Concrete Genie is about a kid whose job is to take a magic paintbrush and bring back colors to an ugly city.
Its trailer shows what the PlayStation 4 game’s story is like. It shows a young artist named Ash who is bullied at school, and how that sets the boy’s imagination loose in painting a town called Denska back to life. The orchestral music matches the sense of visual wonder in the game.
The story looks like a lot of fun, mixing both beautiful and nightmarish imagery. The bullies turn into ugly creatures and they chase the boy, who fights back with brush strokes.
But it also has a PSVR VR Experience exploration mode, and I tried it out at a Sony preview event. The game makes you feel like you are inside a world of art, like Thatgamecompany’s Flower. It takes inspiration from Sega’s Jet Set Radio, but I think it looks wonderful as its own artistic vision.
The demo started out in a drab room. I held the PlayStation Move controllers in my hands and then a little red creature appeared, encouraging me to make motions with my hands. I picked up a virtual paintbrush and dipped it on an image on a diary that doubled as a kind of palette. Every brush stroke carried with it sparkling lights, as if I were in control of a sparkler, rather than a paint brush.
Then I was able to make brush strokes with my arms. I painted the walls, making vibrant colors appear with every stroke. Wherever I moved my arms physically, the paintbrush made things happen. It was not copying my brush strokes onto the canvas of the scene. Rather, it was putting different prefabricated colorful images onto the page, like red vines that turned into full red trees with tons of branches.
Eventually, I realized that I was supposed to awaken all of the lights in the room by creating different kinds of brush strokes on the walls. When I cleared all the lights, then another image appeared in my diary. It was like another set of images I could unlock on my palette.
I realized that this was the point. I had to unlock a whole set of images on the pages of my diary. The scene then changed to a grassy place on a landscape of green hills.
I dipped my paintbrush into one of the new icons on my diary, and then things just started popping out of the ground. There were mushroom-like plants, roses, and bushes with birds in them. I found that there were only so many things I could put on the screen at once. So when I hit that limit, the program would automatically start deleting some of the other things on the screen. I guess there’s a limit to how many colorful objects you can throw on a screen.
I was able to place glowing campfires, responding to the cute little red creature and what he wanted me to do.
The demo went on for more than 20 minutes, but I had to push on to the next one. But it was nice to think that for a brief moment, I was a very productive artist creating soothing images on the screen.
The single-player action adventure game is coming this fall for the PS4, with the VR Experience mode for PSVR users. It’s coming from PixelOpus. It is expected to be five or six hours of gameplay. That’s longer than Journey, and it means that PSVR titles are now full games.