Review: Concrete Genie

About this Game

Concrete Genie

Publisher

Sony Interactive Entertainment

Developer

Pixelopus

Release Date

October 8, 2019

Console

PlayStation 4

Time to Plat

8h

Platinum Difficulty

Easy

Online Trophies?

No

Difficulty Trophies?

No

Follow Us

Graffiti? No, Magic!

One that’s been on my list for a long time, I finally picked up Concrete Genie in the recent sales and found the time to add its Platinum Trophy to my growing collection!

Concrete Genie Review

The Boy, the Bullies, and the Big Blue Ghost!

Our protagonist is Ash, a young boy with excellent artistic talent who hangs out in the abandoned village of “Denska”, against the will of his parents.

Here, he reflects on the fun his family used to have in Denska, before the “Darkness” began to take over and everybody abandoned it. While doing so, he draws fantastic creatures in his sketchbook and allows us, the player, to colour them in!

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I put a little extra effort into colouring this one.

Not long after, though, the local gang of bullies approaches him, they push him around, tease him, and destroy his sketchbook before pushing him onto a tram which carries him to the “haunted” lighthouse.

I could relate to heavily with Ash in this moment, as someone who spent his entire childhood drawing and doodling in sketchbooks just to have bullies steal, trash or demean them I knew exactly how Ash felt in this moment, to have his hard work ruined. Of course, what happens next never happened to me!

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The lighthouse is indeed haunted, and the spirit takes on the form of one of Ash’s illustrations! “Luna”, as Ash calls her, introduces Ash to an incredible new reality where anything he paints can come to life! Armed with his magic paintbrush and the ability to draw scenery, friends, plant-life and even the weather, Ash sets out to aid Luna in restoring the former glory of Denska!

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Why, she looks like Luna!

The tale is a beautiful and touching tale about creativity and friendship, while carrying an important message about bullying which… Isn’t all that relevant to me now as a 27 year old man, but would surely teach some children a thing or two.

What really surprised me about the game is the way it transforms throughout, growing darker and more serious with the gameplay evolving to match in ways I hadn’t expected at all. Each chapter introduces a new mechanic which heavily shapes the gameplay and even the narrative.

Just a Brush Stroke Away.

Concrete Genie absolutely blew me away. Not just because the technical aspects of what is going on are impressive, but the concept and visuals are incredibly excellent too!

Using the magic brush, you can paint scenery from one of four categories, which you will unlock through gameplay. These categories include plant-life, mountain-ranges, trees, a few animals and miscellaneous items which your Genies can interact with. What are Genies you ask?

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A winter scene I made in Free Paint mode.

Throughout the town there are rough child-like sketches on the floor in a few select places. Ash claims to have drawn these when he was much younger and experiences excitement in seeing them again. From these locations, you can draw a genie! First, you select it’s body shape and then you can add features. Ears, horns, tails, hairs and so much more!

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The body shape and features you choose will dictate how the Genie acts and even the sounds it makes. Drawing the bodyshape vertically will make your Genie bipedal, but you can also draw a horizontal body shape to create a quadruped Genie, which forever reason seem so much cuter than the bipedal ones!

The spots from which you can create a genie will either be red, yellow or blue. This not only dictates their personality but also the ability they will have. Red genies can use fire to burn away red objects within the world. Yellow genies have electric abilities with which they can power electrical devices and bridge gaps in cables. Blue genies can push objects with a blue colour by using their wind abilities, that’s right, not water abilities – wind! I would have expected green for that, to be honest, but blue is good too.

The genies themselves are insanely adorable. All they want to do is play and paint. Occasionally, they’ll ask you to paint them something and they will then be extremely grateful, powering up your brush to enable to the Super Paint ability which you can use to clear more potent darkness off the walls of Denska.

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My favourite of the genies I made is… Just a cat.

Genies will often interact with the things you paint, and these interactions will make up a majority of the game’s trophies. This means that if you paint an apple, they will eat it. Paint lightning and they will be shocked by it. Paint a log and they will sit on it. There are so many interactions to see in the game and each one is more adorable and wholesome than the last.

One of my favourite interactions which took me by surprise came after I painted a lily-pad-like plant after painting some rain onto the wall. The nearby genie went over and plucked the plant out of the ground so that he could use it as an umbrella!

