I was thrilled when I launched Concrete Genie, a game in which you play a kid who has magical paint powers and runs around his city painting stuff with his magical painted friends, and saw a dedicated accessibility menu. Generally, this means developers have taken some measures to make their game widely accessible.
Upon opening the accessibility menu here though, I found it’s less of an accessibility menu with robust options and more of a name they gave some pretty standard game options, which, in my opinion, might really mislead some people interested in the game.
That’s not to say the things offered under the accessibility menu aren’t important. They are, absolutely. But they’re not exactly well done and in my time with the game, didn’t actually help it to be more accessible.
First of all, the subtitles are just bad. They’re very cute and in line with the UI of the game, which is all fine and good but as I’ve said a million times before, subtitles exist to serve a purpose, not as a design element. A basic search on the internet will yield more subtitle best practices than one could ever need. Know what most of those best practices say? Don’t use stylized text.
What’s this in the image above? Stylized text. What else is it?
Hard to read because a black outline around white text isn’t magic and doesn’t instantly render all white text legible when presented against white game stuff.
If Pixel Opus wanted their accessibility menu to actually be an accessibility menu instead of just a word they used, perhaps a font choice would help? Or an option to turn on a text background? Or some size options, maybe?
Another thing they could have done in Concrete Genie but didn’t is put environmental CCs to good use. In the image above, the little ghosty guy is audibly reacting to something Ash (the playable character) said. I’d have loved to see audio description of said reaction because this game is about the story and without this, the story will fall flat for some.
Do any of these things render the game unplayable? No, they just pop up as moments of “Oh, well that’s annoying” and at times turns the game into nothing more than a pretty painting sim.
What does render the game unplayable for some? (And yes, we’re straying out of Deaf/hoh accessibility territory here.) The inability to remap controls.
The only “accessibility” option present for controls is the option to switch the paint controls from the DualShock motion controls to using the right stick.
This, dear reader, is the time of year when my hand and wrist joints stage a revolt against the changing seasons and get all painful and stiff. Everything hurts all the time. The at times complex controls leave what could have been a nice, relaxing game is instead yet one more I’ll probably never play again because of those initial barriers. I’m not going to cause myself pain or risk injury just to paint some flowers on a wall because I have to perform impossible-at-the-moment movements like holding R2 + moving the right stick. I’m also not going to hold the controller still with my feet so that I can hold R2 with one hand and move the right stick with the other.
What would a solution to this specific problem look like for me? The option to simply tap R2 to turn on painting mode and then use right stick to paint. Or the option to hold R2 and instead of right stick, use left stick to paint.
Another requirement that will be a major barrier for many players? The hold requirements such as the aforementioned hold R2 to paint, as well as the hold square to bring your genie to life shown above.
As I said before, you can’t just stick a few options under the accessibility menu and have a game be accessible. Accessibility is intentional and thoughtful and the minimal options found in Concrete Genie simply aren’t that. The game needs far more than the ability to turn subtitles on and turn motion controls off in order to be accessible. While this is a lovely game, like I said, the annoyances and barriers present currently leave me with yet another game I’ve played one time and probably won’t touch again.
See below for other menu screenshots: