Monday, January 13, 2020

Concrete Genie (PS4) Review

Let's start this new week of content on SuperPhillip Central on the right foot with a brand-new review. Concrete Genie came out this past October, and SPC finally gets around to reviewing the game. Check out my thoughts on Concrete Genie with this full review.

Your wish for a unique and touching game is Pixelopus' command.

Some games are short, but are more than worth their price of admission by virtue of just being amazing and unique experiences. Pixelopus' Concrete Genie is one of those games. Like the murals and creatures that our hero can masterfully and magically paint onto the walls of the town of Denska, Concrete Genie is a work of art, exuding a high level of polish and quality.

In Concrete Genie you play as a bullied teen named Ash, an artist that favors to draw in his sketchbook and who yearns for the days where his hometown of Denska was a happening, beautiful place instead of the dilapidated, empty, and scummy eyesore that it is currently. Taken over by darkness and negative energy, Denska seems doomed to its fate, as does Ash who constantly gets teased and picked on by a group of misfits. In one encounter they tear up his sketchbook in a scuffle, sending the pages flying to all corners of Denska. While Ash's short term happiness is ruined, when he stumbles across a magical paintbrush, able to create living mural-like creatures, it appears that in the long term that Ash and Denska's futures as a whole look brighter than ever before.

Concrete Genie is a terrific journey and a heartfelt one at that-that gives each character in it more dimensions than the creatures that Ash can summon with his paintbrush. This is particularly important for the batch of bullies that Ash continuously contends with throughout the game, and the adventure all ends for everyone on an especially poignant, feelgood note.

Behold--the power of creativity!
Ash's paintbrush has plenty of uses to it, as it can conjure art by pointing at walls, holding down the R2 button when doing so, and utilizing the PlayStation 4's motion controls to aim while drawing. If you have an issue with using motion controls, then an alternate right analog stick control setup is available instead. Most walls can be littered with colorful and gorgeous graffiti, but you're limited only by being able to use a set series of patterns when painting as opposed to freestyle. Each main area of the game, which there are four, has a set of landscape patterns to use. With a stroke of the magical paintbrush, hanging lights of mushrooms jingle downward, trees rise up from the ground, an aurora illuminates the wall, and glistening stars light up what were once barren walls.

Denska begins as a dull, drab and desolate place in Concrete Genie,
 so seeing its revitalization throughout the game is glorious.
Really, there is fantastic fun to be found in covering every conceivable wall you can in various patterns to create your own enchanted landscape murals which brighten the once dull city streets. Of course, though, there is a goal to be found in Concrete Genie as well, as and the main one is finding walls containing hanging strands of non-functioning lights on them. With a stroke of the brush on these walls, the lights change from off to on. When all of the walls with light strands on them have been painted, that building is officially finished. Paint all of the walls with light strands on them in a particular zone to complete that zone. Finish all zones in an area to complete that area.

I wish I may, I wish I might, to paint these walls to turn on these lights.
It is completely possible to do a limited amount of work in Concrete Genie by just painting each required wall with light strands with any old pattern and moving on. But, as I said, it's enjoyable and worthwhile to channel your inner Michelangelo and paint the town to create lush, vivid, and colorful landscapes all over to make Denska even more breathtaking than it'd otherwise be. (Well, Michelangelo is known best for a work of art on a ceiling and not a wall, but you get my drift.) Concrete Genie is a tool for expression despite it being covered up under the guise of an adventure game.

The creativity you can channel also works when creating creatures from set locations in Denska. Like with painting walls, you're limited to a set amount of features for creature creation, but even so, there is a wide assortment of tails, wings, horns, and such to create some truly brilliant creatures. Depending on the color of the creature you make, they have different powers and abilities. Red creatures conjure flames, yellow creatures can conduct electricity, and blue creatures blast out wind. All of these abilities are used to solve simple environmental puzzles around Denska. Creatures can be called by holding the L1 button which calls on them, but they must have a means to reach Ash. Creatures cannot jump between walls, so they need a route that is full of interconnected walls. Several of the puzzles in Concrete Genie have you moving blocks and boxes to create new pathways for your created creature companions in some crafty and creative ways.

Thanks for your help, buddy! You've earned your paycheck for this week, for sure!
That said, even though there is some worth to making some art out of painting up and illuminating the walls of Denska and putting forth care into creature creation, there is no real reward for doing so other than purely personal satisfaction. You aren't judged or scored by your artwork, which is a nice thing for a more relaxing experience, of course, but for an already short game of only seven hours, it's quite easy to just feel the need to rush through. I'm sure plenty of players will do just that, especially as the Platinum trophy is quite easy to achieve.

A late-game ability allows Ash to skate around on paint. Totally radical, dude!
Regardless, when you're not creating creatures or painting the town with all sorts of dazzling displays, you're engaging in some other types of gameplay, such as Uncharted-like climbing and platforming, as well as stealth-like gameplay in actively avoiding pursuing bullies. Even then, there is no penalty for falling from too high of a spot or entering the muddy murk that is Denska's waters, as you're merely placed back to where you fell off or in. Being caught by the bullies just results in getting Ash tossed in a dumpster to simply continue his quest of artistry.

It's a brave new Denska, but there's more to do!
Aside from that, there is plenty of exploration to be found in Concrete Genie. Missing pages from Ash's sketchbook need to be chased down and caught, special paintings need life brought back into them, and special genie memories to solve. The latter two require a specific combination of landscape graffiti to complete them, and it just works out that because of this, they're completely optional to do within the game.

While there's a canvas--if you will--full of painting gameplay to enjoy, the late game of Concrete Genie introduces combat where Ash must take on Dark Genies. While the stakes are high story-wise (which I won't spoil why in this review), they aren't so much when it concerns gameplay. Instead, they're rather tedious, as they require you to chase down each enemy, unleash a flurry of paint attacks, and then slowly creep up to the Dark Genie to calm them down and restore them to their former spunky and sweet selves. The combat overall seems nice on paper, but it's executed in a less than exciting way, despite its attempt to keep the game feeling fresh.

Battling Dark Genies in unfortunately the weakest part of Concrete Genie.
Despite its budget price and retail presence, Concrete Genie is a game that flew under the radar of many PlayStation 4 owners. As you can see from my review, that's a darn shame--for those who missed out on the game. As is, Concrete Genie is another jewel in Sony's first-party crown and only further enhances the quality of the roster of exclusives the PS4 possesses. That said, Pixelopus' showing isn't a total success with some forced combat that doesn't engage as much as I would have liked, and its brevity may turn off a lot of potential players. Nevertheless, for those looking for an abundantly creative, bold, and special title for their PlayStation 4, you don't need to rub a lamp to encounter this genie. You just need to pick up Concrete Genie instead.

[SPC Says: B]

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