Reviews - Updated on April 8, 2022

The American studio Pixelopus created only two games. The first of them, Entwined, told about a bird and a fish in love in the format of a small rhythm adventure. Entwined did not seem very exciting to players and the press, and received mixed reviews. The second work of the team, exclusive to the PlayStation 4 Concrete Genie, achieved a much warmer reception from the public, however, in my opinion, it also has enough problems.

call of the streets

Concrete Genie begins with the fact that its main character, a boy named Ash, despite the request of his parents, returns to the town where he used to live to draw on the pier for his own pleasure. In the introductory video, we are shown that Denska, from a once quite cozy port settlement, has turned into an abandoned place where, in addition to Ash, exceptionally troubled teenagers visit. Of course, these guys are aggressive towards our protagonist, they take away and scatter his drawings in the wind, and in addition to this, they push Ash into the funicular cabin and send him to the lighthouse.

A miracle happens on the tower: one of the sketches, a monster named Luna, comes to life and gives Ash the ability to draw magical paintings with a brush that is more like a Nimbus 2000 in size. Armed with a sort of broom, the hero returns to the city in order to return the colors to it. Literally.

The boy decides that Denska needs to be revived, and the drawings on the walls and the fantastic creatures that he creates one after another will help him in this. The monsters became his friends, but the teenagers still continued to bully. They either put the hero in the garbage can, then they take away the brush, then they kick him out of nothing to do. Ash, as a true adherent of the principle of non-resistance to evil by violence, does not get into a fight and humbly gets on the cheek if he does not have time to escape from hooligans.

Concrete Genie game review

In cut scenes, the game looks like a cartoon with puppet characters.

During the plot skirmishes, the hero began to have short wordless visions, showing us that teenagers, it turns out, behave so aggressively because they grew up in dysfunctional families: someone’s parents divorced, someone’s father was in prison and no did not take part in education. The depth of psychologism in art has never been so strong! Charm is added to her by some of Ash’s phrases during the exploration of locations. He seems to see that the guys are still suffering, but still he cannot help but exclaim at the meeting: “Again, these freaks!”

Concrete Genie is trying with all his might to be acutely social. The key word is “trying”. She says in the most primitive way that environmental pollution is bad, and teenage bullying can be defeated in an instant by the power of friendship. Spoiler: no, you can’t. The game really touches on difficult topics, but talks about them as if it was designed exclusively for preschoolers (and this is with a rating of 12+). You can and should talk about troubled teenagers in games, but not reduce everything to primitive ten-second scenes that explain their anger. This does not add depth to the game, but, on the contrary, makes it extremely limited in terms of character relationships.

Concrete Genie game review

All memories in Concrete Genie are presented in the form of cute cartoons.

Artist from the word “bad”

Throughout the game, Ash must paint the walls and thereby remove the darkness that has engulfed him from the city. The artist has an album with sketches, which we can transfer individually to all surfaces suitable for this. The choice of drawings is quite decent: here you can find floral motifs, celestial objects, and snowy landscapes, even animated butterflies. Sketch pages are scattered all over Densk and tend to fly away when you approach them, so you have to run after them.

Unlike the rest of the graffiti, spirits can only be drawn in specially designated areas, but are also created using pre-assembled sketches. We can add a bunch of ears, horns, tails, and some other incomprehensible processes to them, and at the end we get monsters, as if descended from the pages of Lovecraftian stories. Only one thing will be read in their eyes: “Please kill me.”

After the spirits come to life, they can be attracted to simple puzzles, the solution of which is necessary for further passage. Fiery creatures can set fire to red rags if they stand near them, electric creatures provide electricity and start mechanisms, and wind creatures blow off objects. In order for the monster to perform an action, you need to call it to yourself, and then appease and cheer – in other words, draw next to it what it wants.

Concrete Genie game review

It is not difficult to understand the desires of the spirit: a cloud of thought hangs above it, in which the cherished drawing is already depicted.

Returning to decorating the walls, I note that it is not at all necessary to go through all the houses in the city – it is enough to paint only the walls on which the garlands hang. From this they magically ignite. When all the lights in one area light up, the darkness disappears from it and the path to the next location opens. And it doesn’t matter what exactly we draw on the walls – solid pictures or just rivet the same stamp. The game does not appreciate our efforts in any way, and there is no reason for the user to spend time painstakingly designing each surface. Except for the inner sense of beauty, perhaps.

