While the PlayStation VR obviously has its fair share of VR-only titles, as well as some games that can be played entirely in either VR or ‘flat’ modes, there are also a handful of traditional titles that have dabbled in also offering smaller extra modes for VR. Games like Tekken 7, GT Sport and Rise of the Tomb Raider offer separate experiences that don’t interfere with the core game – some better than others. The latest PlayStation 4 title to try this is Concrete Genie, a game that I love (read my review here) and that happens to be the perfect set-up for a really cool PlayStation VR experience.
Concrete Genie’s core ‘gimmick’ is its main character Ash’s ability to paint living graffiti onto almost any surface, slapping down pre-made designs from scenery to objects and even living creatures (the game’s Genies). He’s assisted in this in the beginning by a little graffiti monster named Splotch that lives on his backpack. In the game’s extra, optional VR mode, titled ‘Splotch and The Crystal Canvas’, Splotch gets a chance at the spotlight. Playing from Ash’s perspective – wielding his sketchbook and magical brush – you’ll first find yourself in a magical cave, assisting Splotch by painting onto the cave walls. As you fill the walls with life (to Splotch’s satisfaction), you’ll continue to unlock more and more designs to apply until eventually your sketchbook is filled out. It’s at this point that something fantastic happens.
– IF YOU’RE AT ALL CONCERNED ABOUT SPOILING THIS EXPERIENCE, STOP READING NOW –
Suddenly, Splotch invokes some supreme magic and BAM! You’re transported into the scene that you just painted. Only now it’s not a beautiful, 2D graffitied wall – it’s a living, breathing 3D world. Splotch and the Crystal Canvas is great not just because it lets you live out the game’s fantasy in VR, but because it uses VR to do something the main game doesn’t. Suddenly, you’re able to do something completely new, and paint actual objects into the world. You start your notebook again, first some grass and flowers, eventually unlocking all manner of things from trees to campfires and even change the time of day by painting in a sun or moon. Again, Splotch starts to request specific designs and rewards you with more unlocks until you have a full sketchbook once more. At this point, the VR portion is ‘over’, but you’re free to go back to The Crystal Meadow, or any of four 2D painting locales, complete with the ability to draw in Genies.
The whole thing works as smoothly as I’ve known any solid PSVR game to be, too. I had absolutely no tracking issues or ever felt like the (mandatory) Move controllers were working against me. It also looks a treat, especially in the 3D portion. My only gripe is that the load times between the main menu and each area seemed to get longer and longer over time, to the point where I’m not even sure if maybe something was wrong with my PS4 after seeing load times exceed three or four minutes.
It’s not that there’s a lot to Concrete Genie’s humble VR offering, but rather it does a fantastic job of taking the fantasy of the main game’s world and putting players in it. It’s not the kind of thing that PSVR owners would necessarily buy the complete game just to play, but it’s the perfect way to finish up your time with what is already an excellent experience. If you already plan on picking up Concrete Genie , and you own a PlayStation VR with Move controllers, do yourself a favour and play Splotch and the Crystal Canvas after you’ve completed the game – you’ll even pick up a few extra trophies for your time.