Sometimes, the best video games are ones that fly under the radar. A few years ago, a game called Concrete Genie was released for the PlayStation 4 that many people didn’t seem to talk about. Now, every once in a while, it’s brought up in casual conversations among gamers, and people are often surprised that others have heard of it or have played it. Many people, myself included, discovered the game once it became available on PlayStation Plus. Since more people have gotten the chance to check the game out, let’s dive into its imaginative world to see if it’s truly a hidden gem, or if it was best being left undiscovered.
Before we go on, let’s discuss the premise of the game. The player controls Ash, a young artist who uses a magic paintbrush to create living portraits and sentient creatures to return the once-lively town of Denska to its former glory. He has to avoid his bullies and get past the dark energy that engulfed Denska in the first place in order to do so.
Everything about this game is imaginative, from the world, to the story, and to the gameplay. It encourages creativity by putting the player in the shoes of a young artist and even shows this artist as a hero because of his talents. Plus, they get to create their own Genies and any other artwork throughout the game. The whimsical vibe throughout is enough for anyone who experiences the game to be transported to this magical town of Denska, to feel like smiling, and to want to go out and create something.
The first thing that jumps out to anyone who checks this game out is how visually stunning it is. The cutscenes and gameplay are animated in a unique style that could rival any Pixar film. The paintings that the player can create have a beautiful neon aesthetic. The character and creature designs are all absolutely incredible. Even the characters’ facial movements when they speak stand out from anything seen in video games before.
The most important element in any video game is the gameplay. Thankfully, Concrete Genie has more to offer than just pretty visuals. The game features some of the most unique motion controls using just the PS4 DualShock controller. All the painting is done by moving the controller like a paintbrush, and it surprisingly never feels awkward. The painting is actually quite approachable and makes it easy to create gigantic masterpieces.
Outside of the motion controls for painting, there is plenty of basic-yet-enjoyable platforming and puzzle-solving throughout Ash’s journey through Denska. It’s pretty fun to just jump across rooftops as you stealthily make your way past the ever-aggressive bullies trying to snatch your magic paintbrush away. There’s not a whole lot of combat in the game, but when there is, it feels fluid and satisfying and you send magic paint at the forces of darkness. The gameplay evolves over time as well. Various elements and mechanics are constantly being added as you progress through the story, keeping the game feeling fresh.
The game’s story is incredibly heartfelt and contains some shockingly emotional scenes. Finding out what makes the bullies so cruel is heartbreaking and actually gets Ash and whoever is playing as him to feel for them. It’s hard to not grow attachment to your adorable Genies. There are a couple of moments throughout the story that are real tearjerkers. The story isn’t just emotional, it’s also genuinely interesting. It’s hard to imagine someone not feeling invested as the plot unfolds throughout the game.
On one hand, cool new gameplay mechanics being added as the game progresses is a lot of fun. There is a noticeable moment, however, where it almost feels like you’re playing an entirely different game. The previously-learned mechanics are dropped and replaced by a more action-packed gameplay. It doesn’t play poorly by any means; it just feels like gameplay whiplash with how much it abruptly changes.
While the gameplay is great, the overly-easy gameplay does take away from it at times. Good games don’t need to be difficult by any means, and everyone has a different difficulty threshold, but it doesn’t always feel necessary to worry about the bullies or other threats, as it’s extremely simple to get past them and they only mildly inconvenience you more than anything. It loses some of the suspense or threatening-feeling that the developers clearly wanted to convey in certain moments. It’s also a bit short, which is a bit a bummer if you find yourself totally immersed and expecting more.
Concrete Genie is terrific for gamers of all ages due to its unique gameplay, emotional story, and gorgeous visuals. It could have definitely been expanded upon and the pacing could have been handled differently, here and there, but it’s ultimately a fantastic playthrough. It’s imaginative and fun. This is one game that is undoubtedly worth picking up for anyone who has a PlayStation.