Games can sometimes go under the radar but end up surprising you with their heart and ingenuity. Concrete Genie is one of those games. I first heard of it in one of Sony’s new State of Play announcements (think Nintendo Direct), and, after seeing the charming art style in the trailer, I was ready to play from day one.
Thankfully, the game did not disappoint. While the platforming mechanics are sloppy and easily the weakest part of the game, the rest of Concrete Genie easily makes up for it. The story told is genuine and the relationships that develop over the course of the game between Ash and his bully counterparts are very well done and become the foundation of the last third of the story.Ultimately, the story of (Concrete Genie) is light overcoming the darkness inside ourselves, the darkness in those around us, and how we can extend love and forgiveness without justifying prior actions and words.
Something that really impacted me was the depth given to the bullies you deal with in the early part of the game. You learn what makes them target your protagonist while not justifying it. The characters’ backstories are tragic and heartbreaking and it gives surprising gravitas to what could’ve been annoying teenage cliches. The way these characters are redeemed is beautiful, and it all starts with the selfless acts of Ash towards those who don’t deserve it.
Concrete Genie also speaks to the present environmental climate and corporate greed. While some of this could’ve been heavy handed, it comes off earnestly because it’s not done through clunky exposition. Instead, you discover old newspapers from the town you’re trying to help restore. One of the old papers shows how an oil spill right off the dock by a huge tanker ship impacted the fishing town of Denska, forcing everyone to move. It was sincere and the message was subtle enough that, if it’s something you care about, it’s easy to see what the developers are commentating on in the real world landscape.
Ultimately, the story of this game is light overcoming darkness. The darkness inside ourselves, the darkness in those around us, and how we can extend love and forgiveness without justifying prior actions and words. It shows how there can be redemption for those who are willing to own up to mistakes, humble themselves, and look to mend relationships earnestly and move past the past.