Concrete Genie is one of the most visually unique and stunning games I’ve played in a long time. Set in the town of Denska, long since abandoned by any residents, the gameworld and six human children who appear are rendered in 3D but animated in an, almost, stop-motion style. It took me a bit of getting used to. Everything in the game moves with such fluidity, however, the children’s faces are stilted and look to be deliberately missing frames.
The two-dimensional visuals, on the other hand, are so brilliantly animated, so silky smooth that the marrying of the two styles really shouldn’t work. And yet it does. And it does so marvellously.
The visuals of this game speak to the way it approaches its overall design. Concrete Genie is a game that takes risks and takes a lot of them. From the art-design to the animation and even the gameplay, Concrete Genie could be a game that falls apart at the seams.
But it never does and it’s so much having risked it all.
Concrete Genie Review
As mentioned, set in Denska, Concrete Genie stars Ash, a loner who’s bullied by five other children. The others, seemingly hellbent on getting up to no good, harass Ash simply because he chooses to spend his time drawing and painting in his sketchbook.
You can find graffiti all over town that reads “Art is Lame” and “Art Sucks” so poor Ash is alone in his passion.
At the very beginning, his sketchbook is torn into pieces by the bullies. Desperate to find the missing pages, Ash travels to the so-called, haunted lighthouse to look for them.
Here, Ash meets Luna, one of his drawings come to life.
Luna gifts Ash with his magic paintbrush and the game begins in earnest.
Old Painty Can Ned
With his paintbrush in hand, Ash sets out to cleanse Denska of the darkness that’s infiltrated the town and forced everyone to leave. Doing so is simple. He merely needs to paint underneath rows of lightbulbs, to light them up and bring the town back to life.
If you’ve seen any of the trailers for Concrete Genie, you’ll know that Ash’s paintings are alive. They move and sway, shine and shimmer and look absolutely spectacular. The lighting in Concrete Genie is something to behold. Truly.
The way you can paint a blank wall with stars or the northern lights, and it shines brightly has to be seen.
Genie in a Bottle
The titular Genies are also an utter delight. Through the power of his brush, Ash is able to create Genies at certain points in the world. Different coloured genies have different powers which are used to complete puzzles.
Essentially, Ash needs to create paintings to light up the globes while the genies help him get through Denska with their abilities.
As Ash explores the town he’ll find pages from his sketchbook that unlock new features for the Genies as well as new objects and items to paint. Creating the genies is a real joy, especially when you start giving them long ears and tails. Best of all is when you bring them to life and watch them happily clamber around the world.
They’re adorable. I fell in love with each of them right away and PixelOpus has done an amazing job of making them lovable and empathetic.
Mix It Up
For a large portion of the game, you’ll be slowly exploring Denska, finding pages, creating genies and painting walls. However, two-thirds in, things take a drastic and frankly brilliant turn.
I won’t spoil it but the game suddenly shifts gears and things become much more action-packed.
Given the length of the campaign, the VR and free painting modes and the included Photo Mode, there’s a lot of content in Concrete Genie for its $40 AUD price of admission. The motion controls feel a little gimmicky yes, but you can switch them to the right analogue stick whenever you like.
It’s Concrete Genie’s narrative the shines brightest out of everything though. The story of Ash and the bullies, their own traumas and the notion that forgiveness is the only true path to being free from darkness is one that hits home.
There’s a lot to love in Concrete Genie. If you enjoy story-driven, action-adventure games with a powerful connection to artwork then you’ll definitely enjoy this game.
Concrete Genie was reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided by Sony.
Game Title: Concrete Genie