Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers, please read at your discretion.
“The pen is mightier than the sword but the mightiest of them all is the paintbrush” this quote by great ole me (hehe) gives you an idea as to what you’ll be doing in this lovely and fabulous looking game. Released in 2019 to a host of good reviews, this PlayStation exclusive is sure to be an experience that you will cherish.
Small port town, beautiful vistas, a quaint lighthouse and charming houses, Denska the fictional town of Concrete Genie, used to have all of this before disaster struck in the name of an oil spill which spelled doom for the town. People started leaving, miscreants grew in number and darkness took over.
You are Ash, an artistic kid who spends time sketching in his sketchbook and is bullied by the other kids. You ponder over the sad state of the town while sketching one day, when you are interrupted by bullies who snatch your sketchbook, tear it apart and throw the pages away. This event lays down your objective for most of the game which is to collect your lost pages leading you to the derelict Lighthouse first. Here, you will encounter Luna who is your first sketch that has come to life and she is the one that enlightens you about the root cause of the problems faced by Denska and gives you a magical paintbrush akin to a sword which can help you restore the light back to Denska.
(Broken windows, abandoned houses and murky waters)
(Luna, your very first genie come to life)
It is here, in the Lighthouse, that you are introduced to the basic mechanics of the game, namely using your art to dispel darkness (lighting up bulbs), bringing genies to life and restore Denska to its heyday state. Now, let me tell you that I am a terrible artist and I suck at anything creative, so this made me apprehensive because I thought I had to draw some good art to actually progress/beat the game but to my relief that is actually not the case. Draw whatever you like (provided you have the pages/template in the sketchbook), however your like and wherever you like. This is one of the best things about the game for me, it doesn’t judge you on what your artistic ability is and accepts your drawings without any judgement.
You are tasked with lighting up all the bulbs in Denska and the way you do it is by painting close to where these light bulbs are and they light up as a result. Read newspaper pages scattered throughout Denska to figure out what happened to this once beautiful and bustling town. You also can make Genies from your sketchbook by painting them and pressing square to bring them back to life. These Genies are your friends as they help you in your quest by making your task to light up the bulbs easier. They do so in a variety of ways like clearing away obstacles for you, moving boxes, providing power to fuse boxes etc etc. Genies are of different types as well and each type can be useful for specific scenarios. You try to accomplish all of this while avoiding your bullies who will chase you if they spot you, so that means using rooftops to avoid them, picking a different route, that kind of things.
(A lit up area in Denska)
The Genies can give you super paint if you draw something they want, which is useful in dispelling darkness in areas where the light bulbs are. You can also have these special genie moments with them in specific areas. There is a great implementation of DualShock 4’s motion controls which I quite liked and makes painting a joyful experience. The game looks so beautiful and enchanting that you will find yourself painting more than what is required. Since, what you paint will be visible once you finish the game, in a montage, it provides even more of an incentive to paint on everything you can. The puzzles to access new areas are a breeze to do and at no point of time will you need to refer to a guide. You can also play games with your genies at specific points like Hide and seek or paint a campfire and relax with your genies. The resources (sketchbook pages) you have at your disposal can transform your game into a wonderful experience and your genies can be a major part of it as well.
(Paint over dilapidated billboards to bring them back to life)
This all sounds quite easy to accomplish and it would have been, had Ash’s bullies not interrupted him during a crucial moment. This mishap results in grotesque creatures being formed which capture all of the bullies and imprisons them within the ‘masterpieces’ created by Ash. These creatures are none other than genies created by Ash and now he has the save his genies from the darkness as well his bullies. This is the part which I have complicated feeling about, the reconciliation between Ash and the bullies. I might be looking at this through the jaded eyes of an adult but I felt this bit was rushed and everyone became buddy-buddy too fast. The bullies, apart from a few bashful moments, cozy up to Ash quite fast and it broke my immersion a bit. Sure, kids can make up pretty swiftly but this seemed forced and unnatural.
Anyways, after Ash has saved all of his new found ‘friends’ it is time to take on the final ‘boss’ and get rid of the darkness for once and all. One thing about this game is that there are no difficult bits at all, everything feels simple to achieve and the same goes for the final fight. You defeat the ‘boss’ and rescue the genies, reuniting you with Luna and thus saving the town of Denska. Also, as a bonus you can now play a 3v3 match of basketball (game reference).
The game also lets you paint in VR so grab your VR headset and experience painting in a whole new way.
- Lovely visuals, smooth controls and plethora of design choices
- The adorable genies and how they can help you
- Easy trophies
- The relaxing soundtrack
- Fall damage in a such a cozy game
- Some rushed story bits
All things considered, Concrete Genie is a beautiful game which provides an outlet to exercise your creative streak and truly ensures that you have an entire town as a canvas to showcase your designs. The templates in the sketchbook help in making the process easier for people like me and you don’t have to worry about actually drawing something. It deals with bullying in its own way, humanising the bullies by creating emotional backstories for each of them and a display of Ash being the better person by forgiving his bullies and making friends with them. This part felt a bit iffy to me as I felt it should have been given more time instead the reconciliation between Ash and his bullies was rushed for the sake of the game. It was an enchanting bite sized experience otherwise which even a creatively challenged person like me enjoyed. As a bonus, you can also try some painting in virtual reality by using a psvr headset and move controllers. This enhances your immersion even more with respect to your paintings and it is a nice little addition if you want to experience painting in VR.
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Game & Developer Information
Developer Website: Pixelopus Wiki
Developer Socials: Twitter
Publisher Website: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Publisher Socials: Twitter
PSN Store Links: £24.99/€29.99 Europe / $29.99 North America
Trophy Information: 56. 1 / 2 / 8 / 45