There are rare gems in the gaming world that offer something far more exceptional than the usual fare we see released each month and many times these unique games go unnoticed. Such was the plight of games like Katamari Damacy and Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color. Both these games offer something beyond the conventional design of other games and delivered something different. The same could be said about Graffiti Kingdom, a game with an interesting twist. Yet does bringing a unique feature make for a great game? In this case, not exactly but at least its different.
Graffiti Kingdom tells the tale of Prince Pixel, a young royal who discovers a secret passage within his castle and finds the long-lost Graffiti Wand. It isn’t until the Prince meets Pastel (a little girl who has been transformed into a dog-like creature) that the young man finds out about the Devil that was cast out centuries ago. The Prince unknowingly unleashes hell in his home of Canvas Kingdom and its up to him and his ability to use the Graffiti Wand to turn the kingdom back to what it was and to rescue his parents.
The Graffiti Wand, you see, has the ability to transform its user into a created form. By created I mean you can take the wand and draw shapes and parts to design a creature form from your own imagination. Using the wand itself isn’t hard at all, although I highly recommend going through the tutorial that covers all the basics of designing plus a few pointers that will help you design the type of character your imagination can dream up. Throughout the game you will unlock new additions to your design tools (color, ability to make limbs and patterns) to create even more bizarre creatures with their own interesting abilities. For example, I designed a dog with a mighty Thor-like hammer as a tail and wheels for feet. You can assign abilities to certain limbs so the hammer-tail can be used to smash enemies while the wheels allow my dog to race through the areas more quickly.
It is the designing itself that makes this game shine and Prince Pixel can morph into up to three created creatures at a time. While he has the ability to transform into any enemy that happens to cross his path via a Capture attack, it is your creations that you’ll be turning to for many reasons. First of all, like most RPGs, it is wise that the creatures you draw and bring to life have abilities you would want from companions in any RPG. There should be one shooter you can use as a sniper, one brawny character you can use as muscle and a creature with long legs or wings to jump or fly up to grab items that are hard for the Prince to pick up on his own. Knowing when to use a shooter or a strong character allows Prince Pixel to level up more quickly and, naturally, makes the Prince strong enough to take on the more complex bosses you’ll encounter in the game.
Yes, there are bosses in the game, such as Niss, a pig-type character with a series of forks sticking out of it. The boss fights aren’t hard to figure out seeing it is just a question of memorizing attack patterns but at least these fights add some challenge. The enemies you’ll encounter in the game, even the impressively big ones, are easy to destroy. Unfortunately, even the oddest of enemies attack the same way (rush attacks, punches and kicks) and this makes for battles that will quickly become repetitive and boring. This and the fact that the story isn’t deep or interesting keep the game from becoming an instant classic. That is really too bad seeing as the creation process is deep, involving and creative. There’s even a Vs. Mode that allows you and a friend to create creatures and go into an arena battle but the fun doesn’t last very long.
The game’s visual feel is a unique one and, had it been rendered more smoothly and filled with detail, Canvas Kingdom could have been a marvel. Instead, we get washed out colors in a world that resembles a cardboard cutout universe with wildly imaginative creatures moving about the environment. The real gem here is seeing your created characters suddenly come to life and interact with the area and its creatures. Depending on what you added to their limbs, your creations look and move amazing enough. This actually does make up for the low-quality cutscenes.
The sound is another disappointment and this is too bad seeing as there are options to add “voice” to your creations. The voices are merely just grunts as are most of the sound effects when other character’s attack. Oftentimes you won’t hear a thing when an enemy hits you. As for the soundtrack, it’s awful and repetitive but the worst comes in the form of the game’s voice acting. Think a bad anime film with poorly dubbed dialogue and you get the picture.
Unfortunately, and this is despite the creative freedom, Graffiti Kingdom is held back by uninspired battles and RPG elements that are not done right. It does, however, possess many unique concepts that are missing in today’s games with the same “me too” attitude and thusly should be celebrated for at least trying to be different. I highly recommend playing this game and if you’re looking for something unique, this is certainly the game to buy or at least rent.