Of course, sadly, the game isn’t just about playing with these adorable new friends, no, there’s a sinister darkness in Denska and it’s our job to fix that! We do so by finding strips of lights throughout the world and painting beneath them. Doing so will cause the lights to blink to life and drive the darkness away bit by bit.

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Lights all lit up!

Some lights are found over corrupt walls which cannot be painted on without the assistance of the aforementioned “Super Paint” which obliterates the darkness allowing you to turn the light strips on. Once all lights in a “Zone” are active, then the darkness will be fully purged.

Turning on all of the lights in all of the zones within each of the 4 areas will remove the larger and more potent darkness from nearby, revealing a “Masterpiece” space. Here, using the many scenery items collected along the way, you get to create an enormous mural, dictated by your genies asking for the various items they want to see in the mural. It’s a very wholesome end to each chapter before you move on to the next.

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Painting a Masterpiece with my Genie friends!

There’s just one thing I didn’t like and that was the bullies! They’re always messing around throwing rocks or digging through trash in the same area that you’re trying to clean up. As you progress, they become a more prominent issue, being more aggressive in their actions and forcing you to use stealth and distraction tactics to get around them.

Honestly, I understand why this mechanic is in place, otherwise the game would have zero challenge and much of the variety would be lost, but I just found it really irritating that my fun kept getting cut short by these bullies and I had to wrestle with their less-than-perfect AI just to progress, however, this admittedly didn’t happen very often.

They were particularly aggravating during Chapter 3 of the main campaign but luckily they become less of a problem from there onwards.

Despite that one mechanic, everything else about the game is just such wholesome and exciting fun. It takes a turn towards the end and becomes quite dramatic, tense and even emotional, as the excitement builds and the characters develop more it was truly surprising to see how far the game had evolved before it’s penultimate moments.

Denska: Village of Secrets

The tiny village of Denska has seemingly been through hell. What was apparently once such a place of joy and happiness had clearly become a hive of despair. Even the buildings look depressed.

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A gloomy town sprinkled with little bits of colour.

But, as you might expect from a place with such history, there are secrets everywhere and Ash is the key to unlocking them!

The first type of collectable you’ll have your eye out for are actually just your own sketchbook pages. After the bullies tore up Ash’s sketchbook, they were scattered in the wind and can be found anywhere in Denska – high and low!

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A scenery page!

Some of these pages are scenery elements, these are fairly easy to find and are usually out in the open because they’re needed to progress the story, but there are also blue and green pages to be found. These typically require additional effort to find, some are hidden in hard-to-reach places and others are hidden inside objects such as mailboxes and trash cans.

The blue pages are genie body shapes, allowing you to create more varied genies while the green pages are genie features which bestow you with greater abilities for customising your genie friends.

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A Creature Feature!

While exploring, you should also see a few newspapers lying around which offer up additional exposition about the downfall of Denska. These are found in pretty obvious places making them hard to miss, and there are very few of them to find so completing this collection is a doddle.

Also to be found throughout Denska are secrets called “Moments”. Occasionally, you’ll find small white sketches hidden in places you’re unlikely to look. These sketches depict a genie performing some sort of action which hints towards the solution to this puzzle. To activate the “Moment” you will need to call a genie over by holding blank and then they will request something for you to paint, which relates to the white sketch in some way.

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A Genie telling me what he wants me to paint.

Once you’ve painted what they ask for, they will interact with it, earning you the collectable.

One other thing to be on the lookout for are large billboards. These are marked on the map quite clearly and typically depict some scenery which has worn down over the years. Your job is to restore these billboards by painting matching scenery onto them from your repertoire of scenery items.

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Restored Billboard!

Completing the illustration will grant you some information about the town’s history and Ash’s past.

As you can see there is plenty to find, see, and experience here in Denska and the vast majority of the time spent exploring will be a wholesome affair with plenty of fun to be had and many moments to find yourself smiling and maybe letting out the occasional “awww”.

My Concrete Genie Platinum Experience

Having Fun

To start with, I just wanted to experience the game for what it is, get lost in the story and have fun with the mechanics. Which, of course, with them being as fantastic as they are – I absolutely did have a lot of fun.

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Joining a Genie in petting a cat!

The story was no challenge in particular. Usually, a genie will hint at where to go and what to do but the game will even throw you a hint or two if it detects you’re probably stuck but this won’t happen very often. There are a couple of puzzles in Chapter 4 which might have you scratching your head a little but it’s a relatively easy game to figure out.

