Concrete Genie tells the story of a young boy named Ash who hails from the now abandoned town of Denska. Having been decimated and turned to darkness by an unknown source, the town lies lifeless, with a group of bullies and the aforementioned Ash as its only inhabitants.
This poses a problem for Ash, as bullies need someone to pick on and of course, Ash is the only target. This results in him being beaten, his art book ripped to pieces and to rub it in he’s then thrown into the subway before finding himself in a dark and abandoned lighthouse. It’s here Ash meets a new friend, a genie named Luna, who in turn explains that it’s up to Ash to restore light to the town. So off he goes, down to the town to get to work with the help of his paintbrush and some of the creations he’ll bring to life.
One of the first things that will strike you about Concrete Genie is that it is a beautiful game. The art style is quite frankly amazing – it feels like an interactive animated movie. Everywhere you visit is at first dark and cold, but as soon as Ash’s paintbrush begins to work its magic each area lights up and begins to show just how much hard work and vision has gone into creating this game.
The main aim of the story is to light up separate sections of the town, making it inhabitable once again. While you will need to avoid the bullies who are hanging around, there are also a few simple obstacles to overcome. In order to help Ash out, you are able to bring to life various genie types. These are based on different elements such as Fire, Electricity and Wind. How helpful they are depends on which region you are in, although often they cross over, working together to help Ash advance. These genies can be quite needy, so while you will have to paint walls in each region in order to light up the town, often genies will refuse to help you until you paint the design they demand, but it’s worth doing so for their help.
As mentioned, Bullies roam the streets, so in order to avoid them, you’ll often need to take Ash to the rooftops or call them to create a distraction so that Ash can get to where he is going. In addition, you’ll also need to try and find all the pages of Ash’s artbook which the bullies spread all over town, as Ash can’t advance through each level without his designs. If the bullies catch Ash they’ll throw him in a dumpster, although no progress is lost, so it’s just more of an inconvenience than anything.
I have to admit that while I’ve enjoyed spending time with Concrete Genie from an aesthetic viewpoint, I’ve not really found the game to be all that exciting from a gameplay perspective. While the story has a well-intentioned moral of why you shouldn’t bully and also has a great twist near the end, for me it takes far too long to get interesting and therefore you’ll spend hours roaming the beautifully designed land not doing much apart from painting walls. I found it all very repetitive and quite boring if I’m being honest. I hate to cast a negative on such wonderful looking and well designed game but in the end, it just wasn’t really for me.
As well as the main game, the developer has included two PSVR modes for you to play around with. First up is the VR Experience where you follow a Genie named Splotch beneath Denska’s lighthouse on a quest to unlock a mysterious power, while in the second VR mode you can choose between four unique Denska locations and simply paint away, choosing any design which your heart desires. These VR modes are both a great addition to the game and a very welcome one at that. It would be nice to see more developers add unique VR experiences such as these as it adds great value and allows more use out of PSVR.
While Concrete Genie is not really a game for me, I admire both its message and its beautiful game design. There are plenty of people out there who will enjoy the experience and be glad they took the chance on it. Maybe it’s just because I’m not really an artistic person that it doesn’t resonate with me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*