Titles like Concrete Genie belong to that category of exclusives which, for one reason or another, fail to reach the same media power as other works and which, consequently, they risk going unnoticed when they come out on the shelves (digital and non-digital). Although it is a situation, given the amount of titles that come out every week, it is inevitable, it would be a real shame to drop the work of Pixelopus, Californian team here on their second job after that Entwined released in the 2014.
The writer has approached Concrete Genie in a completely free of any prejudice, intrigued by an aesthetic sector of sure impact, but devoid of any detailed information on the plot and gameplay, if not the few news released by Sony Interactive Entertainment during the last few months. After about fifteen hours of play and with a platinum trophy behind him, we are finally ready to tell you about the adventure of Ash against the bullies of the port town of Denska. Follow us on this journey full of bright colors between funny creatures to paint and a terrible darkness to eradicate!
Art is the best weapon to fight ignorance
Ash is a young boy who, like many of his peers, is forced to live his life trying to avoid contact with neighborhood bullies. DenskaIt was once a city full of life and joy, but since when the darkness has begun to corrupt her slowly people have left their homes. The dreary, gloomy and autumn-hued setting goes well with the atmosphere at the beginning of the game, projecting us into a plot with a typically "indie" flavor.
Always a lover of drawing and gifted with great imagination, one day However, Ash is joined by the group of bullies who, after having ripped the pages of his sketchbook from him, lock him inside a cableway to the lighthouse, where the presence of a mysterious ghost seems to hover. It will be the ghost, which we will discover to be one of Ash's drawings, to give us a magic brush capable of giving life not only to colorful drawings, but also to real monsters (or genes) that we will have to learn to control to restore the city to its original state.
These are the foundations of plot di Concrete Genie that, except for a few moments related to the flashbacks of the group of naughty kids, fails to give particularly brilliant moments. Or rather: at the level of writing we are faced with what can be defined as "a homework", characterized by flat characters, situations resolved too quickly and a series of screenplay ingenuity that cannot fail to be highlighted. But (and it's a big "but"), the Pixelopus title never claims to tell a profound or articulated story, limiting itself to narrating a fairy tale about good feelings which, in terms of atmosphere, we cannot fail to reward hands down. You never expect anything more than what is found during the eight, ten hours it takes to complete the main story and, thanks to a skilful audiovisual mix (which we will analyze later) we cannot fail to say that we enjoyed ourselves and, in some moments, even naively excited.
A brush to paint them all
It gives a playful point of view, Concrete Genie can be called an adventure title, but it doesn't quite fit the stereotypes of this game genre. Ash's aim, in fact, is to turn on all the light bulbs scattered around the city, an objective that can be achieved by painting the wall on which the lights are placed with our magic brush. Obviously, it does not matter what we are going to represent on the wall with our power, but putting some care in the realization of the drawing can give a great personal satisfaction once we look around us in the game world.
There are two ways, in fact, to approach Concrete Genie: the first is that of the casual gamer, who might find a title like the one by Pixelopus boring and who, in order to complete it quickly, would just do two brush strokes on the walls to turn on the lights and thus proceed in the adventure. The other type of player, on the other hand, is the one who would treat the walls as real canvases for his own works, engaging in the realization of the paintings for a sort of good taste and for the search for a specific aesthetic. Let's be clear: the game will not reward you if you do a good job rather than four stripes of color, but it will be you yourself who must benefit (and satisfaction) from your works. Mind you at this point, because it could make a difference whether or not you buy Concrete Genie.
As regards the gameplay of the painting sections, we can choose between using the right analog stick (very uncomfortable) or the motion sensor of the Dualshock 4, which will allow us to modulate the sign and to give life to real masterpieces. This goes hand in hand with the ability to create genes, useful for overcoming simple environmental puzzles and for unlock the many collectibles scattered around the play area. Between billboards to paint, new drawings to learn and artworks to unlock, Concrete Genie aims to let you explore every single corner of Denska.
Everything runs smoothly like oil (for painting) for 80% of the game, when, for some plot elements that we don't want to ruin, things change significantly. The third act of the Pixelopus adventure, in fact, presents a renewed gameplay in all its elements, capable of shuffling the cards on the table and starting what, in some ways, looks like a different title game from before. We do not feel like promoting this choice of developers because, unfortunately, the change of course takes place too late in the adventure and the player does not have time to absorb the new game mechanics that are already in front of the credits. Such a pity.
