After being delayed earlier this year, Sony’s painterly puzzle platformer Concrete Genie will finally come to PS4 on October 8 for $30.
Kotaku first previewed Concrete Genie, created by one of Sony’s tiniest first-party studios, PixelOpus, back at E3 2017. At the time, the game’s creative director Dominic Robilliard said the idea was originally born out of a single piece of artwork depicting a kid standing up to bullies with the help of big creatures he’d painted on the wall behind him.
Since that E3 demo, the game’s had more time to come together, and it appears to have needed more time than initially predicted. A story trailer was released this spring and the game was delayed from the first half of the year to the second. Last week, I got a chance to try out a new demo set at the very beginning of the game, showing the city of Denska, which is where Ash, the game’s protagonist, used to live. The place has been economically hollowed out and has fallen into disrepair following a massive oil spill. Ash’s mission is to bring some semblance of life back to the deserted streets with his magic paint brushes that can paint scenes and even bring to life mysterious graffiti genies who can get rid of obstacles blocking the player’s path.
After I’d finished playing the latest demo, Robilliard explained to me that one of the keys to nailing this experience was to make players feel like they had ownership over the art that was created, even though what can be created is extremely limited. You select objects to paint, like a flower or a sun, rather than a specific type of brush stroke. But their precise shape and their qualities rely on how you gesture with the Dualshock 4, making the connection feel a bit more intimate. Once a particular portion of Denska has been cleared, the camera pans through it, showing off all of the artwork you’ve created in dazzling detail.
PixelOpus clearly knows this is where the game’s strength lies, having announced today that Concrete Genie will have a special photo mode feature that lets players create time lapse “replays” of their graffiti.
Although Concrete Genie is visually stunning, I wasn’t totally convinced during my limited time with the game that this creative process would provide a deep enough well from which to draw on for an entire game. They way bullies harass you as you’re painting adds a slightly challenging wrinkle but seems otherwise like a fairly shallow stealth add-on. The virtual reality portion I tried out was a separate mode from the main game, having me utilize the painting mechanic from a stationary spot to populate a 3D area with trees, grass, and warm sunshine. It was cute but not something that seemed like a must-have addition for anyone’s PSVR library.
There was one other thing that seemed special, though. Robilliard has previously hinted at a twist that happens later in the game, and having now seen it, I can say, without spoiling anything, that it’s in keeping with the rest of the game: it’s a visually striking and interesting narrative development that shows there’s more to Denska than first meets the eye.