‘Concrete Genie’: A kid’s game about the joys of art (part 2)

Luna signals that she would like Ash to paint some specific designs from his notebook on the wall. Pressing the right trigger will allow Ash to take out his brush and open his notebook. Using the control pad, you can choose a design from the notebook and paint it on the wall by pressing the right trigger and guiding Ash’s brush using the motion-control sensors of DualShock. You can quickly and easily make fetching murals by mixing different designs. In turn, these murals can activate darkened strings of lightbulbs hanging overhead, which causes the surrounding area to light up. Before Luna’s tutorial is complete, it is clear that she’d like for you to revive Denska by painting throughout it.

Ash is helped with his task by various genies, like Luna, who has special abilities. Electric genies, fire genies, and the like can move across the artwork of Ash and power up junction boxes or burn away obstacles. However, Genies recoil at the darkness. In order to clear away those tangly tendrils of solid mental anguish, Ash has to use super paint. Super paint can be acquired by fulfilling a genie’s request for a particular mural design. You spend most of the game painting the town’s walls, lighting up all the bulbs in each space and using super paint to remove the darkness.

As Ash goes about his task, he must avoid the bullies who roam around the area to avoid being thrown into a dumpster. The game well captures the feeling of what it is like to be a kid who happily engaged in his own thing and the annoyance coming from being interrupted by those with nothing better to do. Over the course of the game Ash comes to understand that his tormentors all suffer from their own inner conflicts which lead them to lash out. The plotline unambiguously sides with a nurture, as opposed to nature, reading of human failings.

Due to its unusual mechanics, I don’t think that “Concrete Genie” is a game one can easily get a feel for from watching a trailer. I never would have guessed that I’d in any way enjoy creating murals and watching funny-looking creatures scamper about them, but I did because I found it all mostly relaxing.  

‘Concrete Genie’: A kid’s game about the joys of art (part 1)

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.