Art is the answer.
At least that’s what I think Pixel Opus want you to walk away with from their title Concrete Genie.
An action-adventure puzzle-platformer (f*ck being one genre!), the world of Denska springs to dullness (albeit GORGEOUS dullness) because IT IS CORRUPTED. By darkness. And we join our hero Ash who is just dealing with it.
AND THEN BULLIES HAPPEN.
Yes, there are little sh*ts in this game, because we need to be sent on a journey of discovery. Tearing apart our art book (and by proxy OUR DREAMS), they send you to your first locale where you discover some weird magical stuff that is also literally that;
As you reconnect with your past, you reconnect not only with a brighter world, but also with your CONCRETE GENIES. Yes, they are straight up things in this game and they’re delightful.
And that’s where you’ll really start to do art.
Wielding a magical brush, you’ll use the motion controls of the DUALSHOCK 4 to navigate a cursor across the walls of Denska to return color to a destitute town missing residential areas, but is full of industry! Don’t worry, the analog sticks move Ash through the world, but these motion controls are refreshing!
I want to get it out of the way now, and is it by no means a detriment of the game, but I like that it looks and plays like inFAMOUS Second Son‘s younger sibling. Ash looks like Delsin, from the vest to the beanie, parkours hardcore and likes to graffiti everything. Whether intentional or not, it was a wistful piece of incidental memory for me to call on and I adored it (because I adored that title).
Painting the walls is simple, as you swap between menus that hold different pieces of art to plant with the R2 button. You can then make and layer a wall as much as you want, because ART IS ART DAMMIT.
Then the Concrete Genies change it.
They’re the puzzle element. The fantastic thing about them is you can bring them to life in any way you like, with whatever look you like. Then with their weird genie-language they become a piece in the puzzle of Denska. And the puzzle is the confines of the walls as you navigate the wider spaces of it.
Calling upon them with L1 and figuring out how their powers play into the puzzle (they’re genies dammit!), there were some genuine “AHA!” and “THAT’S SO COOL” moments had as I pieced them together.
“BUT XENO…YOU SAID ACTION-ADVENTURE PUZZLE-PLATFORMER!”
That I did. I needn’t delve into the platforming too much as it platforms as platformers do (and sufficiently well), but then ACTION is thrown in. I won’t disclose what buttons aren’t used, but for the majority of it you’ll find only half of your controller in use.
And then when the action AND controlling happens, everything will come together in a “OHHHHHH” moment to rival when Harry met Sally.
AND END GAME?!
Yes there’s end game. With a VR experience (which I’m to povo too experience) and Free Painting on-hand to take over Denska with even more reckless aplomb, there’s a certain enjoyment in this title.
Free from the typical conventions of action-platforming, Concrete Genie is a sweet childhood adventure that rides the coattails of our nostalgia. While it may fall into tropey trauma territory, it remains pleasant throughout with its huge sense of childlike creativity and wonder.
And it’s more than enough for me to want to see more art in future.
While it may be short for some, it doesn't threaten to overstay its welcome and provides a fun romp through a world that may be delivering us messages about the environment and our own ways of healing.
Colourful, bright and dark when needed, Concrete Genie might just be the kind of sweetness I needed at this time of year.
XENOJAY.COM was supplied with a media copy of the game for review by Sony, and it was played on the Playstation 4 Pro console.