Some of you may remember a little gem title released back in 2000 called Jet Set Radio, or if you want to get into specifics in the US it was dubbed Jet Grind Radio. The concept was simple and the execution was damn near flawless. My point for this subtle trip down memory lane is not without reason, graffiti tagging is certainly not new to the gaming world. However it certainly is highly underused in the vast world of interactive entertainment, so when Atari announced they were doing a game based on the subject matter my first thought was certainly positive, because Jet Set was truly a masterpiece. Now while Mark Ecko’s Getting Up is certainly a far stretch from the aforementioned title it does share some similarities that made Jet Set such a fantastic game, you have to admit there is something satisfying about defacing property with glorious arrays of graffiti art. While Getting Up may not be the next coming of Jet Set Radio it certainly has enough to hold it’s own in an extremely niche genre.
You play Trane, a young suburban kid who dreams of some day becoming a star graffiti artist. The problem is that everyone in his fine city of New Radius seems to have it out for Trane, he is constantly getting into scuffles with other graf artists, mostly because he is tagging over their turf. There is also the opposition of the CCK, who are a group of law enforcement aimed at keeping peace and of course taking down any would be graf artists they can get their hands on. The opposition is large yet Trane somehow manages to move on with his goal, and this is the basic gist of the story at hand.
With so much emphasis on combat it seems almost fitting that Developer The Collective, creators of the extraordinary Buffy for Xbox, are at the helm. They are certainly masters of the hand-to-hand combat engine as apparent with their previous titles. The combat is simple yet effective and makes it easy to perform great looking moves with just a few button presses. The lock-on button also serves as the block so strafing enemies is a breeze. All of the moves and combos are performed with just two buttons, a punch and a kick, and you can combine them in various ways to create combo moves that actually flow very well in their animations. You can also grapple opponents by simply pressing both buttons simultaneously and even charge up a special meter to unleash block-breaking attacks when your foes refuse to let you take a shot at them. His really makes the overall combat extremely easy to control and take on multiple enemies at the same time.
The other half of the game is of course spent tagging areas and objects with your graffiti. This is handled extremely well by simply using the right trigger to lock onto a location and holding down a button to lay down the tag. Your character also carries a black book, which for those familiar with the art of graffiti knows is crucial to an artist, inside the book is where you keep your designs. The book is also used for storing tags from other artists that you may run across for instance later in the game you will bump into famous graf artist Futura and Trane will of course ask him to hit up his black book. Once the tag is there you can customize your layout at the beginning of each mission with the tags you intend to use. You can also lay down stickers if you so choose, the only downside is that while easier to handle the graffiti tagging doesn’t have as much interaction as say Jet Set Radio, but when you factor in all the other variables the game still offers plenty to compensate for this.
To find the best spots to tag you will have to use what is called your intuition, when activated the game displays a blue and gold tinted filter with streams running across. The gold targets are the sweet spots for throwing down tags while the blue ones are bonus places that will earn you unlockable goodies. Once you reach the desired location you can then select a tag from your book, initially the spot will call for a specific size tag so you may have to shrink your creation, but you will earn more rep points for larger pieces. Once you have the size and location its time to pick your tools, there are four main ones you will use including the aerosol can, the standard roller, the glue brush, or simply a marker will work for some areas. Once you have all the options in place it is time to tag, you begin by moving Trane’s arm in the desired area filling in the tag, stay in one spot too long and you will get drips on your piece and lose rep points. If you manage to paint it in correctly and with minimal to no drippage your will gain the allotted points. It can be frustrating at first but once you get the hang of it you will be creating pieces that make Picasso green with envy.
While all of this may sound great there are a couple of glaring flaws that would have made the game much better and longer lasting. For starters you cannot simply tag wherever you want, in fact for the most part you are forced to lay down graffiti wherever the game deems you to. This really takes away from the feel of the title in the respect that any real artist knows they can tag anywhere so why be limited to where the game wants you to display your art. There is also no option to create your own custom tags, imagine the streets of New Radius being filled with ZTGD logos all over it, now that is certainly a dream come true, not to mention the free advertising. The final gripe is that some of the platforming elements feel really frustrating, for instance Trane only has one level of jump and it feels more like floating than anything else. There are some instances in the game where you know you can reach the ledge, but Trane will simply not grab hold of it for one reason or another.
With all the small flaws aside Mark Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is certainly far from being unplayable, in fact the game excels at almost everything it sets out to do. Fans of the past time will find plenty to enjoy and gamers in general really owe it to themselves to at least give it a shot. Solid combat controls and a nice break from the monotony of most action games Getting Up certainly has enough appeal to appease gamers for the duration of its single player story. Perhaps with a sequel we could get an online tagging mode where four artists fight for turf in the city by tagging over their opponents’ spots, oh well you can’t blame a guy for dreaming can you? In the end Getting Up is a good addition to anyone’s library and certainly worth at least one play through.