The opening scenes of Concrete Genie follow our floppy haired hero Ash, as he slinks around the oil slick streets of Denska, avoiding the gang of bullies prowling the streets, while scribbling away in his sketchbook.
It quickly transpires that Denska used to be a thriving fishing port, with life flourishing around every corner.
This ended the day an oil tanker overturned on Denska’s shoreline, coating everything in oil and bringing with it a darkness that drove the inhabitants away from their homes.
Your first hands on with the game is getting to grips with the motion controls, the game has you colouring in some of Ash’s sketches, bringing them to life with a few well-placed brush strokes.
At first it’s a little odd waving around a DualShock 4 like an oversized paintbrush, but you quickly forget the awkwardness as you create your first genie.
This will be the first of many brought to life with a flick of your controller, each with its own style and personality.
For those who prefer not to risk personal or property damage by controller, the accessibility options mean you can change the painting controls so you’re using the analogue stick inputs instead.
Customisation of your genies is endless; you’ll find the pages of Ash’s sketchbook littering the streets – and rooftops – of Denska, and as you fill the bindings once again, you’ll have an extensive selection of features at your disposal to unleash upon your genies.
I started out making my own genies look majestic, with horns just the right length, perfect tufts of hair, everything planned out to perfection.
However, by the end of the game, some of the monstrosities I created should not have seen the light of day; there is such a thing as too many ears; who knew?
There are several genie ‘types’ in the game; fire, wind and electric.
Each one has skills to help you overcome varying puzzles that act more to drive the story than to creating any real obstacle.
The beauty in Concrete Genie comes from the creative outlet it provides, instead of the challenges it throws at you.
The genies are happy to help aid you on your journey, although occasionally they will request certain designs to be drawn as payment.
Create the required scene, conjure up an apple or splatter the sky with stars, and they’ll happily burn, blow or buzz the way clear for you to continue.
Ultimately your objective is to drive away the darkness from Denska and restore it to its former glory, to do this you must light up the world with your art.
Your magic paintbrush means you can fill the streets with colour, brightening even the darkest of corners and banishing the darkness back to where it came from.
For those lucky enough to own a PlayStation VR, there are two modes for you to immerse yourself in.
‘Free Painting’ sets you loose on the streets of Denska with nothing more than your paintbrush and creativity – this mode is also available to play sans VR.
The second VR mode has almost convinced me I need to repurchase a VR headset. While there’s little more to it than standing in a meadow creating miscellaneous landscape dressing.
It feels wonderfully whimsical as you string lights from trees and paint the sky with rainbows.
Concrete Genie is a beautifully crafted story of how darkness can be infectious, when people are hurt, they ultimately hurt those around them, and the never-ending cycle continues.
For Ash, it’s his creativity and imagination that breaks this cycle, helping him breathe life back into the place he once called home.
I’ve spent the last half an hour trying to figure out what box to put Concrete Genie in. How best to describe it, and I’ve concluded that it simply doesn’t have one.
It’s a little bit of a platformer, with a smidge of combat and some light puzzle aspects.
While it is not wholly any one of these, when you mix all of them together and paint them across the levels, it ends up being something completely unique, and in its uniqueness lies a million stunning possibilities (and genies, lots of genies).
The Verdict – 5/5
– Reviewed on PlayStation 4
Pixleopus has made a triumphant return with Concrete Genie; from your very first brush stroke you’ll be so swept away by the colour and narrative that by the time it’s over, you’ll want to jump right back in again to paint the town red, and blue… and green
• The game and the artwork you create is visually stunning.
• Easily accessible so anybody can pick it up and play.
• VR mode is a fun addition but not vital for those who don’t have access to it.
• There isn’t any. The game is a joy from start to finish.
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