The PixelOpus studio portfolio only includes Entwined – a rhythmic game with a good idea, but a weak implementation. But the new project, called Concrete Genie , was finally to reveal the talents of developers to the fullest. And the first teaser, shown at the Paris Games Week 2017 exhibition , really fascinated: in it, the young artist literally enlivened the city walls with a wave of his brush. And the conflict of the protagonist with the hooligans promised an exciting story. So did the authors of the project succeed not only in intriguing the audience, but also in high-quality implementation of their idea?
The events of Concrete Genie take place in the fishing town of Denska: life once boiled in it, but after the oil disaster, the business came to naught, and the inhabitants hastily left for where. In addition, a mold of unknown origin captivated the entire city: locals cautiously call it “darkness.” Now the only inhabitants of Densky are street children who tumble into the city to smash glass and scatter trash in the gates. In contrast, the protagonist Ash is a small artist who also decided to visit the city despite the prohibitions of his parents.
Naturally, this idea does not end in anything good: the badasses, having barely noticed Ash, take and tear his album with drawings, and then push the main character into the cable car, which takes him to the old lighthouse. There Ash meets a mysterious spirit that has taken on the form of the moon – one of the creatures that he painted in his album. He gives the boy a magic brush and teaches us how to create live graffiti … and at the same time shows how to defeat this very “darkness” and restore light to the city. But the Moon is not the only magical creature in the game: subsequently Ash will be able to draw other spirits, and those, in turn, will help the protagonist save Denska.
Visually, Concrete Genie is reminiscent of Pixar shorts – perhaps that’s why I was hoping that a simple tie would become a bridge to a complex and emotional story. Teenage bullying, an unhealthy atmosphere in the family, the ability to forgive – these are complex but battered topics that few screenwriters can adequately reveal. And the developers of Concrete Genie, unfortunately, are not among them. Wielding stamps, they only gave shape to their history, forgetting to fill it with details. The images of the characters turned out faded, without a hint of depth: the main character is an ordinary teenager without friends, but with workaholic parents. The usual badass kids with a difficult fate and lack of upbringing act as antagonists, and the storyline seemed to be drawn along the line.
It seems that the authors want to tell a touching story about friendship and heroism, but they do it only formally. The game lacks vivid emotional scenes – they are replaced by short flashbacks that reveal the past of hooligans, and newspapers telling about the fate of the town. And although you understand that in this way they are trying to convey something important to you, you still do not feel the proper emotional response. It’s all the more offensive because the plot remained so underdeveloped, because in a couple of moments the game almost managed to squeeze a tear from me! However, studio workers, albeit under Sony’s wing , are apparently too limited in resources to develop each component of the project equally deeply.
Well, let PixelOpus not be able to show off the mastery of drama – in the end, the games are not limited to narrative. Moreover, the main feature of Concrete Genie – creating live graffiti – works great. As soon as Ash picks up a magic brush, an internal child wakes up in a player who wants one thing: to create! Having waved the controller (the gyroscope reads the movements), you can grow the whole forest, draw rain or the northern lights. Arrange at least complete chaos – it will turn out beautifully anyway!
At first, you only have a few templates for drawing, but as you progress through the collection grows. In a couple of hours, you can already build entire compositions, and if this doesn’t seem enough – go to the “Free Drawing” mode and, without being distracted by the plot, create for your own pleasure.
The developers clearly expected to catch the widest audience – and successfully coped with it: here is extremely simple gameplay, which both children and adults can cope with. The city is divided into several zones, and in each of them you need to light all the bulbs. This is done with the same drawing: you paint a picture on the wall – the light comes on! And when you will cope with small tasks, you will need to draw a “masterpiece” – in fact it’s just a big picture.
Although there are elements of gathering in Concrete Genie (search for patterns with drawings), the authors do not burden you with the need to scour the entire level and look under each box. Almost everything you need is in prominent places. In addition, Ash with youthful dexterity jumps onto any steep surface, so that you can easily ride on the roofs and climb into hard to reach places.
Concrete Genie is extremely friendly: make mistakes as much as you want, no punishment is provided. Say, if you are caught by hooligans, then they just pack them in the nearest garbage can. And even having fallen into a black slush, you will not boot from the control point, but appear on the nearest ledge. The low level of difficulty is definitely good for the game: complete passage will not take more than six to seven hours, so you won’t be bored. And if you have time, the game will still find something to surprise.
Not the last place in the plot and in the gameplay are the spirits lit up in the first trailer of the game. For them, PixelOpus can be forgiven for anything at all: neon demons will steal your heart at the first meeting. And, unlike human heroes, painted creatures feel alive: they carelessly jump along the walls, purr in booming bass and interact with Ash. For example, they may ask you to draw a bonfire to keep warm, or an apple to have a snack, and if you depict rain, the creatures will run around, covering their heads with their hands.
In addition, perfume helps Ash in solving puzzles: some can set fire to some canopy, others turn on the appliance or move a heavy box. Fulfilling the requests of magical creatures, Ash will accumulate “super paint” – a kind of ult, with which you can clean the walls of the dark mold that flooded the city.