John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Real-life graffiti artists star in this fake 32-bit arcade game taking place in cities across North America.
We all knew this day would come: space aliens release a mysterious plague on Earth, and the only thing preventing humanity's enslavement is an elite force of graffiti writers unleashing aerosol-based hell.
That's the plot, anyway, of "LEPOS: The Primary Invasion," a catchy old-school video game conceived by old-school graffiti artist Diego Bergia (aka "LEPOS"). Bergia rarely does walls anymore, but he's picked up a kick-ass substitute in "The Primary Invasion," whose plot goes something like this: Robotic marauders from a distant planet have developed a "new primary color" that is toxic to earthlings, causing intense fits of terror and rage that will eventually lead to the end of civilization. Enter LEPOS, Bergia's imaginary hero who resembles a cartoon lemming or a cuter version of the fetus from Eraserhead. Our bulgy-eyed protagonist must go around North American cities with spray paint or paint roller in hand, scrawling warnings to people to "cover your eyes" lest they get infected with the deadly alien hue-blight.
It's all very engaging stuff, and silly enough to form the basis for an actual 1990s Japanese game. There's only one hitch: It's not real. Bergia spends about a month animating each of the "Metal Slug"-style clips you see below, but has no plans to make a playable game. As he recently told ANIMAL: "It’s a huge undertaking. I’m just doing it for doing it, really."
Still, the vintage fakes are fun to watch, especially if you're into street-art history. Bergia has slipped several of his graffiti associates into his 32-bit side scroller, including GIANT and the "Bronx King" CES. His latest animation excludes the original hero entirely, focusing on the high-explosive action of CES and REVOK in the Lower East Side. Check out the real-world Arlene's Grocery in the background:
Here is LEPOS going on an art rampage on the roof of San Francisco's Fort Mason:
And here the good guy flies past Honest Ed's bargain shop in Toronto, back when the plot was less about graffiti and more about shootin' stuff: