, which you’ve already seen for yourself in the screenshot above. Some jazz sections will have you bobbing your head and wanting more and some puzzles which will get an “ahhh” as they remind you of high-school science classes.
What’s worth noting is that the puzzles genuinely drive the story forward and help the player piece together some clues in this vast detective experience. When gameplay achieves story progression and exposits this effectively, it’s hard to criticize the simplicity.
That being said, if you are the type of person who gets too frustrated if gameplay is a little slow and easy, then this game might not be worth it to you. If you are on the fence, you should approach Genesis Noir as a mostly interactive viewing experience with some light puzzling.
Story: Save the dame, save the universe
There’s a lot that can spoil the story in Genesis Noir, so I will stay vague. You play as No Man, a typical noir detective with a habit for all the vices in the universe and a tendency to get himself into sticky situations (thank God for character tropes).
No Man is in a lustful love affair with Miss Mass, a singer in a local joint. Miss Mass has found a passionate enemy in Golden Boy, a saxophone player and failing star who opts to shoot and kill Miss Mass out of anger. Here is where No Man’s story starts, as he will look to stop the bullet from reaching Miss Mass by creating a black hole to suck up the bullet that has already left the gun. WHOA – that took a turn!
Genesis Noir takes many turns as you join No Man on an epic voyage through human history—and the cosmos—in search of the key to creating a black hole. You explore deeply philosophical and human stories and seek to understand the concepts that define our consciousness.
Of course, time is an important concept here, as your protagonist has a peculiar affinity for watches. Your entire voyage reveals many similarities between the universe and humanity, with the Fibonacci Golden Spiral being symbolic for these parallels throughout the story.
It’s rare to find a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously and explores some profound concepts. What better protagonist to explore the questions of the universe than a desperate noir-style detective, and what better soundtrack than a slow Jazz beat.
Style: Consistent, gorgeous, and purposeful
Genesis Noir has a very simple style. White, black, grey, and gold make up most of the color pallet. This aesthetic never gets old, and the developers apply it masterfully to the different theories and scenarios they explore.
This visual style gives the game a truly unique look while staying consistent with noir fans’ expectations. The distinct colors also do a great job of representing the three key characters in the game, but they’re also used to explore the game’s philosophy—a satisfying use of design that elevates the story.
This is one of the best-looking games I’ve played in a long time, and I spent almost as much time taking screenshots to use as a background as I did wrapping my head around the mind-fuckery of the story.
Genesis Noir is a rare gem, a game that can only be experienced to its full potential in the very first playthrough and raises more questions than it answers while also leaving the player extremely satisfied. It hit all the right buttons for me; a noir aesthetic (one of my favorite film genres), a story that parallels the simple with the complex, and a killer soundtrack. Especially with the game’s availability on Game Pass, I seriously recommend that everyone give this one a go just to see if it clicks. In the end, I’m left with one of my favorite games so far this year.