Two weeks ago we were in Berlin to play Concrete Genie, the latest colourful adventure by small Californian Sony studio Pixelopus (Entwined). During our visit, the developer showed us an expanded beta build of the game's E3 demo from 2018, and it illustrated the beginning of Ash's adventure. In addition to this introduction to the game's mechanics, we also saw the VR mode in action and learned the game's release date.
At the beginning of the game we find ourselves in Denska, a rundown waterfront. A group of young children roams the streets, banging street lamps and windows out of boredom. Ash lingers there as well, but prefers to spend his time scribbling in a notebook - in it he draws little monsters and past memories. He has a connection to this place, however, it has changed dramatically over the last few years. The young artist (we're calling him that because there's a brush in his hair) knows all too well that he should stay away - and not only because of the troublemakers. However, lost in his drawing he forgets the time and is suddenly surprised by the gang, who tear up his sketchbook and put him in a rusty chairlift, one which carries Ash over to a supposedly abandoned lighthouse.
On the island we become acquainted with the basic mechanics - we look around, perform some simple platforming moves, and pet some animals (which has no use but sure is cute). A short time later we find a magical brush that introduces us to the core gameplay, and with this tool we can paint and transform the dull environments all around us into colourful scenes. This is, in a way, our job in Concrete Genie - to turn a rundown city into a gorgeous sea of colour.
From there on we can use our brush whenever we felt like it. We can only paint on walls, and we can do so by choosing one of the many art assets available to us. This way we can magically place a starry sky, auroras, or even campfires, drawing them by tilting the controller. As you might expect, this can be fussy and definitely needs some getting used to, but the system seemed fairly solid - considering the fact that it's motion controlled, at least.
Painting a whole city is no easy task, but Ash isn't alone in this endeavour as he can also bring his monster friends to life via his mysterious brush. We can customise these so-called genies individually, using set body parts to give them the limbs they need to move on their own. We look forward to making some cool designs with strange body parts thrown together, although if something goes wrong when drawing your masterpiece, the previous brushstroke can always be undone.
After the tutorial area, we found ourselves back in the Denska district. Our next task was to accompany our newly-drawn genie friend somewhere it could use its abilities. This first little fella could spit fire, for example, which can be used to open curtains or shut windows. With their help we can enter different areas, solving environmental puzzles as we explore. It looks like our progress will be driven by our creativity because as we decorate the different walls, fairy lights will light up, and these signal when our creature can move onto the next area.