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PS2 Review - 'Graffiti Kingdom'

by Hank on Aug. 24, 2005 @ 1:45 a.m. PDT

Graffiti Kingdom is an Action / RPG like no other. The story begins when an ancient evil is awakened and corrupts the world. Players take on the role of Prince Pixel, a young prince who has the ability to transform into anything players can draw, and embark on an epic adventure to return the kingdom back to normal.

Genre: RPG
Publisher: Taito
Developer: Hot-B USA
Release Date: July 28, 2005

Buy 'GRAFFITI KINGDOM': PlayStation 2

Graffiti Kingdom is the sequel to Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color. Most of you have probably never heard of the title, which isn't particularly surprising, as it's in such a niche genre.

Graffiti Kingdom and Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color's concept is simple. You are an artist, and you design and draw every aspect of your very own monster. In addition to the essential body, head and appendages, you can even draw wheels, weapons, wings and much more, making the character into the perfect RPG hero. This game surely caters to the artistically talented, but even if that gene is lacking from your DNA makeup (like myself), the title is still quite enjoyable. I enjoyed my lopsided stick figure, and I'm sure other gamers can as well.

The reason is that the game gives a helping hand in creating your character, automatically generating the 3D shape once your doodles are complete so the player does not need to go to insane lengths to draw a perfectly shaped cube. Once you finish drawing the basic outline of a shape with the 3D pen, Graffiti Kingdom automatically shows you a list of all possible matches, and from that list, you can make a selection. There are two other pens available to you: the pattern pen, which draws a pattern on your character, and the line pen, which just draws simplistic lines rather than 3D objects. Utilizing the different pens, the player can create the perfect monster.

Unfortunately, there is no way to draw your character other than using the given sketch pad. If they allowed us to import pictures from a USB drive or have an additional device that lets the player draw in the game, I'm sure the artistically talented would be overjoyed. Personally, I wouldn't mind such an option myself so I can import and export the character, showing the monstrosity to my friends and possibly making it into a goofy icon of some sort. Sadly, no such option is available.

Drawing the character is actually just the beginning of Graffiti Kingdom. Once the gamer is satisfied, the game can finally begin, but if you really want to skip creating your monster (probably the best aspect of the title), there is a deck of cards from which the player can select. You accumulate cards by defeating monsters and picking up the dropped item, but actually drawing the character is the biggest perk of the game because not only does the gamer draw its parts, but he/she also gets to modify the move set and voice. The basic move set is somewhat limited, but over time, with enough captures, the list will grow and yield more options on available attacks. Available attacks include: hand, leg, body (charges, thrusts), blocking, dashing (jumps, flying), and lastly, projectiles.

Once this portion is complete, it's time to start the quest of the main character, Prince Pixel, and his somewhat useless sidekick, Pastel, a magical little girl disguised as a box dog who does nothing but nag at the Prince. Your adventure starts when Prince Pixel accidentally unseals the seal to the Demon, and all havoc breaks loose, eventually turning the castle into a monstrous creation that entraps all of the townspeople and Pixel's parents. Pixel sets out on a mission to undo what he has done, becoming a "Graffitician" and goes through several ordeals before he can face the main enemy, the Demon Medium.

Before Pixel can reach him, he must obtain three keys to unlock the key to the main castle. Of course, the only way to do this is by defeating the demonic characters or bosses. The last two bosses, Tablet and Medium, are the most difficult guys to defeat in the game. For some odd reason, the bosses are the weirdest-looking characters, but they're also very well-drawn. My tactic against them is to stay away and use thunder attacks on them until they are defeated.

Yet if it's too hard to defeat the bosses, you can always go back to the last checkpoint and level up your character by defeating more enemies and picking up bronze, silver and gold coins which increase your experience. If this is still not enough, the player can add more body parts to the character and make it even more invincible. Usually, I find modifying the attack set is a lot more helpful.

To get more move sets, Pixel must capture the monsters. He must stand next to the enemy character and hit the Square button until he eventually turns into the monster for a short period. Pixel can only capture five monsters within a 30-second timeframe, but this is refueled at the save/checkpoints and when you are in Pixel form. These points will also reheal your life and are the only points in the game where you can edit your character. Other items that may reheal your life are the hearts that have been dropped by enemy characters or are just lying around in the world. You have a total of four forms – Pixel and Monsters 1-3, depending on which you've assigned on the directional pad – and pressing down on the directional pad will revert you back to Pixel.

When your character dies, he is respawned at the last checkpoint. Thankfully, when this happens, if the area has been cleared before, it remains cleared (this is probably the only good thing about dying). The game lacks something really crucial, and that is the ability to lock onto an enemy character during combat. This gets quite annoying because when you face off against enemies that run away, it's quite impossible to defeat them without waiting patiently or just running around in circles until your finally character lands a clean hit (this is why the long-range thunder shot is so helpful).

Although beating monsters is one portion of the title, the other part actually involves a fair bit of platforming. In certain situations, your monster would need to jump from position to position, and if mistimed, will fall to its death, but luckily, all you need is a simple restart to land at a nearby checkpoint. There are also times when Pixel has to find switches to unlock new areas or open up gates, and most the time, these switches have a trick that requires your character to hit them with some sort of elemental effect. Once your character passes that section, you can move on. Graffiti Kingdom is mostly linear, but there are always side rooms into which your character can venture.

The sound is probably one of the weakest aspects of the game. The voices are truly awful, but it's somewhat understandable if Graffiti Kingdom was intended for a younger audience. However, the difficulty of the final two boss battles makes me wonder about the target age group and therefore, the appropriateness of the simplistic sound.

The graphics, on the other hand, fit Graffiti Kingdom really well, with its wacky characters and background designs. Where else can you see a dog that looks like a big blue box that can be worn as a backpack, or a boss that has a mustache that looks like arms? The cartoony atmosphere is perfect for this game and is definitely really enjoyable. The free camera caused the usual problems, where you sometimes get a close-up view of the wall and can't see where your character is moving. If this happens during a platforming section, you lose track of your direction and may have to start over. This is worse during boss battles because trying to find where they are located is quite difficult, especially when they are flying in the air and are out of your line of sight.

Overall, Graffiti Kingdom is a slow starter, especially when enemies run away from your character like there's no tomorrow. Once you acquire charge attacks, the game gets a lot more fun. It is definitely a title that I'd suggest trying out just because of its original concept; the idea is great, and overall, the developers did a good job, even with the game's occasional slowdowns. With only four worlds, Graffiti Kingdom is rather short and is beatable in under five hours. If you have a friend who also has the title, you can battle it out in two-player mode and get some more play time out of it.

Score: 7.6/10

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