Concrete Genie Review – Art Attack

Everyone needs a change of scenery once in a while. Even a homebody such as myself can’t help but wonder what life is like elsewhere, even if for a brief stay. From my suburban upbringing with a close proximity to a once-bustling town centre, I often find myself wondering if I would integrate into community better elsewhere. My hometown isn’t exactly thriving in terms of financial stability or community spirit, and when mental exhaustion kicks in, packing up and leaving occasionally crosses my mind, in search of something feeling more like ‘home’.

Perhaps from day-trips as a child and family holidays, I’ve always found a fondness for seaside communities, though the sea itself fills me with ambivalence in both a fear and fascination of what lies beneath, not unlike the established mindset of H.P Lovecraft himself, only without the casual racism. Through games, if I’m lucky enough, I get to experience these settings and their communities from the comfort of my own home, providing of course I can find a game that fits the description.

Enter Concrete Genie, an outstanding little adventure. It’s not Lovecraft though, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing since we’ll need to go to a darker place for that. Concrete Genie has the potential to fill that need for exploration where Call of Cthulhu ultimately missed the mark.

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Concrete Genie is an action-adventure game developed by Pixelopus and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4. The game was released on October 8th 2019. It was also the second and final game released by Pixelopus before their unfortunate closure in June 2023.


Next stop, the abandoned fishing town of Denska. Following an oil tanker spill, Denska has found its canning facility largely unnecessary as fish depart for cleaner waters. Jobless, the people are forced to pack up and relocate to the next town over but for half a dozen homesick youths, Denska will always be their playground.

One such youth, our protagonist Ash, is a talented street artist who finds inspiration for his work in Denska, however the other youths don’t take kindly to Ash’s solo-act, preferring to smash windows rather than paint the town back to life. Ash is the tragic victim of bullying with the others hunting him at every turn, stealing his paintbrush and scattering his sketchbook pages. It isn’t long though before Ash learns he isn’t quite as alone in his struggle as he first thought.

The oil which contaminates Denska is no ordinary substance as it also spreads a purple miasma throughout the town known to the departed locals as ‘the Darkness’. However, where there is darkness there must also be light, and as Ash paints his glowing genies on the walls of a lighthouse, he soon finds his new paintbrush has the power to bring his two-dimensional friends to life, with his latest creation, the ghostly light-genie Luna acting as a sort of guide who imbues Ash’s paintbrush with the power to purge the Darkness.

I can’t help but feel there might be a bit of a continuity error here since it isn’t very clear where this power comes from. Think about it; the paintbrush created Luna, yet Luna empowers the paintbrush. It’s kind of a ‘chicken and egg’ paradox. Plot hole aside, the rest of the story is very compelling, with Ash gradually learning the troubles which motivate the bullies as he creates more and more magical genies who assist in the restoration of Denska.


The player controls Ash and uses the DualShock 4’s motion controls to create artworks around Denska. These artworks turn into living portraits. How the player paints creatures and what colour they paint them will affect the personalities of each creature. For example, red paint will grant a creature fire-breathing abilities. In addition to free-style drawing, there is a set of core puzzles in the game that the player has to solve through their artwork.

The player gains access to more of Denska over time, but at the start of the game, Ash only has access to a single neighborhood. Throughout the game, bullies will move through the town and cause restrictions in certain areas. They will also bully Ash, so the player must avoid them as Ash traverses the town.

Our objectives are usually simple enough: Find the missing sketchbook pages (which curiously never land in the sea), avoid the bullies lest we find ourselves in a dumpster, and purge the Darkness with the help of the genies which Ash brings to life. There are areas of graffiti which hint at objects you can paint to keep the nearby Genies happy, who will then reward you with additional sketchbook pages. Some of these are tricky to find and/or figure out the requirements, so I did have to refer to a guide once or twice.

The game’s final chapter also brings with it an incredible plot twist which I never saw coming and cranks up the drama to max level while also mixing up the gameplay. You’ll have put Ash’s skills to the test as you fight against unexpected enemies using elemental, splash-based attacks to defeat them. You can also use nearby allies to search and stun your enemies.


A game about art should be beautiful, and Concrete Genie absolutely is. The game is portrayed in this ever-so-slightly cartoonish style with blackened environments reminiscent of dark, stop-motion-esque animated classics like Corpse Bride, Coraline or 9. Mixing things up are a handful of flashback cutscenes which use in a 2D hand-drawn format that’s quite nice.

One of the more impressive parts of the game is how seamless it all is. There’s hardly any loading and no frame-rate issues. Nothing is rendered in, everything is always just there, and even the transitions between cutscenes and gameplay were seamless too. There’s a quiet, otherworldly soundtrack twinkling away in the background which works wonders for the atmosphere, as well as some well done English dialogue when required.


The game can be finished in roughly six hours which will include maybe half of the collectibles. The post-game chapter unlocks some extra bits and pieces to find and also allows you to backtrack to old areas to grab anything you missed. Once you’ve seen and done everything, exploring every inch of Denska, you’ll not only get yourself a respectable platinum trophy, but also see all of the town’s secrets tucked away in those hard to reach places. Some of the more well-hidden Genie-themed puzzles can be both tricky to find and fiddly to solve, so a guide was incredibly handy towards the end.


Ash is a great character. I found him particularly relatable as even after he learns of the bullies’ own personal struggles, he still isn’t so quick to forgive and forget his perfectly reasonable grudges. As someone who endured a lot of horrific childhood abuse myself from various sources, Ash’s mindset makes perfect sense to me. Dismissing your enemies is far easier than accepting them, especially when they have nothing to offer by way of recompense. There’s certainly a pleasant feeling of freedom that comes with solitude.

So to sum up the game, respectable writing, fun, quirky gameplay and a stunning world to explore, filled with charming, believable locations and some interesting characters. As such, Concrete Genie comes highly recommended. It’s a beautiful, cathartic journey of light and shade, overcoming obstacles and unleashing one’s potential in a setting bursting with that charming atmosphere you only feel from those gritty, lived-in, seaside towns.


  • Very relatable protagonist
  • Beautiful Burton-esque visual style
  • Simple yet quirky gameplay


  • A few mildly frustrating puzzles and collectibles
  • A bit on the short side

Concrete Genie Review

Very Good

A short yet magical adventure that captures both the player's and the protagonist's imaginations as we journey through a dark yet believable world. A real work of art.

Gary Green
PS4 version reviewed