Now this is just weird. How the hell do you sum up a game that mixes running about, climbing stuff, jumping around, fighting people and colouring things in all in equal measure? Try to explain what genre Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is to your mates down the pub and you'll be there until closing time - a point at which your brain usually orders you to get a dirty kebab before shutting down completely for the night.
In an era of same-again sequels and dodgy licensed guff it's refreshing to play a game that, by and large, defies explanation. It isn't always the most successful at everything it tries to do, sometimes tending to bite off more than it can chew, but full marks for trying something different. You'll never get bored, let's put it that way.
And yet it doesn't exactly start off in the most promising fashion. You see, Marc Ecko's Getting Up also happens to be another in a long, long line of games obsessed with gangs, urban slang and the curious idea of earning 'respect' by disrespecting pretty much everyone around you. This game handles those clichés and its unoriginal set-up with
more subtlety and credibility than most, but we're definitely bored of this game system by now. Anyway, the basic gist of the 'plot', such as it is, is that your character Trane wants to paint the city of New Radius red (and plenty of other colours too), despite there being a total ban on graffiti by the city's corrupt and tyrannical leaders.
But that's just even more encouragement to a young graffiti writer out to make a name for himself. And the only way to do that is to take the biggest risks and get to the most hard-to-reach places - easily the most enjoyable aspect of the game. The high-wire manoeuvres as you use all kinds of posts, walls and ledges is a bit like Prince of Persia crossed with the extreme sport known as free running - you know, the one where those crazy idiots leap over rooftops and other man-made obstacles.
Like Prince of Persia it's always made obvious where you're supposed to climb or jump to next, and the platforming controls aren't fiddly in the slightest. Trane also possesses a spooky sixth sense for the best tag spots too; hit a button and a blurry pointer ghosts through the air so you can never get lost. It's simple and oh-so-effective.
Once you reach your target area the game becomes even more unusual. Scrawling a design on a wall is the 'getting up' part of the game, so-called because you're 'getting' your tag 'up' for everyone to see. Hey, we're down with the kids, you know. A quick check to make sure there are no pedestrians, police or rival gang members around and you're ready to paint. You'll see the silhouette of your design on the wall, and by moving the analogue stick evenly across the tag is filled in. Pausing to shake the can, painting fast and ensuring there are no drips all contribute to your reputation points. If you think that sounds too easy and almost babyish, by the way, then you're underestimating the skill and satisfaction involved.
So it's a shame that sandwiched between the cool exploring and the cool painting is a pretty duff fighting game. By that we mean there are only a handful of moves and it's all utterly predictable. What tends to happen is this: you throw a few punches or kicks which the enemy very rarely manages to block, then he launches a combo at you which you manage to block easily. Then you wallop him unopposed again, and so on until the health bar above his head is empty. For such an underdeveloped part of the game it's strange that the fighting is so prevalent.