London Games Festival 2021 preview: Genesis Noir

Latest 7 Apr 2021

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Headshot of Mellia Frateantonio, sketched

Melissa Frateantonio, member of Film London's Equal Access Network

Melissa, a member of Film London's Equal Access Network, previewed Genesis Noir as part of the London Games Festival 2021. Here they share their reflections on the game.

The Poetic Charm of Genesis Noir

Genesis Noir invites you to listen. To the sound of the cosmos, to its soulful score, to celestial vibrations, to the seemingly aimless spaces you are flung to through the black box of this thing we know called ‘time’. The game – through its divergent gamescapes and mystery-solving – asks that we pay close attention to the expanse of our imagination and question the certainty of what we think we know.

As the game’s title suggests, this is a story about the start of existence, told in the style of a film noir detective thriller. You play as fedora-wearing detective, No-Man, in this ludic point-and-click, following a storyline that orbits the task of stopping a gunshot blast frozen in time, shot by Golden Boy, from hurtling towards your lover and jazz musician, Miss Mass. In the face of this messy love triangle, you must travel the expanse of time and space in an attempt to reverse the events leading up to this moment, and stop the Big Bang to save her.

Still from Genesis Noir. figure standing, stopping a bullet

The gunshot, frozen in time, that we must reverse | Image: Genesis Noir: Feral Cat Den

However, there is much more to this simplified synopsis. All the characters are allegories of metaphysical concepts and figuring out the greater embedded meanings within the game is part of its poeticism. For instance, clocks, as a representation of what we know as time, almost becomes satirical in the game. The protagonist will often flick open his pocket watch to lament something – time running out, there being too much of it, or perhaps not knowing what any of it means at all – and it becomes a humorous spectacle as the heaviness of greater ontological questions is what propels the game. It was then no surprise when I found out that one of Genesis Noir’s influences was Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, in which imaginative stories are built around scientific “facts”. Similarly, much of the game’s charm also comes from the abstracted ways in which it visualises and waxes poetic about the creation of the universe.

The game is visually striking. For the majority of the game, Genesis Noir is presented in monochrome, with hints of yellow. Its abstract style – where line-drawings often fill negative space – proves to be the perfect medium for the story which moves across time and space, animating the sprawling cosmic gamescape.

As well as being alive with mind-bending timescapes and fascinating audiovisual landscapes, the game’s text is just as lyrical. At the beginning of each chapter, we are greeted by opening paragraphs that are scientifically informed, usually about the Big Bang, or terms I had never heard before, like ‘abiogenesis’, which gave it a pedagogic touch. Aside from this and reading item descriptions, there isn’t much of a distinct narrative in the game, with almost no spoken dialogue. However, the atmospheric, jazz-infused score carries the game, along with its interactive, film-like nature, where you can create your own connection to the story.

As I played, the interactive and lyrical gameplay of Kentucky Route Zero came to mind, but otherwise Genesis Noir presented something I have never seen or played before. Genesis Noir reminds me of the reparative power of gaming as an irreplaceable medium through which the fringes of our imagination can be stretched, particularly as the world has been in crisis. I was captivated by its poetic charm from the very beginning!

Genesis Noir is now available to play on PC, Mac and Nintendo Switch.