Having already found wildly massive success in the fashion and lifestyle arenas, former New York City graffiti artist Marc Ecko has decided to bring his unique blend of hip-hop and high fashion to the video game world with Marc Ecko's Getting Up. Ironically, despite the full backing and creative input of the iconoclastic Ecko, the weakest element in Getting Up is its tenuous grip on graffiti culture. Luckily, these elements are used sparingly and don't stop Getting Up from coming out as a nimble and enjoyable mobile action game.
The game is set in the Orwellian metropolis of New Radius City. You play as Trane, a young graffiti artist who illegally plies his trade wherever he can, much to the dismay of the city's iron-fisted mayor. News reports between levels initially paint Trane as a good-for-nothing rabble-rouser, but as the mayor goes to absurdly vicious lengths to stop the young graffiti artist, Trane begins to gain public support and is treated as a freedom fighter. The game is achingly earnest about the weight of its premise, but we couldn't help thinking about Kevin Bacon in Footloose whenever these tiny story segments popped up.
Despite all of the game's talk of graffiti writing, you don't do much bombing in Marc Ecko's Getting Up. Instead, the focus is on platform jumping and item collection. Each level is littered with spray cans, which, when picked up, let you bring "color" to the originally drab environments. As you progress through the game, you'll encounter unique color-coded spray cans. You must perform different actions to pick them up: Some need to be picked up in a specific sequence, others require you to stand behind them for a period of time, and still others need to be picked up in a certain amount of time. Your control over Trane is limited to movement and jumping, which is probably a blessing in disguise, since clumsy, overly complicated controls have been the downfall of most overly ambitious mobile action games anyway.
Using the simple, four-way movement controls in Getting Up, you can make Trane perform some downright impressive acrobatics. Aside from basic running and jumping, he can slide slowly down walls and triangle-jump his way up tight spaces. He's a spry hero, and the game's controls are consistently tight and responsive. Of course, Trane won't be doing all of this urban ninja business unopposed. Though threats are minimal early on, the later levels of the game are filled with a variety of security devices intent on stopping you dead in your tracks. Most of these security devices, which include armed motion sensors and small hovering robots, move in predictable patterns that make it possible, if not always easy, for you to avoid them. There are a healthy number of unique levels in Getting Up, and multiple experience tiers for each level encourage replay--and, frankly, the action is inherently fun enough that levels you've already played through remain fresh.
To fit all of this high-flying, fast-paced action onto the screen of the LG VX7000, Trane is made extremely small, though even at just a few pixels high he displays some smooth animation. The environments themselves have a consistently gritty urban look to them, though with only three different themes, they can become a bit repetitive. There are some other nice touches to the visuals, such as the way the level-select menus are built to look and sound like NYC-style subway maps. The sound design in general is pretty good, especially for a mobile game. Produced by underground DJ RJD2, the music has a surprisingly authentic, rusty urban funk to it that complements the game's overall style nicely. The only real rubs with the music are that certain pieces repeat a bit too often, and occasionally two pieces of music will try to play at once and will both end up sounding garbled.
By taking liberal inspiration from Ubisoft's acrobatically inclined Prince of Persia games, Glu Mobile has created a genuinely compelling mobile action game with Marc Ecko's Getting Up. If you're looking for an authentic graffiti-culture experience, you'll be at least a little disappointed, but as a straight-ahead platformer, the game is surprisingly successful.