Genesis Noir is set for the beginning of existence, and imagines the Big Bang and the natural expansion of the universe as the violent end result of a love triangle that went wrong. It’s a marriage of jazz and film noir in a point-and-click adventure game that sometimes works better as an audiovisual toy than it does a series of puzzles. But the game’s visual style is a clear standout.
The monochromatic, abstract, line-drawn look that makes Genesis Noir so unique comes from a variety of influences: classic film, Italian literature, other indie games. The real mystery to solve was to combine these ideas in a way that makes sense ̵
Genesis Noir creative management Evan Anthony jumped off var Cosmicomics, a collection of science-inspired short stories by Italian author Italo Calvino. “I think I first tried to translate what I envisioned when I read that book,” says Anthony The Verge. Calvino’s writing, even in the English translation, is “very visually rich storytelling,” says Anthony.
These ideas began to solidify into a style when Anthony and technical director Jeremy Abel saw Umbro Blackout. Created by Buck, a creative studio specializing in animation, Umbro Blackout tells the story of a football player who visited New York during a blackout in 1977. “It’s just very simple black and white graphics. I wanted to bring that kind of clever transitions and juxtaposition of settings and scenes into an interactive space, ”Anthony recalls.
The very creation of Genesis Noir started on newsprint. Anthony and Abel outlined the early character designs that were to become Genesis Noir ‘The first trio of film noir archetypes – became “gods” in the language of the game – in coal. They went on to become No-Man, the player character and a manifestation of Time; Miss Mass, a jazz singer femme fatale and representation of gravity; and Golden Boy, a star saxophonist and kind of creator god whose attempt to kill Miss Mass sets off the events of the game.
Indie games also served as a guide for Anthony and Abel, neither of whom had a background in games or designed a level before. You can find some Kentucky Route Zero in Genesis Noirinteractions, fixed perspectives and transitions between scenes. Children, short film / video game hybrid from 2019, was also a big north star to do a lot with a little. “[[[[Children]was definitely a good reference in what you can do with a resource, says Anthony. “Like how we can be economical, very economical with the assets we have,” Abel continues.
Although both Abel and Anthony had embarked on some ambitious creative projects before – especially a Google Maps flipper for Google – the images of Genesis Noir was another animal. They realized that game engines are not really designed with hyperstylized graphics in mind. “There’s a reason games don’t really look that way,” says Anthony.
Admittedly, some of that difficulty came from the couple’s inexperience and the abstract direction they decided to take the game. An early level called “Seeding”, set in the first microseconds of the Big Bang, had to be reworked several times from Anthony’s first idea of a level made of “vibrating lines and strings.” Creating a level of wobbly lines that not only could run, but the players would actually explore, was an obstacle.
According to Abel, the biggest technical considerations they had to deal with were performance and translating the art Anthony made in Flash into the game’s engine. On some platforms like Switch, it meant customizing and faking some visual effects. For the 2D animations themselves, Abel also had to create more tailor-made solutions. “I was working with a friend of mine to develop a solution to actually export all the animations from Flash and draw them as vector art in the engine,” he says.
Anthony and Abel’s multi-year journey to create Genesis Black gave them some valuable lessons in design and a wonderful finished product. Even if you do not relate to the diversity of sources Genesis Noir draws from, playing the game really captures the feel of an interactive animated film. And the goal of expressing large, abstract concepts with a familiar genre and attitude also pays off. I do not want to ruin where Genesis Noir goes into its final levels, but there is more here than scientific facts and noir history beats. “I think my goal was to find poetry between comparing two very different things,” says Anthony. “I’m very happy with how everyone perceived it.”
Genesis Noir is now available on PC, Xbox Game Pass and Nintendo Switch.