Concrete Genie on PlayStation 4
Concrete Genie is one of those rare titles that tries to do something new, embracing new concepts and bringing them to the forefront for moments of true brilliance. Or at least, it does when it knows what it wants to be.
Set in the abandoned city of Denska, the game places players in the role of Ash. A young teen with a pension for art, he yearns for the days when Denska thrived as a port town, hanging around its empty streets and passing his time drawing Genies in his sketch book.
Unfortunately, this draws the attention and ire of a group of bullies who’ve made the abandoned town their stomping ground. They destroy his sketch book and force him to enter the town’s Lighthouse, rumored to be the home of an evil spirit.
Once there though, Ash discovers that the spirit is a peaceful one, hoping only for the town’s restoration before an inky darkness overtakes it. To that end, it grants Ash a magic Paintbrush capable of bringing life to his Genies, light to Denska’s darkened streets and color back to the world at large before it’s too late.
The story is a simple one, providing just enough setup and details to get players invested without getting bogged down in details. It doesn’t bother explaining things like where the Magic Paintbrush comes from or how it works, what the Lighthouse Ghost is or how the Darkness has impacted the town the way it does, and with all said and done, it doesn’t need to.
In that regard, Concrete Genie is a lot like the platformers from Sony’s PlayStation 2 heyday. It’s creative and imaginative for the sake of being fun, and focuses its energy on making the art and gameplay as entertaining and engaging as possible.
Speaking of which: The art and gameplay are hands down the aspects that make Concrete Genie worth checking out. Both bring something fresh to the table, and help the title stand out as something truly original.
On the art front, the game blends several distinct styles together. Ash and his bullies are shown in a stop-motion paper art effect, giving off the appearance of art projects come to life; the Genies are like sketches leaping from the pages of a notebook, rough lining, features and all; and the game’s cutscenes range from simple 2D cartoons to intense, 3D animation fare.
Admittedly, it can be a little overwhelming at first due to the visual overload of all these different styles melding and interacting together. Once players settle into the experience though, it’s hard not to be in awe of how well all of the different styles come together when in motion.
As for gameplay, it shares a similarly eclectic mix of different elements. In addition to some standard platforming and puzzle solving, the core of Concrete Genie’s gameplay sees players bring life and color back to Denska through the use of their magic Paintbrush.
They can apply designs and images to a variety of walls and surfaces, recreating old memories of Denska in its prime or creating entirely new ones alongside the game’s Genies as they see fit.
It’s a novel concept that lends a relaxed tone to the game, centering players’ efforts less on outsmarting or “defeating” something and more on letting their imaginations take hold.
Or at least, it does for the first two thirds of the game.
Without giving too much away, Concrete Genie has a drastic tonal shift as it approaches the end of the game, switching gears from its initial design concept for one geared toward combat and story. These new elements are handled well enough, but feel underdeveloped compared to what the game was like in its initial hours.
Worse still, this new direction doesn’t mesh well with what was presented in the first sections of the game and drags down the experience as a whole, shoehorning in elements that really didn’t need to be there.
Toss in the fact that the game is a fairly brief experience – meaning the new gameplay elements are only present for about a little over an hour of the experience as a whole – and their inclusion becomes all the more frustrating and confusing.
About the only saving grace for this final stretch is Concrete Genie’s soundtrack. From start to finish, each track feels perfectly in line with the mood and emotions of the game, ebbing and flowing in intensity at just the right times.
Concrete Genie has outstanding design and a style which bring the game to life, and keep it from fading into the background alongside every other game on the market.
And yet, due to its odd design choices in the final stretch of the game, it’s hard not to say that it falls short of becoming something spectacular, mired by incongruous gameplay designs and an unclear vision on what kind of game it wants to be remembered as in the end.
Score: 4/5 – Great
- An amazing blend of art styles
- A simple story that doesn’t bog down the gameplay
- Open-ended, creatively focused gameplay that let’s players be imaginative
- A solid soundtrack that fits the mood of the game perfectly
- A drastic change in gameplay near the end feels incongruous with the rest of the experience.
Should you Buy Concrete Genie
Even if it stumbles near the end, Concrete Genie is still well worth experiencing. This is doubly true if you have a soft-spot for any of Sony’s past platforming series.
Concrete Genie Platforms and Release Date
Concrete Genie is a PlayStation 4 exclusive that can be played in and out of PlayStation VR. The game is slated for release on Oct. 8, 2019.
Concrete Genie’s Developer
Concrete Genie is developed by PixelOpus. Founded in 2014, their past works include Entwined, a game about guiding the souls of a bird and a fish toward each other through several lifetimes.
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