There are layers of irony in the fact that Graffiti Kingdom, a quirky Japanese drawing game that has nothing whatsoever to do with graffiti, functions more creatively on that front than Marc Ecko's Getting Up, a game devoted to the tagging arts. In spite of an arsenal of aerosol paint cans, stencil boards, wheat-paste squeegees, and stickers, the act of decorating a city wall is a repetitive exercise in coloring between (or around, or in the general vicinity of) the lines. Yet the game succeeds, by and large, in creating an urban jungle that seems to have been projected from the paranoid mind of a graffiti artist hell-bent on upending the system one tag at a time. Combining fighting and platform elements to modest effect, Getting Up teems with vandal squads, elite guards, roving thugs, and other freedom-oppressors, all lorded over by a corrupt mayor determined to clean up the streets.
Featuring a star-studded voice cast to rival the Grand Theft Auto series—including Talib Kweli, Rosario Dawson, Andy Dick, Adam West, and George Hamilton—Getting Up falls well short of elevating an underground culture into a mainstream revolution, but at least it has ambition. Navigating the dingy streets and tunnels of a city called New Radius, you play Trane, a solo bomber looking to muscle out other vandals and stick it to The Man. This process usually involves smacking up rival colors, scaling various poles and ledges, and marking your territory, in that order.
Beyond the game: Though there's a vast disparity between the immense effort that went into Getting Up and the clumsy offspring that resulted, all that energy has yielded a generous collection of unlockables, including choice tracks by Kweli, RJD2, and System Of A Down, among others.
Worth playing for: To quote Stephen Colbert, The Man is very stickable, and the idea of rebellion through artistry has its romantic appeal, especially once Hamilton's oily mayor enters the picture.
Frustration sets in when: Ever try tagging a moving subway train while dodging obstacles overhead and on the side, all while searching in vain for the designated spot? Not easy.
Final judgment: Getting Up suffered several delays in limping to market, just long enough to get thoroughly upstaged by The Warriors.