Concrete Genie is a game that has fascinated me since I first learned of its existence. The paint mechanic is inspired by inFamous: Second Son and the way you could draw genies and then bring them to life seemed like a cool concept. I was able to play it for the first time last year at E3 2018 and explore the world they had created. I came away very impressed with the small portion of the game I was shown and eager to play the final product. Concrete Genie is set in a vibrant, colorful world, or at least it used to be. There was a tragedy that took place that drove away the residents of Denska (the town in the game). You are tasked with the mission of bringing the town back to life through your drawings.
It is a pretty cool moment early on when you start your first painting on the wall of a building and then with the push of a button your painting comes to life. You can paint these genies by either using the right analog sticks or through motion control (similar to inFamous Second Son). You can turn the option and or off in the settings though to match your preference in this regard. These paintings are known as “genies” and will play a critical role in your adventure. Throughout the course of the game you will bring many different genies to life and they, in turn, will help you accomplish your mission. You control how they look and some of the features they have. For example, you get to choose the types of ears they have (or no ears if you don’t want them to have any), their tail, and a few other things. As you progress through the game you will find different pages strewn around the environment. You will want to do your best to find all of these pages as they will give you more options about not only how you want your genies to look, but also how you want the environment itself to look with your paintings. One of the cooler looking options for me was drawing a cloud on a wall and then watching the rain come down that entire wall. Your genies will also react to what type of paintings you use. The genies are living beings and they have certain wants and needs. They can have different personalities as well so one of them might want you to draw a sun while another might want to sit in front of a campfire with another genie friend. If you do what they ask for hearts will emit from the genies and they will become very happy and help you out with whatever they can.
The puzzles in Concrete Genie revolve around this mechanic. As you wander around the town you notice a bunch of lights that are turned off. If you paint something near them the lights will turn on and help to illuminate the area. This is important as the genies need this light and the paintings to get around. Going through the story there are some puzzles that you must solve in order to progress in the game but there is also some optional content as well. Whatever the scenario, once you meet the requirements the genies will grant you their assistance. Early on there is a fire genie so if there is some wood blocking a door you need to get through, he might incinerate that wood for you. Later on, there is an electric genie that you will need to use to give power to some areas that have been dormant for a while. There are other genies as well but I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into details.
The story of Concrete Genie centers around Ash and these aforementioned genies. Going through the different districts in town you’ll find out that there isn’t really any combat in the typical sense in this game. There is a group of bullies that love to torment Ash so you need to keep your distance from them. Staying on the rooftops is ideal here as the bullies are apparently bad at climbing and can’t reach you there. It really is out of sight, out of mind here as it relates to the bullies and Ash. If they are blocking the route you need to take you can get on a rooftop and shout at them. Stay out of their line of sight as they run over to your area and then get past that part they were previously blocking. As you progress in the story you will learn the reasons why these bullies are treating Ash in this manner and you will find a story that reflects on friendship, forgiveness, and the power that both positivity and negativity can have in the world. There is an interesting twist as you get to the later part of the game that helps drive these topics home but I won’t say anything else so that you can experience the story for yourself.
Earlier in this review, I mentioned that there were pages strewn around the environment that you will want to track down. In addition to that Concrete Genie has a decent set of collectibles for you to find. There are pages to be found, special areas where you can create a moment for your genies, different areas where you can create a new genie, and more. If you are someone who enjoys tracking down collectibles in games you should have some fun here. A lot of these collectibles are optional though so if you don’t like searching for items in games you can at least partially avoid this part of Concrete Genie. As you find items in the world they will be added to Ash’s sketchbook that he carries around. You can see the different features you have found for your genies, the different genies themselves, the different designs you have found that you can paint on walls, and more. I personally had a good amount of fun tracking these items down and I was able to find a majority of them as I was progressing through the game. Once you beat the story and you watch the credits roll you will be brought back to the main menu. Simply select “Continue” and then you will be put back in the world where you can track down what you missed going through the story. You will even receive a trophy for continuing on after the story ends.
Concrete Genie is a whimsical adventure that I greatly enjoyed playing. I don’t really have any complaints as everything seemed to work the way it was supposed to work. The world is beautiful and I enjoyed how I could play my part in creating my own canvas on the side of buildings and some other areas. The characters that you encounter play their part well and I especially liked my genie friend Luna. Luna is a heartwarming character that serves as part of Ash’s motivation to restore Denska. Overall Concrete Genie is a wonderful experience and one I can see myself going back to and playing. It is a smaller title that can probably be beaten in one or two sessions but that only adds to its charm, in my opinion. Nothing is dragged out and everything seems to make sense. The development team at Pixelopus should be proud of what they created here and I do urge everyone to give this game a chance. This is a busy time of year with a lot of big releases but I think it is safe to say there is nothing coming out quite like Concrete Genie.
Originally posted on Gaming Target