Along the way, I would say I managed to get about half of the collectables in each area, except for the billboards because I didn’t even notice they were a thing until about halfway through. The story really gripped me, though, and I have to say I was certainly not as vigilant about collectables as I usually am in other games, as I spent my time following the Genies around like a wonder-filled child and getting total tunnel-vision about cleaning up Denska.

I also managed to naturally collect a good majority of the miscellaneous trophies. After only maybe 4 hours – possibly less – I was sadly finished with Concrete Genie’s touching and magical story, left with only the cleanup phases of my Platinum Journey to cling onto for hopes of more time in-game.

Misc Trophies

When the story finished, I was kicked to the main menu, which as the perfect opportunity to jump into Free Paint mode for a little while and play on each stage until I had the trophy for… well, playing on every free paint stage. To ensure the trophy was earned I stuck around to paint a small mural in each of the four areas before leaving.

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Using photo mode for a better angle on my mural… And then forgetting to hide the UI for the actual screenshot.

I probably could have earned the rest of my misc trophies in free paint too, but for whatever reason I decided to go back to the main game to do this. I selected “Continue” from the main menu which brought me back to Denska, and it was looking a lot nicer than the last time I saw it!

Here, in the very first zone, I found my group of genies and then began painting objects for them which I wanted them to interact with for various trophies off the list. Since I had about 4 genies in the same area, it was pretty much guaranteed that at least one of them would interact with the things I painted, so it went by pretty quickly.

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My Genies enjoying the snow!

I then took a short trip around the corner to find a wall I didn’t care about making a mess of. Here, I got all the silly trophies out of the way like “Paint more than 10 Campfires in a row” and “Paint a total of 20 Blackbirches” by simply spamming each scenery item in the same spot. It didn’t make for very good trophy screenshots, but it got the job done!

With the remaining misc trophies out of the way, there was one thing left to do… Collect the collectables!

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Almost 20 Blackbirch trees.

Collectable Cleanup

I left this for last simply because I knew the misc trophies would be a lot quicker but also because I assumed I’d get a better Platinum Screenshot from doing this than from any of the misc trophies.Not sure why I care about Platinum Screenshots so much, but in a game like this you’d want your Platinum memento to be representative of the game’s beauty.

What I had failed to realise, though, was that the “Moments” collectables accounted for the various Genie Interaction Misc Trophies and so if I had waited, I would have earned these regardless!

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The Moments section of the Journal.

After a good couple of hours spent tracking down every last Moment and page of the Sketchbook, which was especially difficult at the Hydroelectric plant, I finally head back to the Lighthouse to collect the last few pieces there.

There’s a trophy at the lighthouse to unlock Luna’s Secret and so I wanted that to be my Platinum Screenshot but I accidentally unlocked it before collecting the last two pages of the Sketchbook, which annoyed me a little. I went and grabbed those last two pages which was all I needed in the end to earn that platinum trophy.

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Oops!

I used the one-two-switcheroo method to choose my Platinum Screenshot since I figure a screenshot of my grabbing a sheet of paper would be a pretty naff memento of this game.

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Plat… Get!

Time Breakdown

Initial Story Playthrough u0026 Some Collectables

Misc Trophies

Collectable Cleanup

Concrete Genie Trophy Guide

Now that you’ve read about it, surely you’d like to plat this game for yourself? I should imagine so, it’s a truly excellent game! Lucky for you, we have a Concrete Genie Trophy Guide right here!

That concludes my Concrete Genie Trophy Review. If you enjoyed reading this review, please do let us know, it means the world to us when we hear feedback and we love engaging with people over the game we just platted. It’s basically the only thing motivating us at the moment!

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Verdict

Plat

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At only around 8 hours in length and filled to the brim with wholesome joy, I highly recommend that no Trophy Hunter miss the opportunity to add this Platinum to their collection!

Pros

  • Incredible and intelligent painting mechanic
  • adorable creature design
  • wholesome story

Cons

  • Bully system is annoying
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Platinum Trophy

This game perfectly blends 2D and 3D, creating a world teeming with exciting moments and joyful experiences. Pair that with the suspense of the game's latter chapters and we have a game more than worth of a Platinum rating.

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About the Author

More fond of single-player experiences and story-driven games than anything else, TheDblTap has a keen eye for secrets and collectables, a skill which serves him well as a Trophy Hunter. However, with little patience and poor timing, he can struggle where MrZhangetsu would succeed.

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