Concrete Genie has heart and warmth but, from what I’ve played, it’s more sticker book than blank canvas.
Rescuing the dreary remains of a once-thriving fishing village whittles down to brushing pre-determined patterns onto its every surface. These are often delightful to look at but ultimately confined to the tools the game makes available rather than your own desires. The grass is meadow-green, the sun shimmers and the campfires crackle, but it’s all thanks to developer Pixel Opus’ own artistry rather than your own. There is the illusion of creative freedom, but never the true realization of it.
The same is largely true of the game’s harmlessly pleasant VR options.
Seen through in 30 minutes or less, Concrete Genie’s VR add-on swaps out some troublesome DualShock 4 controls for the Move controllers but keeps you firmly rooted to the spot. Initially it’s a straightforward conversion; you pepper walls with stars, campfires, and grass, but eventually the game swaps street art for God sim as you find yourself thrown into one of your paintings.
Here the experience moves into the third dimension. No longer are you summoning pastel-colored grass with a swipe of your arms but instead sprouting the genuine article from the ground wherever you see fit. Trees are summoned and pulled from the earth with mighty upheaval, apples can be stapled to their branches and the skies can be dusted with twinkling stars.
There’s scope to create an Eden of your choosing although, again, it’s limited to the tools the game provides. This is Tilt Brush Lite; a chance to quickly slap up the kind of VR artwork it might take you hours to perfect otherwise. The resulting masterpiece never quite feels earned. It’s missing the most vital element: you.
Better to take this at face value, then, and enjoy its shallow surface. Blobby painted companion, Splotch, is a joy to hang out with, dithering about in lovably clumsy fashion. Whipping up rainbows and winds carries a soothing flow. Once you’re done, you can also visit some of the main game’s other locales in VR, which offers small pleasures.
It’s all quickly forgotten, though. A shame given the potential to mix the unparalleled freedom of VR’s creative tools with a narrative built around your artistic choices. Perhaps that’s a story for another time, though. As it stands, Concrete Genie’s PSVR offering won’t offend with its vibrant palette. It just won’t do much else, either.
This review is left scoreless because VR is such a small segment of Concrete Genie. If you’re interested in playing the game, you can get it on PS4 exclusively with optional PSVR support for $29.99.