You'll find plenty of examples of incredible artwork from all over the world that were created with a humble spray can and a few hours graft. Of course, in most countries around the globe, this sort of painting will get you locked up. For some, that's the forbidden thrill of graffiti in the first place. For others, it's a frustrating nuisance to their creative flow.
If you've ever wanted to pick up a spray can but were afraid of the repercussions, then you can get spraying happy in virtual reality, via Kingspray Graffiti VR, with none of the fumes, police worries or cost.
Is Kingspray a breath of fresh air in the VR world, or just a lot of fumes?
Realistic spray-painting in real-world environments
The whole point of VR is to be able to escape reality, go places you've never been before, do things you couldn't normally do, or be blown away by incredible new experiences. Kingspray Graffiti VR offers just that.
Spawning into the virtual world, you're thrust into ultra-detailed environments that include a city rooftop, an abandoned subway station, a dimly lit train yard, and more.
These locations allow you to paint on a variety of surfaces, including brick, glass and metal. We were immediately impressed with the level of detail and the quality of the visuals. The sheen of the paint, the way it clings to the virtual surfaces, the drips and runs if you apply too much paint to one area, the rough surface of brick looking realistic. It's all immensely satisfying.
We're happy to admit we've never been especially good at painting, spray-painting or otherwise, but we didn't want this to put us off giving Kingspray a go. Luckily, for novices like us, there is a tutorial section which you can load up as soon as you start playing the game. Here you're talked through the basics of controls and movement by an ultra-cool DJ who's hipper than Grandma's hip replacement.
At the can controls
In one hand sits the spray can that can be used to scroll through a range of different colours. In the other hand sits a paint palette that allows you to select specific colours quickly, adjust the cap on your spray can, and undo your recent sprays if you've made a mistake (now that's something you can't do in the real world).
Movement includes VR's now typical "beam" functionality that we've come to know and love, but there's also the ability to stack objects or move world items in order to climb up and reach higher spots. You can also crouch with the click of a button or just duck down in real life to achieve a similar action.
Playable environments are slim pickings currently, but some are very cool – you can spawn in and abuse a van, for example, but it is limited, as you can only spray one side. But we did find ourselves doing fun stuff like painting the wheels, tyres and windows. In other environments – like the car yard – you can paint one wall, but not the other one behind you. It would be cool to be able to paint everything in the environment, but you can't have it all.
On some of the levels, there's a day and night cycle that sees the sun set and the moon make an appearance. It's tough to paint in the dark, very tough, but luckily one of the controller buttons also acts as a torch which allows you light what you're painting. Otherwise, you can enjoy painting in almost pitch black and then marvelling at the results once the sun comes up.
We were impressed with the variety of painting methods – there's a clone tool which allows you to copy your own or another painter's colour choice to paint in another area, so you don't have to remember which can you selected or what sort of colour you used. This sometimes has its flaws if you're painting in layers, but it made filling in different areas or helping spray with a friend super easy.
Within the game there are also items in the virtual world you can interact with – an Etch-a-sketch, movable objects to stand on, turntables you can scratch, and so on – which help the game stand out.
Getting stuck into virtual vandalism
Inspired by the tutorial, we set off to the underground to start marking trains. We got started, as any newbie would, by painting a smiley face on the side of a train carriage. The eyes dripped black paint down the glass of the train carriage and we marvelled at just how far from Mona Lisa masterpiece our creation was.
The tutorial talks through how to save your work, too. By pulling out a virtual phone by tapping on one of the control pads you can take a photo that saves your progress. You can, of course, snap a quick selfie to increase your street cred. These "saves" also snap a screenshot of your artwork that's stored in your My Documents folder, if using a PC (under C:\Users\XXX\Documents\Kingspray Graffiti).
That smartphone also gives you access to a few other features of the game which are fun to play around with. For starters, you can replay a video of your painting and adjust playback speed. Also included is the ability to deploy a 360 camera for capturing images within the game that can be later shared on Facebook. These images can be converted with online tools like Design Cold or use Momento360 to upload and embed elsewhere on the web (example below).
Hidden in the phone settings there's a radio, so you can get some tunes banging while you're spraying up your creations.
With a complete and utter lack of any artistic talent, our favourite feature of Kingspray Graffiti VR is easily the projector mode. With this, you can simply drop any real-world image into the correct folder (C:\Users\XXX\Documents\Kingspray Graffiti\Media) before you start the game and then project that image onto the wall you're painting on. Like a giant stencil. You can then select the size of the image and adjust the brightness or stretch on it to your liking.
With a projected Banksy in place, we then went about tracing over the image in an effort to recreate his work in the virtual world. The results weren't perfect, but they were certainly better than anything we created under our own steam. We were disappointed we couldn't use the clone tool here to copy the colours, you have to paint by eye instead and use the colour palette or switch between cans.
Spraying with friends
To spray with friends, all you need to do is load up Kingspray, create a lobby and invite a friend to join in the fun.
We did find difficulties with co-op when connecting to friends in much the same way as there are issues with other games. Although you can send invites, the interface is not user-friendly enough to be able to easily find them once they're sent. But you can create public and private lobbies and create a "secret" code which you can then share to allow people to join, which we found to be the easiest way to connect with friends.
Once you're in, it's also tough to switch between environments without quitting out and starting another lobby then starting all over again. So it's a good idea to pick an environment you're going to use for a while to avoid the hassle of having to quit out and start again.
Kingspray Graffiti VR is certainly an unusual virtual reality game and a breath of paint-fumed air. It's a fantastic change from the usual wave-based shooters.
We love the graphics and the visuals in general, as well as the thought that's gone into the physics of the painting – the differences made by levels of pressure, cap types, spray distance from the wall, and so forth.
Although we've never used a spray can in this manner in real life, it was a joyful experience to do so in VR. Even for the novice there's plenty of fun to be had, whether using projector mode to stencil, or playing along with friends.