It would be great if the magical drawings on the walls were not just a decoration and a means of appeasing spirits, but could somehow influence the in-game world. I tried to draw a drawn garland between two broken wires in the hope that the current would go through it, but Concrete Genie does not want to play by such rules. Imagine if you could set something on fire with a pattern of a fire, and, on the contrary, extinguish it with water! Moreover, the game itself is about miracles and animated drawings, and at first truly amazing things are happening in it. But then, when you begin to realize the limitations laid down by the developers, all the magic evaporates.

For those who did not have enough walls in the story campaign, the game also provides a free mode in which you can draw as much as you like.

Deviant behavior

More than one drawing fills the gameplay of Concrete Genie. So, we have opponents – hooligans, which should be avoided. The stealth elements in the game look as ridiculous as possible, because all you need to do in order not to fall into the clutches of enemies is to climb onto the nearest object that is not at ground level. Teenagers will first stand nearby, but quickly lose interest in the victim, turn around and leave.

Even if the bullies grab Ash, nothing terrible will happen – at most you will need to return your brush. Falling from a great height or into the water is also not terrible – it just takes us back to the place from which Ash jumped unsuccessfully. The hero almost does not have a life bar until the end. And when she appears, then, of course, the battles begin. Fights with dark spirits are also simplified as much as possible – we have three elemental attacks and evasion. The combat segment looks alien and stupid, it seems that it was introduced only in order to somehow dilute the drawing process, which was already tiring by the end of the game.

The opportunity to pet a cat in the game is good news. Unlike the animation that is currently playing.

You can parry all my remarks – they say that Concrete Genie is designed for children, that I find fault with it. But is the young audience of the game an excuse? Should games for teenagers be as simple as possible in terms of gameplay and storyline? It seems to me that children should not be considered fools. In any case, they deserve much more developed games, so that they can be fondly remembered in the future.

A couple more reasons why

The most unpleasant emotions in Concrete Genie were caused by a bug that forced me to spit on several hours of passage and start the game again. I’m walking along Denska, I want to visit the spirit at the lighthouse, when suddenly a cut-scene starts, and a car suddenly falls on the place where Ash is standing. She is thrown there according to the plot, but there was no way I could know about it in advance. The cutscene ends, I find myself inside a car that I can’t get out of. The curtain.

At first, I didn’t even bother. It’s a funny situation, I thought, now I’ll tumble a little, and then I’ll go out to the menu and boot up.

However, the game did not share my plans and kept me right in the car. She did not make other, earlier saves, because even if you save manually, the record is still made in one slot. There are three such cells in total, for three passages, and one run cannot be written into several different files just in case. And I don’t know how it was possible at the site of the developers not to provide for the option that the game might “bug” and the person would have to start everything from the beginning without the ability to roll back. If not for the review, I would have abandoned the passage because of such a disregard for the players as much as possible.

Starting Concrete Genie again, I noticed that it also does not skip or pause cut scenes. Why this was done is, again, unclear. But I can’t help but grumble about this decision.

Of the good, I note that the game is translated into Russian and even dubbed. The only thing that localization has not touched is the newspaper texts that the main character finds from time to time. It is a pity that these clippings were not translated, because they tell the history of the city and explain why it was empty. You can briefly read about this in Ash’s diary, but I would not refuse full articles either.

In addition, in the domestic localization, Concrete Genie changed its name to “City Spirits”, which, in fact, is even more suitable for the game, because “concrete” (namely, this is how the word concrete is translated) least of all corresponds to a town where all the houses are wooden and brick. Of course, they may have a foundation made of this material, but this is usually how buildings are built entirely of concrete structures, and this, in fact, came from the expression “concrete jungle”. Perhaps the creators of the game tried to beat him, but it ended up being rather ridiculous. As for the “genie”, only Ash can be called such in the game, who now and then fulfills the desires of his painted friends.

The creative process in Concrete Genie is quite intuitive. By default, you need to draw by moving in the air, like a brush, by the “dualshock” itself, but no one prevents you from switching to sticks.

***

The idea of ​​Concrete Genie at first arouses at least interest: after all, we have to be “creative”, create magical drawings and bring life to an abandoned town. But in reality, all creativity turns out to be meaningless and turns into a routine even in the short time that the game lasts. Everything Ash creates looks beautiful, but these drawings lack some interactivity. Sooner or later you begin to understand that it is much more convenient to simply stamp the same pattern on the walls, because the light bulbs will light up regardless of what you depicted there.

Pros: Despite everything, the game is very beautiful, especially thanks to live drawings.

Cons: a simple plot, which boils down to the phrase “Guys, let’s live together”; boring gameplay that the developers tried to dilute with stealth and combat; bugs that break the entire passage.

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