Review by ShadowGuardian9

Reviewed: 08/30/06

Star light, star bright...

It’s a game that questions reality and creates a world of insanity. It’s practically impossible to understand this game. It’s Katamari Damacy. Katamari Damacy will leave you stunned in complete and utter confusion. Katamari Damacy is a trip into the world of surreality and seems like a game that would never be brought over from Japan. But it was. A game that is filled to its cosmic brim with over-the-top and ridiculous situations indeed landed on North American shores. And thank goodness it did.

Katamari Damacy exists in a universe that is ruled by a gigantic figure called the King of All Cosmos. As the universe’s mightiest ruler, the King of All Cosmos, in his own great and mighty way finds some way to destroy all of the stars in the sky. Yes, every single twinkling star in the universe gets destroyed by its own ruler. The King of All Cosmos, unable to fix his own mistakes, sends his up-and-coming son to go make new stars for him. But stars cannot just be made, oh no. They must be rolled using a gravity ball called a Katamari. By rolling the Katamari over objects, the objects become stuck to the Katamari, basically like rolling a snowball. The King sends his son to Earth to roll up Katamari to make new stars. How this story was thought up is a mystery, but after beginning to play this romp through the weird you discover that the story is only the beginning of Katamari Damacy’s twisted and unique world.

The control setup of Katamari Damacy is as unique as the oh-so quirky story. Your main control setup focuses around the two analog sticks. By tilting both analog sticks in a specific direction, the Prince will push the Katamari in the specific direction. Tilt them forward to go forward, left to go left, and so on. To turn the Katamari, you tilt one analog stick in a specific direction, or one one direction and the other in the opposite. Pressing the analog sticks in (L3 and R3 buttons) allows the Prince to leap over the Katamari to pull a 180. The control setup is downright obscure, but after practice, you quickly are pushing, turning, and leaping over the Katamari with incredible ease. In fact, the controls’ simplicity makes rolling the Katamari practically intuition. The controls are obscure, but extremely tight and work well with the game’s style.

The main focus of Katamari Damacy is rolling up the Katamari with a certain length in a specific amount of time. The King will give the Prince a time limit and a specific length the Katamari radius must reach in the specific time. If you cannot achieve that goal, the King will not be happy. The simple concept is driven by level designs and challenges abound, and by the final rolling, you’re sure to crack a smile. At its core, there are only three levels, but the challenges place the Prince in different areas of the levels and with different objects and obstructions to contend with. The King will sometimes announce a challenge where you must find certain items or the largest of an item. Katamari Damacy prides itself not only on its weirdness, but complete manipulative nature of its challenges. There’s really not much going on in Katamari Damacy, but in fact, the game tricks you into thinking that there is. It’s genius.

Katamari Damacy finds ingenious ways to make itself interesting, and the environments are just the tip of the iceberg. After an interesting tutorial to show the player the controls of the game, the game drops the pint-sized Prince on Earth. But not just any Earth. Any normal Earth would have some form of order. Not in this Earth. On this Earth, you’ll find Darumas scattered across the road. You’ll see elephants running in a highway. There is practically no sense of order in the world of Katamari Damacy. However, after listening to the King of All Cosmos speak, it all just seems to be part of the game. Chaos is everywhere in Katamari Damacy, and you’ll no doubt be wondering why the planet is in such disarray, then you’ll remember the challenge and be rolling up objects in no time. Katamari Damacy blends solid gameplay with a simply unforgettable style, making it an original game for this generation.

Of course, the chaos on Earth just makes the Prince’s job that much easier. With so much random junk lying around, the Prince just has to roll over whatever he sees fit. But of course, that’s too easy. The Katamari can only pick up objects that are small enough for gravity to grip them. You can’t pick up an elephant with a 1 cm Katamari. It just wouldn’t be logical. Interestingly enough, logic seems to be misplaced in the world of Katamari Damacy. While you will see random junk about a city, you may overlook the piece of logic in the game that adds depth to the game: the physics. For example, rolling over something thin like a pencil or lightpost will cause the object to protrude outward. Also, this hinders movement in direction, even causing the Katamari to glide above the rolling object. The subtlety in the physics and mechanics of the Katamari itself is downright brilliant adding a well-made depth to the gameplay.

This game is simply weird. Whether it’s a chicken in the backyard or an octopus that can swallow an island, there’s rarely a moment in Katamari Damacy that will seem logical. But that is its charm. The graphics take on an aesthetic that is technically simplistic, but like the gameplay, Katamari Damacy’s graphics take what it has and completely change it. The block bodies of people and the Katamari’s rolling power is displayed in quirky graphics unlike any other game. The rough edges are polygonal and the game’s camera pulls out when a Katamari reaches a certain length. The graphics don’t do much technically, but the game finds ingenious ways of giving the game its hilarious charm

Even more weird is the soundtrack, which is simply amazing. The soundtrack is so diverse that it’s practically impossible to listen to the same type of song. One minute you’ll hear Katamari Damacy’s rapid and brisk main theme, and later the calm sounds of crooner tunes sink in. Mix that with the King’s record-scratching speak and the plucking sounds of the Katamari and you have audio that is original in nearly every way. The J-Pop songs round out a game with a stellar soundtrack, creating some of the most enjoyable audio around. The songs themselves are catchy and enjoyable, giving Katamari Damacy even more weirdness and variety.

The game, sadly, is rather short. Non-stop, the game can be finished in about a day. However, the game allows you to look for presents, which the Prince can wear during the challenges. These presents are mostly cosmetic, and do extremely little to improve the gameplay. You can also roll up rare items, and fill up the Prince’s log of what he’s rolled up and what he hasn’t. But outside of that, the game is short. However, this game’s phenomenal concept will surely bring you back. Replaying missions to see how big the Katamari can get is Katamari Damacy’s pride. Although some better unlockables would’ve been appreciated, the game’s concept breathes longevity into the brilliantly quirky gameplay. It’s a definite title to come back to.

Also, there’s multiplayer. Two players can duke it out, Katamari vs. Katamari, on the Space Mushroom. However, this is an enclosed arena battle. It is a good way to put some competition between Katamari, but there’s a distinct lack of scope. Sure, rolling up your opponent in the Katamari is fun, but the small-to-large scale is destroyed in the arena, where you really don’t feel the sense of gradual power like in the single-player. The split-screen also can make gameplay confining, limiting the scope even further. It’s fun for a while, but eventually the amazing and colossal nature of the single-player is what you’ll really want to see. Although an okay inclusion, the multiplayer is forgettable.

Pros
+ Controls are unique and functional
+ Quirky graphics are great
+ Brilliantly original concept
+ Catchy and stylized music
+ Tons of items to roll over
+ A simple idea that stretches itself colossally

Cons
- Rather short
- Multiplayer lacks the scope of single-player
- Concept may be too weird for some

Katamari Damacy is a game that dares to go where no game has gone before. Taking a simple concept and enlarging it to ridiculous levels, Katamari Damacy is one of the most refreshingly original game to hit the PS2 in a long time. The scope is amazing; going from tiny to tremendous is smooth and fun. The audio and graphics do a solid job of retaining Katamari Damacy’s incredible charm, with polygonal critters and stellar variety in the audio. Although it’s short and a bit lacking in areas, Katamari Damacy is a game that truly cannot be missed. A trip to surreality and back, Katamari Damacy is original, accessible, and unforgettable.

Final Verdict: 8/10

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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