Concrete Genie’s optimistic storyline, akin to an old after-school television special, offers a lesson in empathy. It’s a bit too straightforward and unironic for a sourpuss like me but I’d like to think that it may help some kids come to terms with the fact that children can be cruel to each other for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. Since “Concrete Genie” is a kid’s game (and it’s not made by Nintendo) I wasn’t betting I’d play through it but I was disarmed by its novel gameplay which, for the most part, is oriented more around the creation and problem-solving than confrontation.
At the beginning of the game, we are introduced to Ash, an artistic kid who loves drawing fanciful-looking creatures with horns and plumage in his notebook. In spite of his mom’s wishes, Ash elects to while away a day in the young ghost town Denska. The small island’s economy collapsed after a tanker spill polluted its coastal waters. Exacerbating the once-thriving fishing town’s woes are gnarled vines that have infested the area, blanketing walls and clogging up machinery. This mysterious substance, which is colloquially referred to as the “darkness” is a byproduct of negative mental energy. Admittedly, at no point did I become interested in the story.
Ash’s day is upset after a group of unruly children snatch his notebook and scatter its pages. The kids then push Ash onto a tram that goes to a tiny island guarded by a purportedly spooky lighthouse. Ash doesn’t let the kids’ warnings get to him. Without much ado, he sets about exploring. Inside the lighthouse, Ash discovers one of the pages of his notebook on the floor. Dejected, he hangs his head in despair when Luna, the creature from his notebook, miraculously comes to life on the wall. Projecting her power from the wall, Luna mends Ash’s torn notebook and gives him a magic brush.