The connection between the real world and video games as a medium is often muddy, because games are mainly a form of escapism. However, Pixelopus’ exploration of the all-too-real themes of bullying and social decay makes Concrete Genie a worthwhile action-adventure experience, even if it is not quite at the standard of other PlayStation 4 exclusives.
The outstanding feature of Concrete Genie is the distinctive art style that permeates throughout the entire game. From setting foot as Ash onto the town of Denska, to revitalising the environments around you with colour and art, Concrete Genie is a visual treat that will capture the attention instantly.
Denska, once a hub of life and vibrancy, has now been reduced to a shadow of its former self due to the complexities of human nature and emotions. The responsibility of saving the town falls on Ash, the protagonist that has become the target of the local bullies, who gets the power to lift the darkness with the help of one of his creations come to life.
It is whimsical and charming, as is the rest of the time players will spend in Concrete Genie painting walls and creating any art that the heart desires in a cacophony of colours and sound.
By collecting the scattered pages of his sketchbook torn apart by the bullies, Ash’s repertoire of pre-existing sketches will grow, giving players even more sources of inspiration. They can range from real-life objects (trees, water) to the more aesthetically appealing abstract forms, and are true collectables to track down for completionists.
Any of the blank walls you find in Concrete Genie can be a canvas, and every time you lay down your mark, a medley of melodious sound accompanies every sketch, adding another layer of magic to the gameplay.
For those of us who are not artistically inclined, fear not, for Concrete Genie is less about your proficiency as a creator, but more about enjoying the experience. The system in place is intuitive and smooth, with the game doing the hard work at combining and separating layers like a seasoned artist. Ultimately, the content matters little when it comes to progression, with only personal pride on the line as your creations light up the sky for the entirety of the game.
It is also this conscious decision on Pixelopus’ part that creates a dilemma. While it is undeniably accessible to allow players to progress and not worrying about the artistic value of their creations, some may just be painting masses of colour just to get by. Perhaps creating puzzles or obstacles that require certain sketches to overcome may make for a more engaging gameplay mechanic.
Ash will also gain the ability to create Genies, creations that are helpful in overcoming certain gates and puzzles. The makeup of your Genies is entirely up to you, but their abilities remain the same. Red genies can use the power of fire, yellow genies are perfect for electrical systems, and blue genies can provide a gust of wind to manipulate objects.
Again, these sections are not designed to boggle the mind, with players likely more concerned with creating awesome looking genies as a personal investment. And it is worthwhile, considering the many adorable and great-looking animations that Concrete Genie showcases. Making the Genies happy is also key to obtaining Super Paint, which will come in handy to destroying a certain type of darkness.
However, painting is but one part of the Concrete Genie, with some light stealth-action taking up the rest of the time. The bullies are always on the lookout for poor Ash, and outmanoeuvring them is a nice break from the time spent on artistic creation. The level of challenge is certainly not high enough to stumble any decent gamer, but for a game aimed at a much more casual audience, it sits just about right in the balance of things.
The game does take a more drastic turn into more action-heavy territory deep into the story, and while it was a pleasant surprise at first, the short chunk wears out its welcome quickly when you are trying to take down enemies with lengthy health bars while chasing them down in Denska. That said, the addition of the ability to skate on paint easily becomes a treat both in terms of movement and enjoyment of Concrete Genie.
Concrete Genie also comes with a VR Experience mode, which allows players to paint using two Move controllers and doing it from the first-person perspective. It is a trippy time, especially considering the 3D world, and if you thought brightening up Denska was a feast for the eyes, the VR mode will offer yet another bite at the apple for a unique, albeit short experience.
Saving the world has never been more relaxing and vibrant, with Concrete Genie being delightful for the eyes while exploring the deeper themes of social issues and flaws through artistic expression. There is little challenge involved, but fully focuses on the pleasure of creation, and the urge to continually make your mark in Denska makes Concrete Genie a spellbinding time.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
An experience that values creation above all, Concrete Genie is a colourful spectacle and treat for the eyes and soul.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 8/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 7/10
User Review( vote)
Jake is a full-time trophy hunter and achievement gatherer on consoles, and part-time Steam Sale victim. He has a thing for Batman and awesome statues, and running out of space for both. Send help.