|Publisher||Sony Interactive Entertainment|
|Platforms||PS4, PS VR|
|Release Date||October 8, 2019|
Pixelopous is a smaller Sony Studio whose first title was the gorgeous rhythm game Entwined. Concrete Genie is their follow-up, and based on the quality of this new title, they are well on their way to becoming a household name.
Spiritual Content: This game features Genies or spirit-like creatures. Occasionally they will have horns or sharp teeth, which may be interpreted as evil. Magic is a feature of the game; it’s not teaching kids to be wizards or witches, but it is present.
Violence: The game features minimal violence where the protagonist is bullied by a group of peers but these moments are few and far between. Later in the game the protagonist engages in combat against evil Genies. These scenes are relatively tame, though.
Positive Content: The city in Concrete Genie has been affected by an ecological disaster, lost jobs and industry, and overall has become desolate and run down. I can’t help but think of Original Sin, in this instance. Before sin entered the world by Adam and Eve, mankind was in perfect harmony with God, one another, and nature. But after sin came to be, the relationship with God and His creation became strained, and soon man began abandoning God for his own personal gain. Relationships between men and women became points of contention, and sin has even affected the world around us in the form of thorns, famine, and natural disasters. However, God promises in Genesis 3:15 that Eve’s seed (Jesus) will conquer sin, death, and the devil, and restore the world. Concrete Genie‘s protagonist Ash serves as a Christ-like figure in the story, as his actions are erasing the evil and corruption found in the game’s world, and the world is coming back to life in new and improved ways.
The story of Concrete Genie focuses on a teenage boy named Ash (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Delson from Infamous Second Son, beanie and all) living in the city of Denska. In-game collectibles and flashback cutscenes piece the story together. Denska was once a busy fishing port and cannery, but an environmental disaster hurt the small port city causing most residents to flee. Ash brings the city back to life by painting over graffiti, dirt, and general rundown sections of town with a magical paintbrush.
Ash must also find drawings that bullies tore from his notebook. These drawings feature Genies set against gorgeous, intricate backdrops. The genies are a really cool feature of game. Occasionally you’ll find a genie on wall or ground. With his magical paintbrush, Ash brings/paints them alive. But that’s where the fun begins. Once alive, the Genie gives ash signs of what they need. For example, one of the Genies I found wouldn’t leave and follow me until I painted trees and tall grass for him to climb and hide in as he traversed the walls to follow Ash. Ash can interact with Genies as well; he can pet, talk with, and even play basketball with them. The environmental disaster has affected the genies too because it manifests itself in the world as corrupt, glowing purple vines. This makes it so the Genies are unable to move past the corruption, and the only solution is to clear the way with magic paint that the Genies give to Ash for completing tasks.
Gameplay-wise Concrete Genie works well as both a puzzle platformer and as an adventure game. Perhaps my only complaint is minimal motion controls; to paint you hold R1 or R2 and then follow an onscreen marker by moving your DualShock 4 up, down, left, or right. The marker helps you see where you need to paint. However, the painting is tied to motion controls and they can be frustrating, because if you are a perfectionist and the Genie you design comes to life differently than you intended, you play the rest of the game with an ugly Genie. While I haven’t explored this yet, the game offers a PSVR mode and free paint option.
The world is beautiful even while corrupted. But when Ash begins painting and Genies begin exploring your paintings, the world is amazing. The colors shifts from oranges, browns, yellows, and greens, to accents of neon blue and pink.
In my opinion, Sony crushes it when offering crazy cool game concepts. With Concrete Genie, Sony knocks it out of the park once again. This is a game that all types of people can enjoy—especially people who have been bullied and/or feel bogged down with sin or depression. It’s a world where I can get lost, relax, and move beyond all my real-life issues. It becomes even more special when I consider the theological implications of restoration I find in the game. My year has been dark; I had a stroke, lost my left hand, and even left my position as a pastor because of the stroke. Concrete Genie, my family, and prayer is where I have found comfort and peace.
The Bottom Line
Concrete Genie is a heartwarming story about friendship and restoration, and an absolute must-play.