Reclaim a town fallen into darkness one street graffiti at a time. That is the premise of Concrete Genie, a PlayStation 4 exclusive from Sony's Pixelopus team.
It is a well-intentioned fable that touches on topics like bullying and the environment without saying anything new. While wholesome, the plot is all too predictable and lacks tension.
You play a young artist Ash,who gets hold of a magical paintbrush allowing him to paint away the ectoplasmic-like dark goo - apparently caused by an oil spill from a tanker - covering his seaside town of Denska.
With this brush, Ash can also bring to life 2-D creatures called genies. Furry and odd-looking, these cute creatures are confined to walls, but they can help Ash tackle the game's rather elementary puzzles.
There are three types of genies, each with its own ability to either start a fire, generate sparks or blow a gust of wind. Use these abilities at the right place and moment to solve the puzzles that are stopping Ash from progressing in his mission.
This is a game that was reportedly conceived in the Pixelopus' art department. And unsurprisingly, Concrete Genie looks absolutely gorgeous. Story cutscenes look like stop motion animation. The street graffiti feels alive, while the genies remind me of the weird and wonderful creatures from Dr Seuss books.
For most of the game, you progress by painting graffiti on the walls, which lights up the street bulbs hanging all over the walls in the town. This somehow banishes the darkness afflicting the town. It is not exactly free form painting as you need to pick from a sketchbook filled with art stamps depicting objects and scenes, such as grass, trees and the moon.
To move the cursor during painting, you can either physically move the PlayStation controller or use the right controller stick. I switched to the latter option as it offered slightly more precise control.
Stunning visuals and gorgeous art design
Wholesome story suitable for younger audiences
Excellent VR segment
Story and gameplay lacks excitement
Iffy controls for painting
Price: From $41.90 (PS4 only)
Genre: Action adventure
Adding a slight pinch of difficulty to the game is the gang of street kids wandering the town. They vandalise the walls with their own offensive form of art and bully Ash, scattering his sketchbook to the wind in the first moments of the game. It is easy to avoid them by taking to the rooftops of the town. Ash can also divert their attention by calling out his location and then doubling back.
Near the end of the game, Concrete Genie changes things up by introducing new combat mechanics as the stakes get higher. But it was not till the final boss encounter that I felt a slight frisson of excitement. At its default Normal difficulty mode, the game is simply too easy and straightforward. I took around 5 hours to complete the story.
The game comes with two virtual reality (VR) modes that are worth trying out. A pair of PlayStation Move controllers is required, but it is so much more intuitive to use these handy motion controllers to paint rather than the standard controller. It is a pity that the developers could not integrate the Move controllers into the main game.
Concrete Genie is a relaxing romp that feels almost like a colouring book for adults. Younger audiences will likely take to its wholesome story and gorgeous visuals.