Concrete Genie Review – Like an Artist

Oct 9
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GAME INFO

Concrete Genie

October 8th, 2019
Platform PlayStation 4
Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer PixelOpus

The name Concrete Genie does not do this game justice. What it invokes, a sprawling urban landscape of brutalist concrete towers looming above the horizon is not what you’ll see here. In fact, even in the sections that involve industrial factories and warehouses, the buildings are still more often than not adorned with red bricks, not grey slabs.

Concrete Genie is a game that invites you to beautify the abandoned town, Denska. Armed with a magical paintbrush, you navigate through the city streets, creating murals on more or less whichever walls you fancy. There’s a narrative about the tangible notion of sadness that took over the city but in essence, your job is to bring colour and life back to the empty streets with your artwork. But like I mentioned, the city is already beautiful. It is the picturesque coastal town, complete with piers, old warehouses, and odd-shaped buildings nestled up against one another. Even before you are gifted the power to add your artwork to it, there is already a lovely sense of place amongst these buildings.

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But that isn’t to say that the artwork takes away from that in the slightest. You’ve seen indiscernible names and phallic imagery haphazardly sprayed on walls in your hometown, and you’ve probably seen some amazing street art too, but you haven’t seen anything like what Concrete Genie lets you do. The artwork you can plaster on the walls of Concrete Genie is magical. Suns you draw produce light, plants grow and shift, rain falls from heavy rain blobs of grey and even the aurora borealis shimmers gently. Now you can’t draw whatever you want, because nobody needs to see a game much like their hometown, covered in slurs and genitals. Instead, you can select from quite a wide collection of collectible artwork scattered throughout the world, each one just enough to spark your imagination and create unique, evolving murals as you progress.

When you aren’t painting, you’ll be exploring the quaint and quiet town, from the old lighthouse to the waterways. Concrete Genie is awash with platforming sections overlapping routes to explore. None of it is difficult, but it does serve as a useful break from the motion-controlled painting. And with the collectible pages that add designs to your paintings, it's hard not to take your time moving through each location, searching for any hidden pages.

Progression in the game is done by beautifying certain walls. Some have Christmas lights hanging from them, and others have the aforementioned sadness manifested across them. Tag all of these and new paths open for you to explore and do the same. But one of the great things about Concrete Genie is that your artistic side is not solely fenced into these walls. More or less everything in the game can be tagged, whenever the mood strikes you. This means that if you see the perfect wall to get creative on, there is nothing to stop you from taking out your brush. And there are no real resources in the game either, meaning you don’t have to worry about using all your paint on your side projects.

Sometimes you will special paint, but this is easily acquired from painted friends. Because you’re not the genie in this game, your creations are. At certain points in the game, you can draw a little friend who will interact with your artwork and help you progress. Make them happy, by adding the art they want to the walls, and they’ll fill the special paint meter that lets you paint the sadness away.

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They’re not the only things you’ll encounter on the journey, but they are the only friendly ones. Also exploring these abandoned streets is a roving gang of bullies, but seem strangely unconcerned and somehow annoyed by your clearly magical murals turning up everywhere. These bullies are the only real antagonist in the game, and like with actual bullies, its all about avoiding them. The act as obstacles and give the player an excuse to find more creative routes through the city. But a lot of them feel like more of a nuisance than a threat. Some sections of the game will have the bullies patrolling the areas you need to cast your magical brush across, forcing you to lure them away and quickly get to work. But rushing the painting feels countenance to the theme of the game, and often leaves you wishing you had more time with the murals.

And sometimes the art does that itself. While you’ll immediately fall in love with the different things you can add to the walls, especially with the fantastic sound design that invokes whatever it is your painting, some of them don’t behave like you want them too. Butterflies have a tendency to fly away, stars wander onto other walls and sometimes even your genies can steal a flower or two. Its obviously only a minor point but it can be ever so slightly disappointing when your mural doesn’t stay as you wanted it too.

But these are only minor faults in a lovingly crafted game that lets you experience that unabashed imaginative freedom you so rarely get to feel anywhere else. Concrete Genie is a whimsical game for a dark age as it is perfect for both children and adults that want to recapture some of the magic we used to feel when we created something. Concrete Genie even comes with a separate VR mode to really dive into the artwork you create should you wish to. Drawing on the walls never gets old, and Concrete Genie should be considered an essential purchase for anyone that thinks games are more than just getting headshots.

Review code provided by the publisher.

9

Concrete Genie is a fantastic game that lets you explore a beautifully realised town as well as your own imagination. While there are some tiny annoyances, Concrete Genie is so dedicated to making you feel creative that you'll barely notice them as you play.

Pros

  • Denska is beautiful before and after you've had your way with it
  • Mechanics that feed directly into your creative side
  • Makes you feel creative in a way that few things can

Cons

  • Bullies are more of a nuisance than a threat
  • Sometimes the art doesn’t do what you want
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