Here's to Concrete Genie, one of the most wonderfully creative PS exclusives
I can still vividly recall the moment I first used a paintbrush by moving my PS4 controller in Concrete Genie. The opening stages of the PixelOpus' heartwarming adventure have you swiping a wash of color into the pages of protagonist Ash's sketchbook, and while the DualShock's motion sensor simulated the art of painting surprisingly well, the greater joy was yet to come. Concrete Genie tells a touching, delightfully moving story of a young artist who sets out to restore the seaside town of Denska. Once home to a lively community, the small port town now sits as a shell of what it once was following an environmental disaster.
Using the purifying powers of the magical paintbrush, you paint the town to rid it of its darkness and bring light and hope back. But there's so much more to it than that. For me, it delivers a meaningful message: creativity and artistic expression can help us through dark times. Of course, for Ash, that's in a very literal sense, but it applies in figurative terms, too. As the story progresses his art and painting allows him to escape his own troubles, and even eventually confront them. Concrete Genie is one game that left a lasting impression on me, and I've been thinking about it a lot lately after the sad news that the studio behind it is being shut down. So, now feels like the perfect time to reflect back on this PS4 exclusive gem.
A stroke of genies
Concrete Genie review: "A uniquely heartfelt story bursting with imagination"
Concrete Genie was, in fact, the first game I reviewed here at GamesRadar+, and even after all this time, it's still an adventure I wholeheartedly recommend. It stands out as a unique experience thanks to its paintbrush mechanics, but it's also packed with heart and charm, and its uplifting story is why it's stuck with me for so long. As a game that puts such a focus on creativity, it's apt that it allows you to let your imagination run wild by painting on the walls of Denska to bring to life Genies - special creatures born from your brush and the pages of Ash's sketchbook that help you progress through various areas and puzzle scenarios. From giving them horns to different shapes and much more, they're all full of character, and every interaction you can have with them is a joy.
It's established early on that these Genies, which are an invention of Ash's, have been helping him before he even gets his hands on the magical paintbrush. One of the subjects Concrete Genie sensitively broaches is bullying, of which Ash is a victim of. When we first meet him, he's getting picked on by a group of kids as he draws genies in his sketchbook. This event sets Ash on the path into Denska, where he begins to overcome not just the town's darkness, but his own.
Without wanting to spoil everything, you get to see how he handles the bullies and it also shows those who are actually doing the bullying in a different light. There are so many layers to Ash's adventure that I loved peeling back, and thanks to PixelOpus' imaginative concept that has you painting genies, it will forever be one of my favorite Playstation exclusives of the last generation.
Reflecting on what makes Concrete Genie so memorable and special has only made me all the sadder to see a studio like PixelOpus - which was one of the last remaining small studios that were part of PlayStation - get shut down. Back in 2021, news came revealing that the developer was working on a new PS5 game, and I would have loved to have had the chance to experience something fresh from the studio. But of course, above all, my heart goes out to the development team affected by the decision. While PixelOpus may have shut down, the indelible mark Concrete Genie left on me will never go away, and that's something I'll always treasure.
Feel like going down memory lane? Here's our pick of the best PS4 exclusives.