Graffiti Kingdom Preview
We travel to Canvas Kingdom to put our creativity and combat skills to the test against ruthless panda assassins and deadly diaper frogs.
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Currently scheduled for release in North America next month, Graffiti Kingdom is an action adventure game in which you'll assume the role of the Canvas Kingdom's mischievous Prince Pixel. In Graffiti Kingdom's lengthy intro movie, you'll see the young prince exploring his family's castle, finding a magic wand that brings drawings to life, and ultimately endangering the entire kingdom by accidentally releasing an imprisoned devil. The devil turns all the kingdom's humans into slaves, erects a huge labyrinthine castle for himself, populates the castle with more than 200 different types of demons, and essentially leaves you with very little choice as far as your next course of action is concerned. So, accompanied and assisted by a "box dog" who spends much of her time riding on your shoulders and looking like a novelty backpack, you pick up your magic wand and set out to save the world.
The prince's combat skills aren't up to much, but his paintbrush-shaped magic wand lets him both assume the forms of his enemies and draw new graffiti-creature forms for himself in a notebook. You'll only be able to assume the forms of enemies you're actually facing for a short time, but forms you've created yourself or have acquired from defeated enemies in the form of collectible cards can be used indefinitely. There are more than 220 different enemy types that can drop cards, but many of them are quite rare and don't make a habit of dropping cards every time you kill them. It's definitely worthwhile to explore each of the colorful locations you'll find yourself in as you progress through the game, then, not only to find more-unusual (and often more-powerful) enemies to get cards from, but also just to gain experience points by killing enemies and collecting the medals they invariably leave behind.
Experience points in Graffiti Kingdom work in the same way they do in most role-playing games, contributing to an experience meter that indicates how close Prince Pixel is to leveling up. Interestingly, reaching higher levels doesn't actually make you more powerful per se, but it does unlock additional options in the prince's notebook that let you create increasingly powerful graffiti-creature forms for yourself. The first time you use your notebook, for example, the only functions you'll be able to assign to your creations' "parts" are to behave like arms, to behave like legs, or to remain motionless. By the time you reach level 20 (which is as far as we got on this occasion), though, you'll be able to add a tail or parts that spin, float, or curve. You'll also be able to experiment with numerous different attack and weapon options. The graffiti-creature editor is incredibly easy to use, and it does a great job of automatically assigning animations to just about any abomination you can manage to doodle using the left analog stick. To keep your polygon counts as low as those throughout the entire game, the editor will automatically turn curves into a series of straight lines. But it's certainly possible to design creatures that are quite pleasing once they're brought to life with your animation and attack choices. Since Graffiti Kingdom's visuals could mostly pass for those in a mediocre Nintendo 64 game, the term "quite pleasing" is relative on this occasion. However, it's a small price to pay for the buzz you'll get the first time you take one of your own creations into combat.
Battles with other creatures in Graffiti Kingdom are uncomplicated affairs, since you'll only have three forms available to you at any one time (mapped to the directional pad), and each of those will have only a handful of different moves (taken from a list of around 160) available. Your choice of creatures will occasionally make certain encounters a lot easier to deal with, because their moves are sometimes particularly effective against the enemies you're facing. But it's unlikely you'll ever find yourself faced with an impossible fight simply because you don't have the right creatures available.
In addition to the single-player story-driven game, Graffiti Kingdom boasts a boss-fight battle mode that lets you pit different creatures against bosses you've already beaten, in addition to a two-player versus mode. Although we've not had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with it yet, we wouldn't be surprised if the two-player games end up being one of the most exciting features of Graffiti Kingdom. On a single memory card, you could conceivably have more than 220 creatures from the single-player game to play with, as well as up to 144 you've created yourself. This adds up to an awful lot of different fight possibilities when you consider your opponent will have just as many creatures at his disposal, as well as the fact that you'll be picking a tag-team trio for each fight. You'll also be able to trade creatures with your friends, of course, and you'll be able to use any creatures you get from trades in the single-player game.
Expect a full review of Graffiti Kingdom closer to the game's release.