Small parenthesis dedicated to VR mode present in the main menu. First let us say that it is a totally accessory feature, comparable to an animated short featured in the extras of a Blu-ray of an animated film. It will therefore be possible to play all Concrete Genie even without the Sony viewer and, above all, it will be possible to reach the much coveted platinum even without the three trophies dedicated to VR. The general quality of this short experience is average, with a visual rendering that is certainly valid, but without bite and lasting about twenty minutes. In short: this will not make the difference on the final quality of the title of the Californian developers.
When aesthetics becomes art
It is useless to go around it so much: on an artistic level, Concrete Genie turns out to be a little gem. The characters move with a style that, in more than one situation, seemed to us to be similar to that of stop motion, and the color palette used throughout the adventure is always perfect and perfectly consistent with the emotions that the game wants to arouse. There is not a moment when you will not be charmed by the bright colors, by the contrasts between dark walls and neon lights (or illuminated bulbs) or by the funny expressions and designs of the geniuses that will accompany you throughout the adventure.
The audio sector is also flawless, which not only boasts a good dubbing in Italian, but that presents an extraordinary and poetic soundtrack composed by Sam Marshall (listen to it on Spotify or above, if you don't trust it). As for the bugs, we only got stuck a couple of times in the elements of the scenario (in the Channels) and we were forced to reload the checkpoint, but otherwise the title proved to be stable, solid and cared for in every little detail.
Can Concrete Genie therefore aspire to the term “masterpiece”? Obviously not. But is it really important to always and in any case deal with masterpieces? There can be no humbler titles, but capable of warming the heart and to turn out to be an excellent pastime during the gray autumn days ?! The title Pixelopus is exactly this: a poetic project that, if you hold out your hand, will be able to transmit its warmth and will make you spend 15 hours in the company of a simple story, an atypical gameplay with a fluctuating pace and an artistic sector of excellent quality. I don't know about you, but I believe that works of this kind must absolutely be valued and, for this reason, I recommend to all those who are interested to give Concrete Genie a chance, certainly not a perfect title, but perfectly honest in its intentions.USEFUL INFO
We played Concrete Genie on PlayStation 4 Pro, having redeemed the Deluxe Edition, which also boasts a digital artbook, soundtrack and a couple of themes for download to our Sony console. After completing the game, we also delved into the short add-on content for PlayStation VR, so that you have a complete overview of the Pixelopus title. We would also like to point out that the title is not sold at full price, but at around thirty euros, which makes it closer to an indie title than to an AAA production.Duration
- The main campaign of Concrete Genie can be completed in about eight hours, but that increases if you decide to explore Denska well.
- The writer has platinum-plated the Pixelopus title in about fifteen hours, collecting all the collectibles and completing every single game action.
- The VR content, on the other hand, has a duration that ranges from fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on how much you will miss looking around.
- Concrete Genie is an adventure, which however goes beyond the typical canons of the genre in some ways. In addition to jumping left and right, in fact, we will have to paint the walls of the city to complete the various game objectives.
- The third act features new gameplay mechanics that, without spoiling the experience, will fundamentally change your approach to the game.
- The VR mode is nothing more than a digital canvas where you can follow a little extra story and, subsequently, where you can paint in total freedom.
- The game features different types of collectibles, which increase the final longevity of the Pixelopus title by a few hours.
- There are the pages of Ash's diary that, once found, give access to new designs for the geniuses and new murals to paint.
- There are also small murals that will be activated thanks to the genes. Once the requests of our colorful friends have been fulfilled, we will have access to small artwork from the production.
Concrete Genie is a small jewel, from an aesthetic point of view. Every single element has been studied at the table to obtain a perfect chromatic balance, particle effects that, especially in 4K, make a beautiful figure and a character design able to remain in the hearts of the players for a long time. Definitely the best side of production, capable of acting as the driving force for the whole adventure.
SOUNDTRACK AND DOUBLE ROOM
Also from the sound point of view, Concrete Genie manages to excite under several aspects. The Italian dubbing is certainly successful, with not so famous, but perfectly functional voices on the characters in which they were put. On the other hand, the soundtrack is simply wonderful, which we recommend everyone to recover and which we are still listening to as we write these lines.
The weaker side of the production, together with the narrative sector. Concrete Genie is a title that, playfully, will only be able to convince those who will be able to adapt to all its flaws and get over them. A badly managed rhythm, some somewhat naïve design choices and a questionable third act are some of the elements that, objectively, we cannot fail to point out to you. As you can read in the review, however, this is not something that could compromise your purchase, as it depends on what type of player you are.