Nirvana Noir preview – An abstract visual feast

Nirvana Noir expands Genesis Noir with explosions of colour, and new forms of storytelling.
nirvana noir gameplay preview

Nirvana Noir is visually arresting, in every facet. Like its predecessor Genesis Noir, it plays with ideas of visual representation, turning simple dialogue into meat-based word battles, and transforming the act of grabbing a light bulb into a complex, interlocking dance. In only a short LudoNarraCon 2024 demo, it’s already proved to be a stylish, quirk-filled tale that promises grand ambition, high stakes, and a memorable sense of adventure.

One of the most prominent complaints about Genesis Noir on launch was its seeming obscurity. While visually impressive and wonderfully-built, it was a game with difficult concepts to grasp, about the cosmos, and being, and the state of the universe. It was labelled an experience, rather than a traditional game.

Nirvana Noir appears to take these criticisms on board, with its tale more crisply and obvious laid out in story segments weaved throughout the action. The game’s LudoNarraCon demo outlines the situation in simple fashion: you are a detective named No Man who unleashed two realities in Genesis Noir – the Black Rapture, and the Constant Testament.

Both timelines have their own core visual components: one is a black-and-white world of simplicity and elegance. The other is filled with bright pop art, vivid colours, splashes of paint, and surreal scenes. No Man must traverse both to seek out his truth, charting the timeline to free himself from his obligations to both worlds.

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The way No Man moves through these worlds is fascinating in its own right. Nirvana Noir goes for a surrealist setting in both its unique timelines, and accomplishes a real sense of discombobulation in its vertical layers.

No Man tends to walk slowly, while his world shifts and bops, both moving on different axes for a sense of fluid movement and strange disconcertion. While occasionally distracting to the eye, it highlights No Man’s place in both worlds, as a man that belongs to neither timeline. It’s a compelling palette to build on, and one that makes Nirvana Noir so wonderfully, head-scratchingly unique.

>nirvana noir demo gameplay
Image: Feral Cat Den

In the Constant Testament portion of the demo, No Man fends off the advances of a police force who indentures him to investigate the production and delivery of a mysterious new drug. This quest takes him into a city-bound butcher shop, where a rotund and aggressive butcher forces him into turn-based word battles, once he recognises No Man and his role in a past investigation.

This battle plays out in wonderfully novel fashion, as word boxes are churned into the meat grinder to form sausages of words, that are then strung together to form a defence in No Man’s case. This battle is bright and boisterous, and filled with just the right amount of challenge, to make dialogue feel like a visual dance. Sausages bop, words form, and then you’re fighting for your life in a meat court of law.

Where Genesis Noir was more word-lite, Nirvana Noir does well to inject a greater, more tangible sense of a guiding narrative, pairing these interesting visuals and novel ideas with a firm sense of direction, and core goals.

The Constant Testament segment plays out in similar fashion, although with a more muted black-and-white colour palette. Here, you must work towards fixing a clock tower while contending with the muses of the rich and famous, in a night club of great repute.

>nirvana noir gameplay
Image: Feral Cat Den

The goal is simpler – but just as visually exciting, with black-and-white chiaroscuro lighting illuminating No Man’s quest for freedom, as he tackles a turn-based puzzle to destroy a giant standee and reclaim its powered light bulb, for the clock tower. This is a puzzle that requires deep thought and manoeuvring, but like the meat battle, it’s also very well-considered, balancing its challenge for a rewarding outcome.

A demo for Nirvana Noir is out now on Steam as part of LudoNarraCon 2024. You need to make time to play it, to understand just how strange and delightful this game is going to be. Just a small taste, and it’s already shot up the GamesHub radar, and solidified why it should be on yours.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.