Review: Graffiti Kingdom (PS2)

Genre: Action RPG
Platform: PS2
Rating: E (Everyone)
Publisher: HOT-B USA
Developer: Taito
Release Date: 08/10/2005

The titanic battle between good and evil…fought with art in a land of cardboard? Sounds weird, but you need to check it out anyway. The successor to Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color, Taito’s new offering Graffiti Kingdom puts your artistic skills (or lack thereof) to good use, allowing you to create your own characters in the most literal sense.


STORY

Long ago, the Devil rose up to take over the world. Now, we simply can’t have that, so God gave mankind the gift of Graffiti, which warriors used to trap the Devil and seal him away far underground. This whole abridged version of history is told via an amusing puppet sequence, and shortly thereafter, we’re brought into the present, where various guards and attendants are looking for Prince Pixel, the royal family’s inquisitive son. Pixel’s the hero of our story, and it seems that he’s busy exploring the outskirts of town. To make a long story short, Pixel accidentally frees the Devil (who looks like Unicron and Dr. Robotnik’s love child), and must use a magic graffit wand to save his kingdom and friends. Assisting him is a doglike creature named Pastel (who looks a lot like Domokun). While the story is charming and cute, it’s pretty much RPG-standard: “average kid must overcome incredible odds to save the world.” Nothing we haven’t heard a thousand times before, sadly.

(Rating: 5/10)


GRAPHICS

While certainly not the best the PS2 has to offer, Graffiti Kingdom‘s brightly colored graphics are still quite good.

Everything’s incredibly rich and vibrant, which fits well with the game’s artistic theme. Even the creatures your draw yourself look great when they animate. One of the best things is the backgrounds; everything’s made of cardboard, and you can see the corrugated edges! This adds quite a bit of charm; you won’t see a lot of textures and details, but that was never the point. Everything’s meant to be soft and simple.

(Rating: 7/10)


SOUND

I’ll admit; I was surprised by the high quality of the background music and vocal work in Graffiti Kingdom. The tunes are nice orchestral arrangements for the most part, and don’t get in the way of your gameplay. Boss music is well handled, too; the music will change when bosses are defeated, and it flows right into the music you heard previously. Well done. Sound effects are rather generic, but are used perfectly. When you make your own creations, you can even assign them different voices! Still, the best part of the audio is the voice acting. While some characters’ voices don’t seem to “fit” (i.e., Pastel sounds like she’s voiced by a teenage girl), the more you play Graffiti Kingdom, the more you’ll discover that they do fit. Pixel’s voice is perfect for that of an inquisitive young boy, and Pixel’s whining offsets it well. Even the mysterious stranger Tablet has the stereotypical prettyboy voice, which I’m sure was the intent. There’s a good amount of cutscenes in the game, and the voice actors did a good job bringing more life to the characters, as quirky as they may be. Even with a crappy script at times, the VAs try their hardest!

(Rating: 8/10)


CONTROL & GAMEPLAY

As far as the action goes, Graffiti Kingdom plays much like any other third-person action-RPG: you run around, beat up bad guys, and earn experience accordingly. Enemies will often drop helpful items; some give you experience points, some replenish your health, and others will let you transform into that enemy any time you like.

The big schtick in this game is the fact that you literally draw your own characters. Armed with that magic graffiti wand, Prince Pixel can create new creatures to transform into (as he can’t fight on his own), and you can also “capture” existing creatures to copy for limited amount of time. Not only that, if you gain a creature’s card (they often drop them when defeated), you can transform into that creature as often as you want. However, only six creatures can be on your active list at any given time, and the only time you can change that list or make new ones is if you find a save point. Save points also refill your HP and capture gauge, so keep an eye out for them.

When you start the game, you can only draw basic creatures (there’s a full tutorial; trust me, it’s not too hard). As you progress, though, you’ll gain levels and items that let you make more complicated creations. For example, you’ll gain the Pattern Pen (for drawing patterns, natch), as well as some commands to let you soften and curve body parts. Before long, you’ll be able to make some tough-as-nails that fighters that will serve you well; some of them will even be able to wield weapons!

In addition to your drawings’ appearance, you can also edit their movesets. The square, circle, triangle, and X buttons can all have specific attacks assigned to them. Want your creature to have a jumping attack? You’ve got it. How about an uppercut and a flying kick? No problem. You’ll discover which combinations work best for you. Also, you can change the “voice” of your drawing from a list; there’s your cheesy squeaky voice, monster voice, robotic effects, and so on. The drawing elements really save Graffiti Kingdom from what would be a completly generic action-RPG, and make it stand out among its brethren.

(Rating: 7/10)


REPLAYABILITY

Graffiti Kingdom is rather short. I know, I know…length doesn’t matter if the game’s incredibly fun, but Graffiti Kingdom doesn’t quite reach that plateau. Sure, you can always try to collect more monster cards and such, but after beating it once, there’s not a whole lot of reason to continue playing Graffiti Kingdom…unless you’re really addicted to the drawing part. In that case, you’ll be playing Graffiti Kingdom over and over again. It’s really up to the end user.

(Rating: 5/10)


BALANCE

If you’re looking for a good RPG challenge…well, Graffiti Kingdom isn’t it. As I’ve said, the game’s only a few hours long, and it’ll go by quickly, as Graffiti Kingdom‘s not difficult. Fortunately, the game is still balanced relatively well; it does get more challenging as time goes on. Just don’t expect that this game will take you weeks and weeks to complete. It’s entertaining, to be sure, but a quick simple ride.

(Rating: 7/10)


ORIGINALITY

Graffiti Kingdom would almost get a 10 here, if not for its predecessor Magic Pengel. Still, it puts a whole new spin on the term “character creation.” You don’t see many games with this level of flexibility, and it’s certainly a welcome option. The only thing really missing is mouse support via the PS2’s USB ports.

(Rating: 7/10)


ADDICTIVENESS

Trust me: you’ll while away countless hours using Graffiti Kingdom‘s drawing mode. The game itself can be completed quickly, but it’s the tweaking of your creations that really eats up your time. Even someone who’d think the game looks “stupid” will get sucked in very quickly by the drawing mode. It’s the single most hyped feature of Graffiti Kingdom, and for good reason! It’s a shame the rest of the game couldn’t keep up.

(Rating: 6/10)


APPEAL

This is a tough call. Hardcore RPG fans are going to pass on Graffiti Kingdom, while fans of cutesy games will certainly check it out. Problem is, those two fangroups often cross over! As a result, Graffiti Kingdom is rather stuck between a rock and a hard place. I can see it appealing to niche gamers, but definitely not casuals or mainstream gamers. They’ll maybe pick it up and look it over, perhaps, but put it back down on the shelf in favor of a more complex RPG or action game.

(Rating: 5/10)


MISCELLANEOUS

While much of the dialogue in Graffiti Kingdom is pretty cheesy, some of it is downright hilarious. Take Pixel’s first meeting with Tablet, for example: Tablet tells Pixel how to acquire some certain items, and Pixel immediately sets off to do so. Tablet wonders why Pixel would trust a stranger so quickly, and Pixel cheerily replies that if Tablet was lying, he’ll beat the living daylights out of him. Add Pastel’s constant exasperations with Pixel’s behavior to the mix, and you’ve got some truly laugh-out-loud moments. The game was lighthearted to begin with, but the comedy improves Graffiti Kingdom‘s quality by a significant amount.

(Rating: 8/10)


Final Scores:

Story: 5/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 8/10
Control & Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 7/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10

Overall Score: 65/100
FINAL SCORE: 6.5 (FAIR)