Restoring the place with your fondest childhood memories is a cute and almost noble goal. In Concrete Genie, you can take something boring and dead and bring it back to life with color, love, and warmth. It’s a straightforward and short experience that focuses mainly on light puzzling, 3D platforming, and a bit of stealth, but the charm and a general sense of playfulness make it a worthwhile adventure. This is our Concrete Genie Review.
Concrete Genie Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4
- Developer: Pixelopus
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Genres: Action-adventure game
- Release Date: October 8, 2019
Concrete Genie Review: Official Trailer Video
Concrete Genie Review: Gameplay
In Concrete Genie, you play as Ash, a boy who wishes of bringing his former home, a fishing port called Denksa, back to life. The city has been damaged by an oil spill and negative emotions and is now an abandoned maze-like waterfront neighborhood. Ash’s love of art and memories of better days draw him to the neglected area, despite his parents’ warnings. Unfortunately for Ash, his bullies also enjoy running amok in the ghost town; they tear up his art book and push him into a funicular to the Denska lighthouse, and embark on a new journey.
Small drawings of the geniuses that Ash drew as a child are scattered throughout the city and, combined with the power of the lighthouse spirit, bring his paintings to life. This friendly spirit offers him the opportunity to use his artistic talents to paint the city with a new magic brush, which restores the electric lighting in the area. He goes to work and uses his vibrant artwork to reduce the darkness that infects the city. The premise doesn’t make sense, but the message and execution are sweet and full of heart, just like the rest of the game.
Ash is determined to restore Denska to its former glory, and every part of the city, including the lighthouse, has hanging lights over some parts of buildings. Painting these areas will remove the dark vines blocking your path to the next section. Mechanically, painting is more like placing large dynamic stickers than using your brushstrokes. Choose whether to paint something like a rainbow or a flower, use either motion controls or the right stick to choose the location, then drag across the screen to determine the overall size and shape of the object.
To illuminate the hanging lights, any painting is enough. This means that, for the sake of simplicity, I sometimes used the same art over and over again, covering the walls with butterflies or lazy stars. Occasionally you may need to paint something specific, but even then, it can get a little repetitive. All paintable objects come from your sketchbook, the above bullies tore apart, and these pages are scattered around Denska.
Sometimes you may not have the page you need yet, but looking to find them gives you a real reason to explore the area, and luckily it’s a lot of fun to do. Ash is just a kid and has no superpowers, so he can’t jump particularly high or survive large waterfalls, but he does have a snappy spring in his stride. Climbing the sides of buildings is fast and efficient while still grounded and not floaty at all. Even if you die, you are immediately taken back to where you fell, and daredevil actions like sliding down power lines make it fun to travel around without fear of punishment.
His movements are very smooth, which encourages you to explore every nook and cranny to hunt your studded pages. Along the way, you will also find places to create new geniuses, which in turn will help you solve puzzles and enter new areas. These geniuses have solid colors that allow them to solve various fundamental problems. For example, red geniuses can burn a tarp, while blue ones can blow on specific objects, and yellow ones can generate electricity to power different doors and switches.
The downside to the puzzles is that calling one mind to solve a problem calls everyone available to come, so often, there isn’t a lot of active work on your part to answer them. They just solve it themselves. Since geniuses are still technically paintings that appear on the walls they are painted on, they can only travel on joined walls and locked in their area. This means you may have to find the painting spot first for the kind of genius you need, but this is still not very difficult.
You also have a fair amount of control over what your geniuses will look like depending on how many genius design pages you’ve collected. The choices you make can affect their personalities, which can make interacting with them incredibly endearing – it’s also straightforward to make some hot mess geniuses, but they don’t seem to mind their looks. The interactions between Ash and the geniuses are charming – you can hang out with them, play games together and paint things for them.
Concrete Genie takes a surprising turn in the closing act when a fight suddenly appears. As part of the story, it makes sense and a fun twist, but being such a short-lived mechanic makes it feel underdeveloped. Like the elements of the geniuses, you get three different basic attacks that must be used to destroy different shields. The half-hour devoted to combating, usually, boss fights, doesn’t give you much opportunity to experiment with it. I’m still not sure if all attacks did damage or if some only caused status effects because there wasn’t enough time or enemies to work it out organically.
When you get into fights, you also get new movement skills, including paint skating. This means you don’t have to run as much anymore and instead skate on magically painted shoes. It makes traveling even smoother than before, and unlike your ability to photograph elements, you can keep them even after the main story is complete. Since it was introduced into the game quite late, jumping back after the story is entertaining to collect collectibles. The game itself only takes about six hours to complete on an initial playthrough, and once it’s ‘over,’ you want to play more.
Most of what Concrete Genie review has to offer is fun and beautiful in a kind of childish way. The game is not particularly difficult, and overcoming a puzzle or battle scenario is not always satisfying. But in the end, it is still an engaging experience. There is a lot of fun to discover, and little hidden secrets help make it worthwhile; I wish Concrete Genie were waiting for even more adventure.
The Concrete Genie is a short experience that focuses mainly on light puzzling, 3D platforming, and a bit of stealth, but the charm and a general sense of playfulness make it a worthwhile adventure.