Sony has been a juggernaut as of late, with its studios releasing games of outstanding high quality over the years like Horizon: Zero Dawn and God of War. As great as these marvels are, it’s also great to kick back and get lost in a smaller world, and this is exactly what makes Concrete Genie the perfect palette cleanser.
What Is It?
Concrete Genie puts players in the shoes of an artistic boy named Ash, a kid who mostly keeps to himself drawing pictures in his sketchbook. Upon enjoying himself drawing one day, bullies mess with Ash by shoving him around and going as far as tearing the pages out of his sketchbook and throwing them in the wind, leaving Ash hopeless.
When Ash eventually comes to his senses, he sees that one of his latest illustrations, a genie, has come to life and gives Ash what he’s been longing for–a friend. He eventually finds a magic paintbrush which gives him the ability to make anything he paints on the walls to come to life. It’s here where his journey to recover the remaining pages begins, and he ends up finding a lot more than that.
Why Should I Care?
When Concrete Genie was first unveiled, I thought it would just be a profound look at the stories street art can tell. That was enough for me, so when the time finally came for me to actually play the game, it absolutely blew me away.
While art is definitely the main foundation of what makes Concrete Genie what it is, you don’t need an artistic mind to enjoy or excel at it. Over the course of the game you’ll find different pages of Ash’s sketchbook, which you can use to paint awesome neon backdrops to give some life to the otherwise dark and dead environments you have Ash explore. The main objective in most of the levels is to light them up by painting over lights you see across the main areas. When you do that, you unlock more places to roam with puzzles to solve and genies to befriend.
In order to solve the puzzles, you need the right genie. You’ll find genies over the course of the game, and in order to recruit them on your journey to light up the city, you’ll need to paint specific objects of their choosing. For example, some genies will want snowflakes and aurora lights in their skies, and to do that, you’ll need to remember these drawings by referring to the pages in your sketchbook.
The actual act of painting or drawing requires hardly any effort at all. The game makes use of Sixaxis motion controls to freely move about your canvas, and all you have to do is tap or hold on the trigger button to draw whatever you choose. The game will automatically put chosen illustrations in there for you, so there’s really no artistic skill needed. That only comes into play when you really choose to beautify your pieces and canvasses, and the best part about all that is you don’t have to. All you’re expected to do is the bare minimum of lighting up each level you’re in.
The levels were actually the biggest surprise as far as Concrete Genie’s gameplay goes. You’ll go from the gloomy town of Denska to a lighthouse to a power plant, and even an underground sewer system. Each place is skillfully crafted which also shows off Ash’s mastery of light parkour to go with his artistry. We’re not going to go as far as saying he’s Sony’s second coming of Nathan Drake, but the kid does have some superhuman abilities here.
Perhaps the most warming part about Concrete Genie is the fact that it’s also a narrative about bullying. While the bullies act as the main antagonists in the game, you’ll eventually come to a point where Ash gets bullied while they grab his paintbrush. Here, it flashes back and shows Ash a dark memory that contributes to the person the bully has become. Of course, the bully shares this too, and it’s interesting seeing how it all shakes out. This added another dimension of pacing to the game, easily making it even more of a pleasant surprise.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
As fair as a shot the game had at being something amazing, there was also a shot that it would be just another B game, and I’m happy to report that it’s definitely the former with this title.
With an appealing art style with an emphasis on your style of handling art to solid gamplay with just enough traversal and scavenger hunting to not make anything tiresome (and not to mention a great obtainable Platinum Trophy), Concrete Genie might go as one of the biggest surprises of the year. The lower price is just a bonus. Whatever amount of success this game finds, Concrete Genie deserves more.