Review: Concrete Genie (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Standard and Pro
  • HDTV and HDR Monitor

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Optional
  • PlayStation VR Optional
  • Move Optional
Title: Concrete Genie
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (15.98 GB)
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: PixelOpus
Original MSRP: $29.99 (US)
ESRB Rating: E10+
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
It’s rare when a game moves me. I’m often delighted and amazed by games, but it’s rare that a game actually gives me an emotional response that sticks with me even after the credits stopped rolling.

Concrete Genie is one of the rare games to give me an emotional response and it didn’t even need to reach its climax to do so, it got me from the start. Maybe I have other things going on, or maybe watching a depressed city come to life through through magical art set to a beautiful soundtrack is just what I needed.

The setting is Denska, a port city that has been abandoned and forgotten after an oil spill devastated the local economy and sea-life. Now this once beautiful town is dark and broken with a darkness that is alive and spreading.

Ash remembers when Denska was alive and thriving, and he longs for the old days and returns to reminisce and work on his art while avoiding a group of delinquents/runaways. These bad kids pick on poor Ash and rip the pages of his notebook to pieces. Beaten that his lifework has been lost, he tries to gather the pages he can, which leads him to the Lighthouse

While exploring the Lighthouse, Ash stumbles onto a magic paintbrush and a creature he created in the past named Luna who is magically alive. Ash learns that the brush has powers that can bring his street art to life and is capable of ridding the town of darkness, so he sets out to restore art and beauty to Denska.

Concrete Genie is playing with a lot of themes, some more forward than others. But regardless of how much the story tackles one theme or issue, whether it’s bullying or the environment, it does so in a way that isn’t overbearing or forced. I loved the messages and vibe throughout the game because the’re told through the whimsy of a child’s imagination and the power of art.

Gameplay comes down to the simple task of bringing life to the city through street art. Equipped with his brush, Ash paints the town with his creations with the help of his creatures.

Creature (and general) art creation is limited through Ash’s notebook that was ripped apart, which caused the pages to scatter throughout the city. So collecting the pages means you have more to create. It’s a little contrived, but as a relatively short experience and focused story, I was able to look beyond it and enjoy working with what I had.

Creatures have a few designs to choose from, with their abilities being dictated through their color, i.e., red monsters have fire abilities and yellow have electric. You create the creatures based on your need to solve puzzles, and the game makes sure if you need a specific type of creature, they’ll have a station to create that type nearby.

Bringing life to the city is done by painting the town with your art illuminating lights and areas. It’s pretty straightforward, with the player picking from a couple dozen preset designs that can be mixed and matched at the player’s will.

At first glance I thought this was rather limiting, but quickly found the toolset to be fantastic. Because of the curated assets, it’s difficult not to make something that, no matter the combination of assets, will always work in the end.

I am not a creative person, I’m terrible at making art in any form, but even I was able to pull off some cool designs using the tools provided, and I’m excited to see what people with an actual creative vision can create when the game releases.

Visuals:
The art direction for Concrete Genie is fantastic. Watching a dark city come to life through the power of art never ceases to wow me. I was in love with throwing paint everywhere just so I can watch the art come to life when an area was complete or I made a creature happy.

From the unique architecture to the visual flair of the art after it comes alive, the visuals were firing on all cylinders. I even spent time in the optional Free Painting mode just so I could experiment and create more wall art.

Character design for the human characters reminded me of Coraline, which was a plus because I loved that movie, and creature designs were just as good. Because creatures are made by the user (using pre-designed assets), there is room for error, and yet when I accidentally made a creature too big or misplaced a tail or horn, the game somehow made it still work and a mistake turned into an unique piece of art.

I cannot compliment the game enough on its ability to make the most absurd or poorly thought out works of art I created work, and that is only possible because of a carefully curated selection of tools and designs the developers chose to give players. It’s kind of incredible that even when I thought something wouldn’t work, it did in the end.

Audio:
The score matches the whimsy of the art visual design, hitting the story beats with excellence. It captures the feeling of wonder when needed, and excitement and scariness when the story requires it.

Voice acting is solid with Ash having the most to say and the bully children following with some dialogue, but not a lot. I often times can be bothered by games that have children as the main characters, because you either end up with adults clearly trying to sound young or actual kids that are unable to pull off the acting required to tell a great story. Luckily I didn’t find any issues with the voice acting for any of the children.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Concrete Genie left me delighted from the moment I created my first piece of street art til the credits stopped rolling. It’s a great game that can be enjoyed by all ages.

The art design in terms of visuals and audio are top notch and the story left me feeling happy and satisfied. It’s a short experience, but a worthwhile one and a must play for PlayStation fans looking for the next Flower-like gaming experience.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook