Prince Pixel is just goofing around and generally being a kid when he stumbles upon a hidden treasure - a legendary Graffiti Brush used by warriors from hundreds of years ago to seal away an evil demon. He starts toying around with it, without even knowing how to use it, and he inadvertently unseals the demon (who then immediately takes over the world, inexplicably). He also accidentally brings to life this weird dog/box thing named Pastel.
The plot doesn't really get much better than that.
Graffiti Kingdom (or Rakugaki Ōkoku 2: Maōjō no Tatakai in Japan) is the sequel to a little known title called Magic Pengel: Quest for Color. The entire game consists of you running through different areas, beating the crap out of monsters, capturing their attacks, picking up experience points from them to get more max health and attack power, and fighting the occasional boss. There's actually very little emphasis on statistics or complicated battle systems here - it's about as complex in terms of actual gameplay as the first Crash Bandicoot game. Run, whack, dodge a trap, run, whack. The areas in this game are also quite linear, with only one set path to go through to continue through the game (but you can go backwards if you need to). So where's the depth?
Well, the depth lies in character creation. While Pixel himself is a pretty standard character (runs, jumps, complains about something, has spiky hair) he possesses the Graffiti Brush, which allows him to draw monsters that he can transform into at will.
The interface for drawing is a little intimidating at first - because who's going to be able to work with a 3D drawing interface right away? - but thankfully, the game contains quite a few tutorials. The interface is also pretty simplistic compared to 3D Studio Max - really, it just acts like a 2D paint program. You use the analog stick to move the cursor, the right stick to rotate the view, and the X button to draw. Once you've created a closed shape, the game gives you six choices for how to "materialize" the shape in 3D - from a curved type, to a "muscular" type, to a few blockier types. Then later on in the game, you gain more pens for things like 3D lines (good for things like whiskers on kittens), or drawing directly on your shapes.
Each shape you draw has a specific function - the first shape serves as the creature's body, and from there, you can tack on arms, legs, tails, generic curvy objects, heads, "chargers" which can shoot projectiles, drill-bits, wings, even weapons for your creature to hold.
Once you've finished your Masterpiece, you can feel free to add whatever attacks, voices, and movements you wish. There are plenty of movements (which dictate how the creature animates for walking, jumping, etc) for different configurations of creatures - the game actually has specific sets for creatures with no legs, one leg, four legs, even eight legs. It's essentially taking what Will Wright's Spore plans to implement and pretty much beating him to it.
But should you lack the creativity to make your own monsters, you can always use the ones you've collected (by taking cards from certain defeated enemies) and transform into them instead. Or you can take an enemy and customize them instead (did you find the Buddy Cop enemy amusing? Take them and give them better attacks).
The game's graphics remind me somewhat of Katamari Damacy - very low on polygon count, barely any texture on the characters. There's a touch of Yoshi's Story in there too, in that a lot of the environments look like something out of a pop-up book. They're effective, and I imagine it was done like this so the end-user wouldn't be able to overload their PS2 by drawing incredibly complicated monsters (there's plenty of slowdown in some cases anyway).
The audio side of the game doesn't really work though. The one song you'll be hearing more than anything else, if you're anything like me, is the Graffiti Notebook song. The in-game music is pretty good, fitting the environments fairly well, but the Graffiti Notebook theme got on my nerves after spending half an hour at a time in there. Moreover, the voices in the game are fairly annoying, and the sound effects lack variety (because there's only about twelve voice sets you can use on your creatures).
The game's controls aren't perfect either - it's painless to make a 3D creature, but in the game itself, camera angles become very frustrating to deal with. The camera tends to get stuck everywhere, and it's hard to find a good angle to work with.
Overall, this is the perfect RPG for those of you that like customizable games, but be warned - it's a pretty linear affair outside of character creation, and you might want to mute the TV and put on some music while you're playing.
Got-Next - Graffiti Kingdom Grabbed some pictures from this preview.
Garakuta Studios Official website of the Japanese version.