Every once in a while you get a game that really breaks away from the norm and tries something new, something unique. That’s exactly what Genesis Noir sets out to do. The question is: does it succeed?
Starting with the obvious this time: the graphics, as I would be lying if I said that wasn’t what originally drew me to this game. Genesis Noir is a very striking game and nearly everything about its visual direction is top notch. It is colorful, dynamic, and is both cinematic and abstract, a perfect combo for its story themes. We don’t really see combos like this outside of film – a medium I am a massive fan of – so it was very cool to see a video game’s take on it. And the music too, some parts jazzy, some parts more experimental, but all of which complement the visuals well. The full soundtrack is not released yet, but it’s something I’ll look forward to listening to outside of the game.
Unfortunately, the gameplay cannot match that quality. In fact, it is so far from it that it may deserve a Guinness World Record for that disparity alone. Genesis Noir is a slow-paced point-and-click game, but those point-and-click elements are not only incredibly basic for the genre, but also incredibly repetitive. Several sections may have you circling your mouse for a while, whereas some others may have you simply holding down W while stuff happens. In fact, there is literally an entire section where you have to travel through 12 different tunnels in a row – all by simply holding down W.
I mean, I don’t mind games having limited gameplay (I am a huge fan of visual novels after all), but if you’re going to have some, at least make it somewhat engaging. The puzzles in Genesis Noir are anything but and a lot of them come off as pure padding, a way to sell the experience as a video game rather than a movie.
This is where the story comes into play. Just like the visuals, it takes a more unique approach: combining noir romance with the Big Bang. It quite literally uses metaphors of the beginning of the universe to tell a simple love story, which I won’t deny would have been enough to sell me on it if the visuals didn’t do that already. Unfortunately though, it is not enough to salvage the experience – it actually is part of the problem. It is somehow both vague and heavy-handed, if you can believe such a combo exists.
The overarching themes are actually pretty simple – stuff like love, time, regret, and so on. To get those across though, the game throws you through a bunch of loops, using the grandest of metaphors to describe them, but doing more so than what is actually necessary. There’s a balance to be had there and Genesis Noir may be weighing too heavily to one side. It’s not even like it can’t be done though, the 2011 Terrence Malick film The Tree of Life has a very similar concept with much better execution.
And that’s all before you even get to the bugs. I managed to softlock the game not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times in the four hours it took me to beat. Each time I had to exit the game and restart the entire chapter that softlocked on me, and no it is not fun playing through the same long section of nothing multiple times. And although the game runs at a fairly steady 60 fps, there are a couple chapters where that goes out the window and it dips to around 30 or so. It’s only a couple chapters, but worth mentioning regardless.
So, to answer the question at the beginning of the review: No, Genesis Noir does not succeed, at least, not fully. Its visuals and audio are top tier, easily some of the best I’ve seen from a game in the past year. So there, it does succeed. However, it fails in nearly everything else that makes up a good video game. The gameplay is poorly designed, the story is simply not interesting, and it’s just not fun to play. I may have beat it in four hours, but it felt like double that by the time it was over and I can’t see myself recommending it even to those into these more obscure and artsy indie games.
Quote: Genesis Noir may have some top tier visuals and music, but everything else that makes up a good video game is absent. Poorly designed gameplay, uninteresting storyline, it just isn’t fun to play.
You can buy Genesis Noir on Steam here. It is also available through GOG and on Xbox One and Switch.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.