Plenty of games deal with real-world issues in clever ways so let's see how well this creative 3D platformer tackles bullying.
Before playing Concrete Genie, I didn't quite know what to expect and now that I've completed it, I must say that it's one of the most imaginative gaming experiences that I've ever played. You control Ash, a boy artist who bullies love to pick on. One day, his art comes to life in the form of a genie within the dilapidated city of Denska. So, he takes it upon himself to make Denska become a lovely place like it was back in the day as he has fond memories of spending time in the city. The graphical style is beautiful with unique character models that have South Park style facial animations as well as splashes of neon across otherwise drab yet detailed cityscapes. Concrete Genie's audio is phenomenal as well with a wondrous score and a voice cast that does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life.
After saying all of that, how does Concrete Genie play? Basically, it's a 3D platformer that has you run and jump around a handful of districts within Denska while trying not to be spotted by the bullies. That being said, they're not much of a threat. You'll collect tons of stuff along the way and the main goal is to paint walls which makes lights turn on then you paint genies that come to life in order to solve basic puzzles. It's very satisfying to paint the Masterpieces which mark the end of each district only to move on to the next.
Without spoiling anything, halfway through the campaign, the gameplay shifts to become more battle-focused yet the combat is super-easy as all you have to do is mash buttons to launch the appropriate elemental abilities. It's really that simple and brings me to my first complaint about Concrete Genie; it's one of the most unchallenging games that I've ever played. In fact, you're provided constant visual clues as well as explicitly laid-out hints which ensures that your hand is tightly held from start to finish.
With that said, the appeal of Concrete Genie isn't its challenge; it's the captivating game world. Thankfully, the painting mechanics are intuitive and spot-on for watching things come to life. You can be as lazy or as creative as you want with painting lovely landscapes and making goofy or cool-looking genies. After you paint something and watch it start animating within the neon visual style, it's jaw-dropping stuff indeed. On top of all this, using the fire genies to ignite objects, the lightning ones to provide electricity, and the wind ones to blow objects away looks fantastic. Heck, even high-fiving a genie will make you smile. It truly feels like a magical reality.
Before getting to the PSVR portion, allow me to discuss a couple of other downsides. First, the campaign is so short that you can easily complete it in 1 or 2 gaming sessions and the world is rather small, too, so you can acquire all of the collectibles without spending too much time wandering around. Finally, I found the bullies to be very typical as if they're from a '90s anti-bullying educational video and I wish that they were more realistic. Of course, things shouldn't get too dark but anything's better than walking stereotypes.
If you own a PlayStation VR headset and 2 motion controllers, here's some cool extra content that you can play through. Basically, you paint things that the adorable mini-genie Splotch wants you to on a wall in a cave then after the tutorial, you're transported to a beautiful field where you can actually paint things in 3D! That's right; even though the main campaign has you merely painting on walls, you can make this field come to life by growing trees, populating the night sky with stars, and even controlling the wind. Sure, it feels like a PSVR tech demo but it's super-cute and enjoyable to experience, especially considering that it's short and sweet.
Once you're done with the main VR mini-campaign, you can freely paint within the 4 districts as well as The Crystal Meadow in virtual reality which is a nice bonus. If I ever want to wind down, I can definitely see myself revisiting Splotch in VR, that's for sure.
Concrete Genie is one of the most imaginative games ever created. Although it's short and super-easy, you're bound to love your time in Denska then down the road, you'll think fondly back on Ash and his genies' lovely adventure.
- + Gorgeous and imaginative game world that'll keep you captivated and engaged
- + Nifty ways to make the city come alive
- + VR mode is downright adorable
- - Campaign is extremely easy and holds your hand tightly throughout
- - Very short / small game world
- - Bullies are too stereotypical