['Bell, Game, and Candle' is a regular GameSetWatch column by game commentator Alex Litel, discussing stuff that happens in the game business. This time - he ponders about seeming arbitrariness of adulation.]

In a clip from the preschooler-targeted television series Dora the Explorer, a map hops out of the backpack of a girl named Dora and rolls out to show a rolled-up map inside the map affirming fifteen or so times in song that "I'm the Map." The map follows his cantillation with an exclamation that Dora and her monkey Boots need to get to the big piñata, and he knows the way to the big piñata. (From what I understand, Dora's royalties are stored in the big piñata, and the map is demanding a cut of the royalties in exchange for his expertise.)

Elsewhere, in the Middle East of 2014, wheeling and dealing of protracted, ham-fisted exposition is going on at the 41st Annual International Chain Smokers Summit—the number of assertions that "war has changed" because of a move towards "war economy" because of "PMCs" employing "nanomachines," with the linguistic gait of Dan Quayle channeling Irwin Corey, would put the map's re-affirmative tendencies to shame.

Elsewhere, in contemporary metropolitan mimicry, an Eastern European immigrant with an immaculate command of English bursts on the scene where he attempts to avoid getting burst in an adventure filled to the brink with trite, ham-fisted exposition: "the American Dream is great," "the American Dream is not what I imagined," "am I losing myself?" and "shit, the American Dream is incompatible with my set in stone world-weariness."

I have a hunch if Penthouse and Pynchon was associated with or if the Bee's Knees of NYC emblem adorned the cover of Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure instead of Marc Ecko's name, reaction would have been less insolent and more praiseworthy. Sure, Ecko could have been a little more artful in his statements, but this column is about his game that the ostensible hardcore had decided against prior to Ecko's comments, not Ecko himself. (Also, not playing a game and complaining about it is no different than someone else doing the same.)

Rise, resist, revolt

Mark Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure depicts the coming-of-age of young graffiti artist Coltrane Crowley (aka Trane) on his journey for respect in New Radius. However, the journey for respect becomes a crusade for revolution against the recently elected mayor who has decided clamping down on free speech is essential to "cleaning up" his city, and graffiti artists are public enemy number one.

Gaming cognoscente Ian Bogost described Getting Up as "critically underappreciated," and notes that the "game about graffiti" features an equally important "critique of an autocratic police state" in a May 2007 piece. Bogost's words bring me to an impression that was instantaneous—and apparently unique, according to Google—Getting Up's closest contemporary is not the kinetic kitsch of Jet Set Radio, but the French fantasia of Beyond Good & Evil.

Michel Ancel's Beyond Good & Evil follows Jade—a girl who is an orphanage co-operator turned freelance photographer turned muckraking photojournalist with viridescent headband, emerald eyes, green lipstick, olive jacket, virescent pants and an exposed midriff, which apparently makes her the Sarah Vowell of game characters—with her half-human/half-pig uncle Pey'j and this dude Double-H as they go through plot twist after plot twist after plot twist after plot twist uncover the sinister truth and save their planet Hillys.

Of course, there are the cursory comparisons such as the lack of commercial success and backwards compatibility support on Xbox 360, and both were intended to be the first entry in a trilogy. Not to mention that both have all the moral ambiguity of Sylvester Stallone's filmography for the last decade: BG&E shows that beyond good and evil lies rigidly defined good and evil, and Getting Up is not brimming with cognizant dubiety.

Contents under influence

Ecko described New Radius as aesthetically being an amalgamation of 1980s New York and a densely populated place like Kowloon; something that is immediately apparently within a few minutes of playing the game. In GameSpot video interview, Ancel states "We did a lot of researches on realistic places—we did researches on Venice—and we went to, for example, [something] or even New York because we got big buildings. We wanted to collect these realistic informations and translate them into a fantasy world."

I thought about this statement for a second, "New York" and "big buildings," where is this in Ancel's game? I can understand him merely researching New York by watching The Fifth Element (Ubi PR informs Ubi Pictures' technology was not all that cutting-edge) and confusing "buildings" for "cars," as I saw a number of vehicles reminiscent of that film.

Oh, Ancel also says "…the inspirations are coming from the reality because we wanted to not have cartoon or pure fantasy world, but to have modification of reality in the future." Then he started babbling about war in his French lilt.

Unfortunately for Ancel, BG&E is Orwell via Disney; the game is nothing but cartoony and fantastical. To the discerning gamer, this approach severely diminishes the efficacy of the game's attempts to present issues of gravity. Getting Up successfully mirrors the history of graffiti aesthetically and narratively throughout the course of the game; but in BG&E, there is such a vague and clichéd detachment from topicality and normative journalism that their implementation seems entirely based on hearsay from a single conversation—becoming perfunctory elements in an already bush-league, paint-by-number narrative.

No bush-league, paint-by-number narrative would be complete without miscellaneous stereotypes like the easygoing Jamaican mechanic rhinos, rugged Caucasian bartender bull, and sage Asian shopkeeper walrus. Lest we not forgot characters (and much else) seemingly plagiarized from Lucas and the Wachowski brothers—Jade is Luke Skywalker/Neo, Double-H is C-3PO, and Pey'j is Obi-Wan. All of this wrapped in a world when the only personal flaws are amongst the bad folk because they are, you know, bad.

On the contrary, Trane retains a streak of self-centeredness throughout his journey; even as liberator, he never seems entirely selfless in actions. There's a complexity to Trane that seems to be autobiographical of Ecko—the writer of Getting Up—that is nonexistent in Ancel's game: Trane makes some terrible decisions and does not deal with them. The rest of the characters are archetypal, but with a bit more of a twist than the caricatures of BG&E

Despite it being just decent and it not being any grand artwork, BG&E is quite fun—a gallimaufry of photography, fighting, stealth, racing and shooting. While Getting Up is slightly more focused medley of fighting, stealth, acrobatics and tagging. Both games are good examples of not excelling in any of their individual parts, but the sum of those parts is quite the enjoyable experience.

Did you know that Getting Up features the work of renowned culture-jammer Banksy? Did you know the game's score was done by RJD2 and amongst the artists on the soundtrack are DJ Vadim, Nina Simone, and Del tha Funk Homosapien? Did you know it features the voicework of RZA, George Hamilton, Diddy, George Hamilton, Rosario Dawson, and Adam West? Somehow, I think you do not because you probably never really paid attention to Getting Up.

If merely good aggregation as Beyond Good & Evil can be ballyhooed as one of gaming's cult classics, there is no reason why the superior Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure cannot have the same fate, even if it requires being avuncular to an outsider who happens to primarily be a fashion designer.

[Alex Litel can be reached at alexlitel@gmail.com and occasionally found at alexlitel.blogspot.com.]