So is this PlayStation exclusive really worth the lack of accessibility it has on other platforms? Your instinct should tell you no, and maybe you’re actually right. Concrete Genie is only 6 hours in progressive gameplay after all, post which the game is open ended and left to the player. I feel like the main thing holding this game back is basically the PlayStation 4 exclusive nature of it. Pixelopus, the developing studio behind the game really dropped the ball on that regard, especially with how a PC setup could help the game a lot. Something I’ll explain in a bit.
Concrete Genie sounds quite outlandish and it’s hard to guess what the game is about just by its name. Let’s break it down, however. The concrete aspect of the game comes from the fact that it’s set in a proper Urban environment.
This environment being the run down town of Denska. Denska has been abandoned by most of its population due to heavy issues with how polluted the town is. The game centers around a teenage protagonist named Ash. Ash is an artist who constantly doodles and draws his ideas out in a notebook. A notebook that’s then torn up and scattered by bullies. This sets up the basic objective for us to start with, that being collecting those pages.
However, the game doesn’t just stop there. Along the way, you find a magic paint brush powered by a genie. With this paintbrush, anything Ash paints will be brought to life. Now alongside the starting mission of needing to recover your sketchbook, you also have the mission to bring life back to the town of Denska. This is done by quite literally painting life into the walls of the cityscape.
So here’s how the gameplay basically works. Concrete Genie tracks your progress based on how much of the walls you’ve painted. There’s no requirement to how the painting should look at all, just that it should be covering the whole wall.
Once you fulfill the requirements of one area completely, the gateway to the next one opens up for you. This process is repeated until you’ve unlocked the whole town after which you’re free to paint everywhere. This is also the point in time by which you’ll actually be done with the main story. This is why it’s a short 6 hour experience.
What exactly does the Concrete Genie gameplay entail? Let’s start with the most important one which is painting. Using your giant paintbrush, you have to picture each wall as a canvas and then project onto it. The painting mechanic was done pretty well with the PlayStation controller.
It involved holding R2 and moving the right thumbstick which sounds limiting but actually wasn’t. In fact, even if you didn’t make exactly what you wanted, it was pretty hard to fail in any way to the point of finding your creation ugly. I really liked that about Concrete Genie, especially because my art skills in real life would make a blind dolphin’s eyes bleed.
Anyways, the game also features a system of free running to navigate the landscape. This was a good move by Pixelopus since urban environments and free running go hand in hand so well, almost like it was meant to be. This free running can take you to rooftops, across districts and through the main alleyways. The best part is that every blank wall you come across is the perfect place to whip your rod out and start splattering all over it! As wrong as that sounds, it really isn’t!
You can add more patterns and shapes to your arsenal by finding notebook pages. You know, those same pages that the bullies took and threw around. These patterns are then molded and drawn out by your brush to make tonnes of different interesting combinations on every wall or flat vertical surface you find.
Puzzle solving is another aspect of Concrete Genie. The puzzles in this game aren’t the main beef of the burger so you won’t be spending much time on them unless you’re reeeeally…special. They’re pretty easy to just breeze through without spending more than a penny of thought. One thing I should add though is that some puzzles require you to draw actual genies.
The genie creation system was probably my favorite one due to how unique and interesting you could make each one look. Plus, unlike your drawings that just move around and interact a bit, these genies are actually given life. To see what you just painted start to move around with its own set of programming was definitely a sight to behold. I felt about a fraction of what game developers must feel when they see their programs coming to life.
The game also has a bit of stealth incorporated into it surprisingly. Specifically the kind of stealth where you have to sneak around from your bullies from earlier. I did personally feel like it might be giving kids that play this game the wrong message since you’re running and hiding, but it did do for a nice mechanic. Like the puzzles, this wasn’t a major part of the game and thus, didn’t take much time to complete and just get past.
A surprising mechanic that I didn’t expect to pop up nearly halfway into the game was combat. Yes, Concrete Genie actually has combat within it as well but in very small doses. I feel like the combat along with those other small detours from the painting were mainly there just to make sure the game wasn’t one dimensional. Which is understandable.
Still, the main progression and overall player satisfaction of this game came from painting the entire town. Especially because of how lifeless it did feel in the beginning.
Overall, Concrete Genie is definitely a good game. It’s just a shame that Sony Interactive studios is keeping it as a PlayStation 4 exclusive which denies the game a lot of potential accessibility. Nonetheless, if you are a PlayStation owner, it’s definitely worth a buy.